If there is one thing that binds us all together, it is suffering — or really, how hard we try to avoid it. Every one of us wants to avoid affliction. We transform from composed, rational individuals to frenzied bodies the instant we discover the fangs of hardship digging into us. We contrive newer ways to avoid it. We stop at nothing — even if it implies shedding our humane sensibilities and revealing the raw animal passions that lie within us in all their ferocity. Even the distant prospect of something approaching pain is enough to send us scurrying around — to ‘prepare’ for the eventuality should it ever descend upon us. We engineer elaborate plans for protecting ourselves from any perceivable mischance. We delude ourselves into believing that we can secure ourselves against suffering if we prepare well to outwit it — and, like horses with blinkers, we go through life constantly trying to build the strongest possible fortress against suffering that we can.
However, despite our best efforts to outsmart it, suffering gets the better of us all. No one can claim of being untouched by pain and suffering and agony. It dwells on some people in small measures; on others, it bestows its devastating bounty. It is omnipresent: pervasive as life itself, immutable as death.
Unwelcome and tortuous though it is, suffering possesses one quality noble as love itself — it bonds us together. We relate over it. Misery loves company, after all. It humbles the egotistical and reminds them about the reality of life. Ineffable though misery is, it sensitizes us like nothing else can. True, we try to protect ourselves from it to ensure our survival; but equally true is the fact that only in when we suffer do we learn compassion. We are more alive to another’s grief when we go through some of it ourselves.
I can vouch that I am more perceptive of others’ pain when I’m agonized. An overwhelming empathy engulfs me. I pray for the unfortunate, shed a tear for someone bereaved, help someone who is in need. Time suddenly shrinks into insignificance in front of life. The material becomes immaterial. Goodwill and camaraderie become the order. My own suffering and sadness makes me more humane, more alive, and really, it has an uncanny way of doing that for everyone.
It would be nice to experience a life without pain — but would that really be living? What good would that do? I’m no misanthrope, and, after all, who doesn’t want to live in a perfect world? Truth, however, is far from perfect. Suffering is truth — the painful reality that was bestowed on mankind along with consciousness and reason. We know we cannot extricate suffering from our worlds, but maybe we could be a little kinder. Maybe when we see people who are suffering, we could help them a little more. Whatever our endeavors, we are bound to fall short somewhere. But at least we don’t have to make anyone else suffer even more.