Why do we tolerate suffering?
That of the animals that we decimate by the trillions each year. The one of the Earth that we do not take great care of, as if it were nothing but a ground to trample on or a beach to lie on. That of those around us whom we challenge, judge, ignore, criticize, all day long. That of all humanity, mired in its norms, cultures, and endless quarrels. And that of ours, to finish and to begin, since this one and those, are one and the same suffering.
We do not look reality in the face.
We don’t look this pain, any pain, in the face. We run away from each of these sufferings by exporting them to the land of images, figures and ideas. In our head. We do not look them in the eyes and with our heart.
Nor the animal that dies throughout its life, before ending up in the slaughterhouse. Neither the young plant nor the old tree, ravaged by our brutal invasion and our insatiable thirst for space to colonize. Neither the ones who surround us, at work, in our neighborhood, and at home, and their extreme pain, so close and so far from us. Nor this child and his parents and their ancestors who die of hunger, thirst, heat, cold, disease, sorrow, by bullet or by indifference, of loneliness, of fear.
“Don’t look […] Don’t say anything […] Don’t point your finger […] Move on, there is nothing to see!” We teach our children, as we have been taught. They see and stop and linger in disbelief and wonder to see this misery. Then the shell is formed, the blinders and the plugs in the ears. The child is ready, impermeable to the other and to life in short, conform to the specifications of a society above ground, dehumanized, he’s ready to produce, ready to consume… and to be consumed through suffering and nothingness. He will go through life like a [bad] dream, through interposed tablets and screens.
Our thinking flees reality.
Our thought – to preserve us – refuses to confront us, face to face, eye to eye, with this abject and painful suffering, with this reality. And here we are, handing ourselves over to the orders of this guardrail. At the slightest alert, our brain sounds the withdrawal, the flight, without delay. The experience of suffering as well as fear, if it is experienced once, live or in front of the TV, is too stinging to be repeated. The brain protects itself. In doing so, we lose all connection with reality.
We often look at the misery of the world only through statistics. But we do not cry in front of numbers. And when it comes via a shocking documentary or breaking news, these are again just pictures and, once the tear glands are worked, we can relax again on TikTok, have a drink or two and a few chips. And when it comes to a planetary pandemic as they say, the pictures and the numbers follow one another, and we eat it, and we still eat it, every day. It is the most indigestible of dog food, and yet we go back to it again, at each meal break, and up to 5 to 10 times a day… #BonjourTristesse, as Francoise Sagan would say!
We ignore the reality that emerges within ourselves, we unplug our heart and sometimes our brain as well, which is more convenient, cause there is too much dissonance, otherwise! “Do this. Do that.” OKAY ! We comply, we submit, like our child who stops observing, who stops rebelling, who stops being sensitive, who stops loving. “We must respect and follow ABC […] We should not listen and pay attention to MNOP […] This is not the time to think, we must act […] It is criminal to do or not to do XYZ […]” We look at the images, at the figures, again. We listen to the experts parade, contradicting each other and contradicting themselves. We don’t know what to do, but we have to do something, right? So we do it anyway. We do like or against everyone else, that’s it. We get into the flow, somehow. Even though we are told that people who have been there… We feel stupid. A little. Occasionally. We often feel right too. We have the number with us. Meaning, number of people like minded. And then it’s the law and power and justice, to fight for or to fight against. It’s better than nothing, right? We hear new numbers. We see new images. We are scared. We are a little lost. We suffer inside. We advance reluctantly. Again!
“J’me souviens surtout d’ces moutons” sang Renaud, intolerant, enraged! Alcohol got the better of his health – without dissolving his suffering – but not his lyrics. They remain, intact, healthy and radiant… full of truth!
If we did not escape from the observation, would we accept suffering?
Like Renaud, Gainsbourg, Brassens, Coluche, Abbé Pierre and other yellow vests, obviously not! If we were to look at this suffering, our suffering and the suffering of the world – in all its cruelty, in all its fears, its frustrations, its sorrows, its mourning – with all our being – full lighthouse -, we could never tolerate it. We could not outwardly, towards the suffering of others, any more than we could inwardly, towards our own suffering.
So here we have choices. The choice to observe [suffering] or not. The choice to tolerate [suffering] or not.
“Everyone’s responsibility involves two acts: wanting to know and daring to say.” Abbé Pierre.
Back to our favorites : 1. awareness through observation and 2. responsibility through commitment. So let’s dig into it and let’s talk about it! These choices are of such paramount importance that they deserve to be taken seriously. To be done with full awareness. Whatever yours, therefore, it may be of your interest to continue the investigation.
What if you choose to tolerate suffering?
“The most constant and deadly disease, but also the most unrecognized in any society, is indifference” Abbé Pierre.
