Death, Sorrow, and Unhappiness

I feel like rambling on today so I’m posting this. I was reading earlier about a person who’s cat died recently and I was struck by how deep his feelings were for the animal and how much it hurts when someone or something you love is taken away. Maybe I’ve just been down lately but I see pain and suffering everywhere. War in Iraq. Thousands of innocent people killed. People actually dying of hunger. Its 2005 and people still die because they can’t get enough to eat. So much more. Then there is plain old domestic pain…families fighting, robbery, rape. Fathers leaving their children to fend for themselves. Divorce. Child abuse. The simple, slow death of people dragging themselves to a job they hate every single day because if they don’t they and their famlies will suffer. You have to love that concept…work doing something you hate until you are too old to work anymore. And that’s if you can even find a job. They increased the retirement age in the US to 67 to add more years of it. Everywhere around me when I look is suffering and pain with many shades of gray. The guitar checker working hard in the corner, worried that his music won’t be loved and his band won’t succeed (they don’t, and it won’t). The insecure and desperate manager trying so hard to keep up with a job that throws more at him than he can handle. Suffering is on in this world by default like the Windows screensaver.

I guess I want some answers here and none are to be had. Billions of people have come and gone since the dawn of humanity and from what I can see we’re no closer to understanding why we must live and die in suffering in this life than when it started. Jesus had a lot to say about it and so did Buddha and others but their lot focused on how to live, not why we must suffer. Buddha taught that we must let go of our need to accumulate possessions and things to find happiness but that in itself seems like suffering to me as well; if perhaps less of it. Christianity teachs that Christ suffered and died for our sins so we can all get into heaven. Wouldn’t it have been easier to not close the gates in the first place? He made us, why the surprise that it turned out this way? And why the seemingly arbitrary rule that Christ had to suffer and die to save us? God’s making the rules here…if the Christians have the right religion than I think God must be completely insane. And if god is omnipotent than he knew this was all going to happen right from the beginning and did it anyway.

I have a hard time reconciling the concept of an all-powerful diety that created all of existence making it so that the principle focus was pain and suffering. Assuming there was some purpose to it couldn’t the creator have simply drafted a universe in a state that would exist after we had passed whatever sick test is in place? After all, he is all powerful, right? Even if the concept makes no logical sense (ie reaping the benefits of whatever lesson suffering teaches without having actually endured suffering) an omnipotent god can do anything without limit. He could have made a universe of happines and satisfaction. He could have made us creatures that take pleasure in anything. Instead we are a group of selfish monsters. Our own comfort takes presidence in this life because it is so hard to come by. Nobody wants to share in a world of limited comforts and unlimited pain.

Hmm, how to word this without sounding overly simplistic? Imagine, if you would, a perfect existence. You are a 3 dimensional point of energy and you do nothing aside from exist. By virtue of your existence you feel emotionally fufilled, ecstatic and jubulant at all times. It is not necessary for you to move, eat, think, or do anything at all and yet you are happy. A loving, benign god would create a universe like that, not the pit of despair we exist in now. Whatever lesson or teaching we are supossed to be learning from suffering could have been incoporated into the fundamental “stuff” that makes us what we are right from the beginning. A true all powerful creature could even create a universe where we did actually go through the suffering…and yet didn’t. A paradox for sure, but there are no limits, even logical limits, to an omnipotent god.

I guess I’m sort of burning with rage at the percieved unfairness of everything. At least in most games you know the rules. Here you don’t even get that much and our greatest disagreements stem from trying to settle on how to live and why. A kind and loving god would help us out here and I see no evidence of it aside from wishful thinking. I want some answers from whatever force has put us here.

Boy…how disappointed will I be if I die and still don’t get the answers I’m looking for? :wink:

I had such a hard time with it that I had to let it go. Possibly something you’re moving towards?

By the way, I agree with pretty much everything you said…I’m a real Eeyore at heart. Yet I have this fundamental urge to keep on slogging and see how it all turns out…hope you do too.

How would you know you were happy if you had nothing to compare it to?

The thing is, is that I’m 28, have a university degree, and havve pretty much avoided (or more realistically, am scared to death) of the thought of wife/children/family/responsibility because everything DOES suck so much. I hate my job (understatement), and do yearn for more financial security. I have school loans, I’m just waiting for my car to break down, waiting for this shitty job to fall apart (it’s only a matter of time), and then what?

