Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Necessity of Subjective Suffering

Preface: I am not invalidating the following statement. I am providing a perspective that warns the reader to see them as proverbs, not laws.


One spiritual book said,

Suffering is subjective. Consider the following: One of the worst punishments inflicted on prisoners is solitary confinement. At the same time, some people from Northern California pay thousands of dollars a month for a similar experience but call it a “silent retreat.” The meditator enjoys the experience partially because it is voluntary but also because he or she knows what to do with the mind to create an opportunity out of the solitude, rather than a punishment.

-- The Heart of the Mind

This paragraph contains a perspective that is valuable. However, it runs the risk of negating the subject, of turning the human being into a spiritual cliche. It runs the risk of sacrificing the human experience to the spiritual platitude. Jesus was warning against this when he said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” In other words, spiritual times, spaces and maxims are objects in service to the human subject. When the above quote says, “Suffering is subjective,” it could imply to the reader that the reader is a dope unless he immediately conforms to the spiritual platitude.

Do you know why suffering is subjective? Because we are SUBJECTS! We are not objects, we are not spiritual machines. Soul moves human subjects from A to Z through life events. Such tired expressions risk making the reader feel there is something wrong with him/her for their ‘subjective suffering.’ Humans are elastic little subjective souls that stretch and expand by pain AND suffering. That is the way we are made. And that is what will and must happen, until it doesn’t. I call it spiritual isometrics – increase of soul through painful resistance.


Some teachers are worried that the admission of suffering as valid, normal and legitimate will give people an excuse to remain victims and to linger in their suffering. But I have to ask, is the other extreme any better? Is it better to make them feel inferior, unenlightened, ignorant and failed because they are stuck in suffering? These sayings and quotes can be helpful, and sometimes that are not.

I think some of these teachers are escapists, using spirituality as a kind of drug, or alcohol. Some are incapable of being honest with themselves. They will not admit that in the privacy of their own minds that they are filled with self doubt, self loathing, fear of failure and worry. Rather than pay attention to the voice of the Gods in these ‘negative emotions,’ they chase them off like annoying vultures feeding on a rotting carcass. But instead of dealing with the symptoms, or rotting carcass, they keep chasing the birds of prey away.

To read more, click here: Is it true that pain is mandatory but suffering is optional?

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