You don’t have to go far to see what would happen in this case. That of tolerating your sufferings and those of the world. We know this path very well, since it is the one we take every day! We try to keep ourselves far from the misery and the sufferings of the world, feeling ourselves perfectly incapable of attacking them, we do some good deed, personally and professionally, as to take a sedative to calm or to please our consciousness, proud for doing our part, and we focus on our essentials, namely what is within our reach, we think, and what matters most to us, those around us, our family and ourselves.
Unfortunately, this intimate circle also suffers, starting with ourselves and our loved ones, and we are quite incapable of addressing this suffering, any more than the other ones, further afield. And the world continues to run to ruin, and we continue to wander in this world, in the same momentum, jostled as we are by our contradictory thoughts, by our fluctuating ideas, by our quest for pleasure and our flight from displeasure, by our internal fears. Through all this noise, whether our brain is at a standstill or forced into motion. What a mess!
What if you look suffering in the face and decide not to tolerate it?
In front of the fire, the hand pulls away. Faced with the unacceptable, the body acts. So you would act, for sure! To begin…
However, sooner or later, and relentlessly, your brain would pound on your door again, confronting you, on the one hand, with all the “unpleasant” implications of the choice option you adopted, and on the other hand, with all the “pleasant” implications of the choice option you abandoned.
And if by chance it was not enough, your benevolent mind, and at least for herself, wanting at all costs to avoid breakdown, contraction and – worse – dissociation, would confront you with these supreme assertions, on the one hand “you are not going to solve the misery of the world, are you?”, and on the other hand “suffering has existed since the world was world, and it is in our nature”…
Pushback#1 – You are not going to solve the misery of the world, are you?
“We cannot, on the pretext that it is impossible to do everything in one day, do nothing at all“, said the Abbot. If this misery, this suffering, has become intolerable to you, then it is! You are going to put all your heart to the work, and you will do it. No matter how much time and energy you invest, whatever the outcome, you are on your way, unstoppable! Do our part, we come back to it, do ALL our part, not as a hobby, an entertainment, but as a priesthood, a way of the cross, to build more than a house, an entire village, your temple, your mosque, your cathedral, your garden, your forest, your life… It is a life project, indeed, and it is not nothing!
Pushback#2 – Suffering has existed since the world began, it is in our nature! So what? We want to know if it is possible to eradicate suffering in all its forms and we are told that suffering is in our nature, in the human beings and any being condition. So there we ask…
Is it possible to change the human condition?
We are wondering if it is possible, so that suffering is no longer so pervasive and so destructive in the world and in our lives? We grow considering human being as human being. And, for most of us, we never challenged our human condition, right? So what if we challenge it now?
Let’s take a simple example. It is in the human condition today to consider that – technologically speaking – almost anything is possible, like going to Mars and being deliver a pancake at midnight in your living room watching Netflix on a rainy Sunday night. We are equally considering that – psychologically – some things are immutable. We are talking about a technological “miracle” but we dare not talk about a psychological miracle! Of course, we have totally transformed from the former perspective, and we have totally remained unchanged, from the later!
Which reminds me about Idriss Aberkane 3-steps representation of any revolution. 1/ It is first ridiculous. 2/ It is then dangerous. 3/ It is finally obvious. Which fits perfectly with all kind of political and technological revolution we can think of.
In the technological space, we have obviously been wrong thousands and millions of times! And, to the credits of visionaries, engineers, scientists and all the people who joined efforts to believe in their dreams in these fields, at all costs, pushed limits, again and again, and payed the bills, every time need. By iteration, and continuous improvement, slowly and surely, we transformed for instance the most dangerous way of travelling, into the most secured one (airplane). Without reducing carbon footprint though, which is another debate. Let’s not go there for now!
In the realm of the mind, miracles seem out of reach. Reserved to religious arena, with all their war [and power] games… And, even when the light came on, every now and then, she was immediately overtaken by the patrol. At all times, power – in the form of religions, nations, armies, companies, etc. – want to monopolize power, wealth, and fame. This is what it is, in human nature, and there’s nothing cute about it. The consequences, over the centuries, have been endlessly dire. The brutalization and the abetization of the masses, ancestral techniques of leadership, work today under such a regime that we come to believe that we are free, in a world where there is no longer, to tell the truth, no other freedom than the one to conform to a model in perdition, or to get out of it without making noise or emulating around you.
Any attempt to emancipate the model is severely punished. See examples as diverse and varied as the Greek citizen and their delusional debt, as the children’s farm in Ardèche that Sophie Rabhi walking so worthily and magnificently in her father’s Pierre footsteps and her husband, forced to surrender this place that they cherished and developed for two decades. See Dieudonne, the most talented humorist of his generation, who finishes his race like Coluche his predecessor, in a metaphorical plane tree.