If I was doing something I loved I think I could move forward (with even less money) but fuck, what am I to do? Going back to school to put it all on hold sounds like a great idea, actually. By nature, I’m a very happy person, but it seems like the circumstances of life itself tends do bog me down. I’m quite sure I would be much more happy as a person if I were born in primitive times (not having any idea about 2005) as I think being outside, exercise for survival, etc etc would be more self-serving/satisfying than anything I do on a regular basis in 2005.

Because god would make it that way…remember he’s all powerful, right? He can do anything even if its not logical to you and I and the universe we exist in.

Well, I don’t believe in an omnipotent god, so YMMV. But in most things we do, we need to have a reference point. For instance, say you grew up in a museum surrounded by incredibly beautiful things. Would you wander around constantly saying “oh, this is all so trancendent and lovely,” and be in a total state of awe? Or, because you had always been exposed to it, would you take it as normal? Same with life–aside from wonking with your brain chemistry, all God could do to give you a constant stream of happiness is to surround you with good things. The effect of the good things will die down, though, and have to constantly be replenished with bigger and better things. So it wouldn’t work. And if you did want God to screw around with your mind so you could be happy all the time, isn’t that the same as saying you want to deny Reality? I know lots of people want to deny Reality, and to me, that’s the saddest thing of all.

If you don’t mind my asking, did you have an extremely happy childhood? I find that many people with good childhoods become very depressed as adults because they have not been inured to the way the world is when they are young, they believe that things should always be happy and cushy and fun. Those of us with dysfunctional childhoods know the score early on, so it is not as crushing to us.

Just because your job is shitty doesn’t mean a wife and children would be. Some days, knowing I have a great husband and house to come home to is all that propels me through a difficult work day (that and my numerous pets). With a marriage (can’t speak for children since I don’t have any), you have to have faith that it’s going to work out, not just assume it’s going to fail along with everything else.

Whoever invented work, by the way, was a total asshole. :wink:

You’re forgetting that we made the assumption that God is all powerful…he can do anything without limit. If he decides to create a perfect existence where you are happy regardless of your frame of reference than he can do so even if it makes no logical sense.

Not really, it was about average with some spots of trouble. I do, however, believe that things really should be “happy and cushy and fun” because the alternative makes no sense to me.

Yup. And if you ask why, some people will say that it’s for a higher purpose, which means that when it’s god, the ends justify the means.

It was unacceptable to me. I’m an atheist now.

Bongmaster, I definitely feel where you’re coming from. But I find this interesting, because my own experience is just this. I will admit to swinging from ecstasy to depression in fairly short time in my youth (from about 15 YO to mid-20’s), but I have become more consistently happy with age. Blame it on appreciation for my marriage and the stability that typically comes with age, but also there is something in me that decided that, sorry, I can’t be responsible for the world’s problems. I will do what I can in my own little sphere to make myself and others around me happy.

I see rabbits in my yard and neighborhood a lot. Luckily, they don’t appear to be having a negative impact on my yard. But every time I see one, I feel delight. I do feel the “oh, this is all so transcendent and lovely”, etc. and I don’t think that will change. I think, perhaps, this is something that can be learned. I didn’t ask to be put on this earth (that I know of), so while being a responsible human being, I will not allow myself to be burdened by every thing, and I will delight in the little things.

There was a book I read, maybe “Care of the Soul”, which emphasized Compassion, Attention and Gratitude. Keeping these in mind has helped me “tolerate” the ups and downs of living. I had to put my cat to sleep recently and it was extremely painful. But I had a husband to hold me when I felt sad, I had another cat to hug when I missed her. My sister wrote me a nice email that made me feel better about my decision to put her out of her misery and go on with my life, validating my choice not to cancel the good things I had planned for that night and weekend. I learned that I can mourn my cat and still appreciate a good U2 concert.

So, I guess in short what I’m saying is that you have an influence over how your life plays out. You’re here, and sometimes it’s best not to think about why. Take the sadness and appreciate the things that make it tolerable. If you don’t have any things that make it tolerable, then you have to figure out what makes you happy and expose yourself to it as much as possible.

