The Alchemy of Suffering

Well, whispered the king with his dying breath.  “The history of men?”

His friend gazed steadily at him and, as the king was about to die, he said:

“They suffer, Majesty.”

Yes they suffer, at every moment and throughout the world.  Some die when they’ve just been born; some when they’ve just given birth.  Every second, people are murdered, tortured, beaten, maimed, separated from their loved ones.   Others are abandoned, betrayed, expelled, rejected.  Some are killed out of hatred, greed, ignorance, ambition, pride, or envy.   Mothers lose their children, children lose their parents.  The ill pass in never-ending procession through the hospitals.  Some suffer with no hope of being treated, others are treated with no hope of being cured.  The dying endure their pain, and the survivors their mourning.  Some die by hunger, cold, exhaustion;  others are charred by fire, crushed by rocks, or swept away by the waters.

This is true not only for human beings.  Animals devour each other in the forests, the savannahs, the oceans, and the skies.  At any given moment tens of thousands of them are being killed by humans, at the hands of their owners, bearing heavy burdens, in chains their entire lives;  still others are hunted, fished, trapped between teeth of steel, strangled in snares, smothered under nets, tortured for their flesh, their musk, their ivory, their bones, their fur, their skin, thrown into boiling water or flayed alive.

These are not mere words but a reality that is an intrinsic part of our daily lives:  death, the transitory nature of all things, and suffering.  Though we may feel overwhelmed by it all, powerless before so much pain, turning away from it is only indifference or cowardice.  We must be intimately concerned with it, and do everything we possibly can to relieve the suffering.

RICARD, Matthieu.  Happiness – a guide to developing life’s most important skill. New York:  Little, Brown and Company. 2006