So many people – including us! – benefit in one way or another from this model of society, according to the very subjective criteria that were given to us from childhood and amplified and magnified since then, consider impossible to get out of it and, consciously or not, continue to maintain and defend this model, deadly and dying.
But, despite any pushback, despite any mistake, despite any past failure, lack of perspective and miserable present status, it is totally, logically and intuitively impossible to prove it is not possible to totally and radically change the human condition. To be more precise, human conditions has already changed a lot of times, in surface at least, and in concrete facts as well. Even though very few progress have been made on the fear and suffering levels, as well as on the love and freedom levels, in the mirror. So, let’s keep on observing…
On a personal level, is it possible for us to free ourselves from all our suffering?
Society is the aggregation of each individual, their interactions, their past heritage, their present being and their future aspiration. Nothing more. Nothing less. So let’s place our focus and start our investigation “within”, at a personal level, our so called “inner game”. Because, if I am able, or if you are able, and if we are able to free ourselves from suffering, everyone will therefore be able to free himself from his suffering, and society herself and our entire planet would come out of the chaos into which we poorly and loudly slide further every day. Sounds like a plan, does’nt it?
Let us be inspired and walk in the footsteps of one of our dearest friend of the noblest kind, who illuminated the last century and beyond. Jiddu Krishnamurti. Once this is done, we will hopefully be able, for ourselves, to gauge the relevance and the concrete effectiveness, or not, of this roadmap. If it does not lead anywhere, we will return to the starting point and borrow another, already sketched or to be discovered, route. If it offers us brand new perspectives in tune with our quest, we will continue this way. Either way, it’s about moving step by step, one foot in front of the other, pushing the investigation from a theoretical discussion into a very personal, concrete and precise introspection, because the map is never the territory.
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What is the nature of the “I”, who says “I’m suffering”?
This “I” is my thought expression of who I am, as my thought sees me. This “I” is therefore a fruit of my thought. Not me! Rather a vision of me, which identifies with me.
What is the structure of the “I”, who says “I’m suffering”?
In other words, how did my thought generate and how does my thought preserve and enrich the “I”? My thought works systematically from the past. It creates, aggregates and stores into my brain’s library a collection of images and emotions from the past. The storage, cultivation and utilization afterwards is facilitated by “labelling” these images and emotions and aggregating them into a “book”. This “I” who says “I’m suffering” is therefore the aggregation of all images and emotions from the past that my thought captured, aggregated and stored in my mind within a “book” under the label “I, me and myself”.
From there, what is the nature and structure of “I’m suffering”?
It now appears very clearly that “I’m suffering” is a chapter of the book “I, me and myself”. In other words, “I’m suffering” is the aggregation of all images and emotions from the past that my thought captured, aggregated and stored in my mind within the “book” called “I, me and myself” under a specific chapter labelled “I’m suffering”. Simply speaking, “I’m suffering” is NOT my true suffering AT ALL. It is a vision of it, which identifies with it. This book “I” and its chapter “I’m suffering” belongs to the territory of my thought, which is only a part of me, and that’s it!
When does my thought say “I’m suffering”?
At first, my thought says “I’m suffering”, when I experience a new feeling of uncomfortable emotion.
What does my thought do immediately after saying “I’m suffering”?
Then, my thought – which is constantly in motion – goes from one image to another. Creating, storing and aggregating new images with old ones. It jumps constantly from one emotion to another. From one desire to another. From one fear to another. From one suffering to another. So, once I experience a new suffering, my thought creates a new image of this suffering and stores it in my mind’s library under the label “I’m suffering”, which is the point of disconnect between “actual suffering” and “virtual suffering”. “Actual suffering” emerges at the point of the initial experience when “virtual suffering” is generated by our thought when calling back all this images of suffering it stored in our mind.
Why does my thought create and store images of “I’m suffering”?
Remember (see Re-Birth chapter “The Brain. Images and Feelings storage. Repetition and Escape games.”) By nature, my thought hates negative feelings. Since the suffering experience implies this kind of negative feelings, it then tries to escape from this state of mind as early and as much as possible.
How does my thought try to escape this suffering?
One way or another, through understanding, through acceptance, through escape. At all costs, which implies, of course, at the cost of truth, of facts, of reality! Who cares? Tirelessly, which means that – so long as suffering remains – my thought will try to address the issue. And the only tool which is present in my thought toolbox is… creation of and connections between images and emotions!
What are the consequences of the way my thought tries to escape this suffering?
The consequence are a series of disconnect and associated conflicts, between the present and the past, between the reality and the images, between actual suffering and virtual suffering, between the my true self and the “actual suffering”, and between the “I” and the “virtual suffering”. To cut the long story short, a complete mess! It does NOT work. If you’re lost into the observation, forget about it! And simply look within yourself how much ancient suffering persists and remains. This is obvious!
