Thoughts on Suffering

Life has been a little rough lately. Little jagged bits and pieces float by now and then, but otherwise it's all water. Like that scene in Perfect Storm where the boat is gone and there's just waves. Waves and waves and waves.

Victor Frankl, holocaust survivor and psychologist, draws an analogy between suffering and a gas chamber - that pain is like gas in an empty room. It doesn't matter how much gas there is, or how big the room is, the gas expands to fill it. To deny pain because it's "too small" or less important/meaningful/awful than someone else's pain is to deny ALL pain. Because there's no way to measure how much suffering-gas will fit in a heart without destroying it. It fills it. Always.

I've been a judgmental pain in the ass in the past, thinking, what? You're so sad because you had a miscarriage the day after you got a positive test? Try having one when you're twelve weeks along! Try having three! I don't speak these thoughts. Good thing, too, because I know first hand the compounding effect on grief of words like, "Thank God you weren't farther along!" and "You should be grateful for the healthy child you have!"

I never understood why those phrases provided so little solace. No solace, actually, only guilt. Because sorrow fills us, every gap and synapse. And while it's there it doesn't matter how much worse off our neighbor is, how much more pain our friend's friend had, how bad it might have been. We have only our own reality; we have only our own suffering. To deny another person's suffering is to negate our own; to negate our own is to deny the world's. And who can stand to live without compassion?