Suffering. It's inherent to life, because life equals death and death equals suffering. That's the price you pay to find meaning. It's a terrible price, but maybe it's worth it. If we do it right. That damn bird - the Red Footed Booby called Professor Pinkerton and that goofy look on his face. He doesn't know he's about to die, but I do. It fills me with visceral emotions and confusion. He's about to die. I witnessed his last clumsy entry into a resting position atop the rolling hills of the Pacific Ocean. With one last look into my eyes, his head disappeared into that crevice between his wings and he began to drift North. Drifting somewhere, to that place where we all drift. Eventually. It's the definition of tragedy, but it's not evil. It's just the price. Nature doesn't like to hand out freebies, it demands work and responsibility. It's an eternal dance, always striving to bring order out of chaos and love out of fear, but it takes real work. It's not always entirely self-evident is it? What to do about this wild predicament of a self-aware life, what path to take, what path that provides enough meaning to make it all worthwhile.
I was once sitting at a restaurant in Portland, OR eating at the bar, when a woman walked by and asked if I could give her a hand. I finished, paid, and went to see about a good deed. It was just a man that drank too much and needed a ride home; no problem. Except there was a problem; he had extreme anxiety. As soon as he walked out of the front door of the restaurant, he froze, dropped to his knees, and assumed the child's pose, forehead firmly planted on the walkway entering the restaurant. He was panicking, having an anxiety attack, something. Whatever it was, he went through something in the past, probably something traumatic. He was suffering.
The man was glued to the sidewalk emitting haunting moans as the fear and anxiety coursed through his veins. There was nothing I could do to help; I wasn't equipped to handle the situation. However, I can be certain that kicking him and calling him a loser wouldn't have helped the situation. Obvious, right? That's evil - intentionally causing more suffering than is absolutely necessary. But it's not obvious, is it? People discipline children with extreme violence, people rape and murder, we all know what people can do. No, it's not what people can do, it's what I can do, what you can do, what we are all doing right now, everywhere. From gossip, to slights, to passive aggression, to willful blindness, all the way to protracted and pointless torture, we're responsible. And whether you believe it or not, we are all capable of reaching the highest rung on the ladder of inflicted suffering.
It's baffling isn't it? The violence, the sheer amount of unnecessary suffering. I've been running these concepts through my head for a decent while now, and on Day 71 of isolation it culminated into a powerful release of emotion. Not because this is just a reality we have to contend with, but because I'm partly responsible. I've been plenty mean - I've fought people unreasonably, I've treated women poorly, I've insulted, I've treated family and friends poorly, I've lied, I've caused unnecessary suffering. So have you. Really accepting what I've done and what I'm capable of is scary. It filled me with a deep sense of sorrow because I had chances to make things better, but chose instead to punish others through my own resentment and anger. It was a feeling of massive disappointment in myself, with a side dish of forgiveness.
It's not so much about focusing on the negative, I just never took the time to really contend with the negative, to understand it, to know what I'm capable of. I suspect neither have some of you. But it's part of the deal, it has to be. Unlike Professor Pinkerton who can blindly fall asleep for the last time, we're burdened with the ability to see the unavoidable tragedy of life, but graced with the responsibility to strive for less suffering for all, and of course, the elimination of evil. Even if all that means is starting with eliminating willful blindness. It's time to speak up and get to work. At least for me.