How does my thought perpetuate suffering?
Leaving reality – the present – for the past, thought will induce an extreme attachment to these images of suffering. Which, if they are no longer “actual suffering” remain “virtual suffering”, which is still suffering. Then, in order to try and fix things and escape from this “virtual suffering”, my thought brings back to my mind all the pages of the chapter “I’m suffering”. And, so long as it does not succeed to escape, my thought keeps on bringing back this full load of images on the table. Can be 10, 100, 1000 and even more iterations! At any iteration, this huge load of “virtual suffering” is brought back to existence, and all associated conflicts are present too. And, in the mean time, “actual suffering” has not been addressed, which makes the balance even worse. This is how my thought perpetuates suffering.
The mourning curve.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist, who pioneered in near-death studies, introduced the concept of “the mourning curve”, which describes the grieving journey as a series of state of mind to go through : shock | denial | anger/frustration | bargaining | depression | acceptance (experiment/decision/integration). This representation – and its derative – is commonly accepted now in the field, and has already been extended to “change management” field.
The transformation time and energy.
Usually, we imply that transformation in general and grieving in particular 1/ hurts and 2/ takes time. We would like to challenge this second statement. Based on facts and based on history, both at individual and collective levels, major transformations take a lot of time! This is made even clearer if we look at our investigation above. We struggle to get out of suffering. And, when we manage to, it usually takes ages. What we also made clear in our investigation is that our mind, and its escape game from reality, instead of eradicating suffering, had a tendency to perpetuate it. Through this perpetuation process, it seems like a lot of energy goes to waste, while a lot of energy is surely required to deal with the experience of suffering. One can ask if so much time would be required if we were capable of concentration all our energy on facing suffering in the first place.
What happen if we face suffering in the first place?
If we stay there. Fully. Without trying to judge it. Without trying to understand it. Without trying to run away from it. Without trying to overcome it. Without trying to identify with it. Just watching it and becoming one with it.
Have you ever tried?
Maybe something extraordinary would happen, who knows. Do you? If not, you just need to try! Perhaps you will see the pain and fear dissipate, dissolve, and disappear. Perhaps you will see something emerging, coming to birth, within you. Perhaps you will discover a form of peace, of passion, of love, you’ve never heard of or never experienced at least.
Going through the process.
Pierre and Lygie.
I experienced immediate ending of suffering at the point of my grandmother and my grandfather death. I was 14 and she was the woman of my life. I was 33 and I valued him a lot too. In both cases, I felt a terrible pain growing in my stomach. I run outside, cried to death and finally sat down and stayed there for hours. With her, with him, with suffering. Somehow, at some point, each of these suffering completely vanished, leaving me in some of the most beautiful places of peacefulness and love I have ever experienced. My family, who was still devastated at that time and knew how closed we were to each other, asked me what happened. I just said she/he was gone, and that everything was all right now.
Noel and myself.
My father died when I was 37. He was and still is the man of my life. The process started the exact same way. However, retrospectively, I realize I came out of my “suffering facing experience” too quickly. I got back home, feeling relieved to a certain extend, but not fully. Before I realized what was going on, my brain took over and placed a lot of stuff to deal with into my mind. Tangible stuff, of course! Related to my extended family, to my job and team mates: all kind of distractions! I didn’t realize it for months, but I was escaping, big time! Internally, I was still a mess, profoundly devastated.
Beyond the self.
My suffering diversified and accumulated, which is not ideal, and – million times worse – it splashed onto the ones I pretended to love the most. The suffering which has been done is done. And I take full responsibility for this immense suffering I impose on my self and more importantly on my loved ones. I learned what follows the hard way, because of a crap and totally unnecessary use of the process. Rather than burning yourself softly for ages, you can and you must put your teeth into it, immediately and totally, not even today, just right now, and hold it, and stick to it for as long as you need to. So here is my revelation, the biggest I ever had, on which I let you meditate and, more importantly, I strongly encourage you to act on,
You cannot love when you are in pain and when you are afraid.
You cannot. And its corollary. You cannot be free either. As a consequence. Putting all your energy into eradicating suffering and fear within yourself is a vital mission of the utmost importance. For you. For your loved ones. For your community. For us all. Suffering and fear are Siamese experiences, paths on which you walk alone, without a compass, in front of yourself, and in front of your true nature. They are grueling trails on the path, at times. But – no doubt – it is worth it! Cause, when you face fear and suffering in the eyes, an extraordinary transformation process occurs.
From suffering comes compassion. From compassion comes love. From love comes life. From life comes beauty.
Beauty is to be discovered in everything, as a vigneron(*) that I hold in high esteem would say, and who is also on the way, we all are, I believe. Have a good trip, good winds and see you maybe at a crossroads!