Sunday, September 23, 2018

Suffering Cannot be the Natural State

What is the pain that causes suffering? We're not talking about the pain of a broken leg or stomach ache. We're talking about the mental anguish of beliefs and conditioning challenged by the direct experience of reality.

I arrived at college with a set of beliefs and conditioning that included a lot guilt. There was foremost the guilt of being human, carrying the burden of original sin. Tied to that was all the joys of the flesh that were considered evil. I was not taught that suffering was a part of life, but that suffering was to be glorified. To suffer was a sacrifice made to the glory of God. Tell me how this kind of conditioning was suitable to get any joy whatsoever out of life?

I would stare out the college dorm window at the young men and women playing frisbee, or just tossing a ball without a care in the world. I could only imagine what freedom they had compared to me, who felt guilty about having any good feelings at all, let alone joy. I could only stare and wonder what was wrong with me.

A conundrum was very present in my mind. I thought about the life force cruising through me, wanting to run, to play, to be free. I compared this to my mental state of repression, fear, guilt and self loathing. There was no way I could justify my mental suffering in the face of the simple joy of living I saw in animals, insects, and other students. My only conclusion was that there was something wrong with me. I tried telling the few friends I had that I was not normal, but they brushed it aside. They had no idea of the seriousness of my suffering.

At least, placing the issue of suffering in myself was correct. It was I that had the problem. I just didn't know the cause. How was I to know that my conditioning was in conflict with reality? How was I to know that what I had been taught was false? That my conditioning was based on beliefs and attitudes designed to hide the truth? How was I to know that I couldn't hide and so was unlike those who brought me up?

Somehow, in my suffering, I knew that it was not a "natural state." I could see that life could not have the drive to continue if suffering was its daily bread. There had to be some joy, some satisfaction of desire to make life want to continue. What were all these desires for, if not to produce some direction for satisfaction, for peace, for contentment?

This was the start of my journey. It was the only direction I could see that held any truth. The natural state had to be one of contentment, of peace, of joy in living. The life force driving everything had to have some reward, some pleasure, some how, some way. My suffering had to be a mistake. I was living the mistake and the answer needed to be found. 

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