I have found that even happiness loses its magnetic appeal if you’re obsessed with consuming it, y’know, instead of producing it. :cool:

I hear you, absolutely true. I guess I’m just mad that we live in a world where you have to work so very hard to find the smallest scrap of happiness. I liken it to a starving man who is suddenly given access to a dumpster behind McDonalds. Sure, he’s elated that he has something to eat…for him it may be the best meal he ever tasted. To you and I its a foul idea. But here we are, eating trash, and we’re supposed to be grateful for getting it? I don’t think so…god created us with these biological needs, the least he could do is fulfill them.

Of course, then you have to assume that an *all-powerful * God is equitable to a benevolent God. But what if the Supreme Creator is as disinterested in we individuals as a person who owns an “ant farm?” Although it doesn’t take a lot of self-control to stop from pouring lighter fluid into the ants’ tank, do you really pick out any one given ant, and wish for it to be happy?

An excellent point which I think the majority of people fail to consider. I see no evidence of a benevolent or caring god, do you? If anything I see apathy and indifference to suffering.


Thank you for reading my brief essay about the loss of my cat. I did indeed love Mao with all my heart, and I was hurting as I wrote that piece just a couple of hours after she left me.

But I do not see only pain and suffering, nor do I see it as the overwhelming condition.

Because I do not believe in a deity, I don’t have a lot of the tangled logical arguments in my head that seem to be inherent when looking at the world through an organized religion’s tenets. I don’t have to wonder why anything happened because there is no Mover & Shaker out there. It saves me a lot of time, not having to try and fathom an impenetrable mind.

For me, this world is simply an amazing place, filled with beautiful scenery, strange and wonderful (and terrible) creatures, and an almost infinitely long list of cool things to do. My only worry about death is that there will be soooooo much that I haven’t done; my time here will be relatively brief, after all.

I don’t deny that the world has it’s share of unpleasantness. But I can’t be responsible for all the world’s ills, or it’s recovery from them. I can, as one poster said, try and make my life, and the lives of those around me, better and hope that some synchronicity in the world multiplies and amplifies this so that the world is a better place. I know it’s a scant hope, but there you have it. :smiley:

The place to start for your own happiness is with yourself. I did it by examining what I wanted out of life, what I was willing to give in order to get it, and then living that way all the time, no holds barred. For me, I wanted (still want, actually) a life that was pretty much non-stop fun. I wanted to sleep when I wanted, not have a job, spend my days hiking, playing guitar, smoking pot, playing video games, reading, etc. And that’s what I do.

I don’t own a home (renting the same house for 7 1/2 years now), I don’t own stocks, I don’t make car payments (the '78 Blazer and the '72 Eldo are all mine!), I don’t have a television, I don’t do a lot of the things that people my age do. I don’t have a job, I don’t have kids, I’ve yet to marry.

My time is, mostly, my own to do as I wish. And I mostly spend my days grinning like a madman. I didn’t wait until I was 65 (67 now, I believe) to have free time. I don’t work at a job I dislike just to pay the bills. Working to live, living to work is no way for a free man (or woman) to exist. Money and the acquisition of material goods isn’t important to me. If I die tomorrow, all the time I spent earning money to buy a house would have been wasted. All the time that would be spent in voluntary indentured servitude (that’s what it is when you acquire debt and then must work to pay it off) can be better spent walking, running, reading, loving.

The first thing you can do, the most important thing you can do, to help stop the suffering in the world is to figure out what brings you happiness. Not what makes you happy, but what brings you happiness. The difference is this: an orgasm makes me happy, but the lady in my life brings me happiness. Long term, sustainable actions and conditions is what you’re after.

When thinking about that, try and remember that the vast majority of the societal drives which have been impressed upon you since your youth are falsehoods designed not to make you happy, but to enrich others and help them maintain their control over you. Shed those bonds for ones of your own making.

I find that having cats around helps, too. :smiley:

(a bit rambling on the read-thru, not even sure I made my point or answered your questions lol)

Thanks for the reply, its good to read your words. I was touched by the stuff you wrote regarding your cat and it inspired me to write this little thing.

I understand what you are saying about life. Its great that you are generally happy with it and even better that you can rise above the pain and still see the good side.

Some days I feel exactly like the OP says…its hopeless suffering which we just have to get through. That said there are great things to be found here too. I am married, kid on the way. Everyone assures me that this is the ultimate life experience…we’ll see. I have my doubts but I am resolved to get through it all even if I think its unfair and sort of rediculous.

Take care!