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Suffering and Joy

Posted Jan 27 2009 8:23pm

If we grow up in a secure household in America we learn – and may come to believe – that everyone has the right to pursue happiness. Although we are not told this explicitly, in America, in our consumerist culture, this most certainly means a right to the external pursuit of happiness. It is highly debatable whether in actuality all Americans share this right but I won’t get into that. The thought that captivates me is the simple idea of being free to pursue happiness. It is beautiful. Happiness as a sustained state of being in the world – as opposed to on a remote tropical island in a four star facility but rather in life around people, with all the pain, despair, and suffering that involves – must be an internal state. This pursuit of internal happiness is truly open to everyone but the path towards its achievement is far more difficult. I am beginning to think that the only people who achieve internal happiness are highly evolved spiritual beings. For the rest of us here on this planet, so distant from God, we are left mostly to our own devices to increase our compassion, learn grace, and find joy. Our relationships with ourselves are often tragically flawed not to mention our relationships with each other. We create pain, witness pain, experience loss, and misplace priorities. Living in Malawi and working in the labor ward there over the past few years has had a profound impact on my spirit. I am still unsure of how to characterize this impact; at the moment perhaps I can say it has left me with a greater sense of surrender. I have seen much inequality and cruelty; I have gained no understanding its purpose. We might grandly hypothesize that spiritual evolution requires suffering but when so much suffering is merely a degradation of life, the conclusion that most readily arises is that we as a global community are responsible for its unnecessary existence. I am exhausted, I feel a desire to rest but an inability to turn away. Certainly, I have deepened my respect for those who walk through life with their eyes open and radiate joy. I wrote before that I want to find more joy in life and I am renewing that intention.

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