Taking Help – Part Two
In his book “On Writing Fiction” author John Gardner reminds us that reading fiction involves “a suspension of disbelief.” Not a usual collection of words but easy to understand – if you truly want to enjoy this story about a young wizard and his friends you need to believe, at least here and now and for a while, that wizards exist, as do wands and residential wizard schools and hats that assign groups and dragons and men as wolves and paintings that watch you as you walk on by and, well, a whole different world. Not believing those things you’d be better off watching an episode of The Big Bang Theory, or CNN. We allow ourselves the greatest satisfactions, and surely their rewards, when we go all in.
Which takes me to something I’ve been thinking about a lot these past months, I suppose in different forms for years now. This – the quality of suffering. Individual suffering. So much suffering. And, within my ruminations, what to be done about it. Working from a beginning place that affirms the ability to do something about suffering. To end suffering. One person at a time (re: those pesky Four Noble Truths). So I’m asking for the next few minutes that you read this Blog post as if it were a piece of fiction, and to immerse yourself thoroughly in the potential value of your time reading here, you do this – suspend your disbelief. Are you ready?
Suffering is a choice. To think otherwise is to delude yourself. If you feel you are suffering then you are choosing to feel that way. This is not some outside force working on you. As they say, it’s an inside job. A depressing version of “I suffer, therefore I am.” Suffering. It’s hard to get away from. It’s everywhere. Heard in overheard conversations. Heard in self-help meetings. Heard, seen, over the TV, over the internet, over over over.
I talk with my wife Susan about this all the time. How the suffering that individuals own and put out there in a torrent, an endless stream — is not sadness, is not pain, doesn’t qualify as ‘clinical depression.’ I have this dream, I tell my wife, coalescing with each passing month, of creating some special form of, um, help – not therapy, Jesus, we’ve got more than enough therapists – something else, something so much more, something much more hands-on, inherent in the Walden House saying at the boys and girls residential programs in San Francisco – “Own your own.” Yeah, I am puzzling and brainstorming and writing in my Morning Pages and diving into books all about doing something about my dreams and my relationships with people and my standing as a planet member one minute after another to end suffering. I’m thinking in this context about Tim Ferriss (“The Four-Hour Work Week”) advising not to write down your goals, no, instead write down what will make you happy. What will make you happy?? Write it down in your notebook, on your legal pad. Brainstorm it. Then chase it. Jump at it. Power to the place where happiness defeats suffering. Where even the journey toward happiness defeats suffering.
This is not about circumstances because everybody has circumstances, many harsh beyond our imaginations. It’s not about institutional crushing of opportunity, or racism and sexism and hooray for our side and any of that stuff, which is real and mostly permanent and must always be addressed. I suppose it’s akin to the “Logotherapy” prescribed by Victor Frankl (“Man’s Search For Meaning”) from within the concentration camp, but not that. I am nowhere near smart enough to understand all those nuances or even follow along with a mind and character as great as his.
No. It’s my “keep it simple” mind, is all. It’s Les Brown’s “Any day I wake up and there ain’t a white chalk outline around my body I know is going to be a great day.” So — move ahead? Then be happy. Not happy now? Then get happy. You think I’m absolutely cold-hearted and off my rocker for saying, well, duh, just get happy? Then – and here it comes – pay me $100 and I will work with you to create and jump – no brakes allowed – all the way into your own “Happiness Plan.” Seriously. Totally, absolutely, no shit seriously. Pay me one hundred dollars, lay down your Jacksons, and you and I will come up with a plan of action that will eat at and erode all those molecules of suffering you have invited in, and for which you are charging no rent, and over which you have the power to shoo away. Really. Like, go on, get out of here, scoot.
The Hollies sang, “If I’m laden at all I’m laden with sadness that everyone’s heart isn’t filled with the gladness of love for one another.” That’s the real deal. The grateful heart. That’s being plugged into the main vein. Sadness is real. Pain is real. Suffering…ongoing suffering…check out my suffering…you got a minute, let me tell you all about my suffering…that right there is Voldemort. And he’s a phony, and a loser.
Ain’t gonna be no free consultations here kids. I have barely enough money coming in month to month as it is, a fact which causes me no suffering but does preclude doing or owning lots and lots of things I cannot come up with for free or on the cheap. I’m the one who quit working years ago, to own my own, so whaa for me. I’m also the one who finds a thrill in a $2.69 bag of Trader Joe’s peanuts, and a rush every time I slide into my 2001 SEL Taurus, literally falling apart but still with the plus plus sound system, and crank up the Jesus and Mary Chain or the Beach Boys loud enough with the windows down and the breeze blowin’ to shake the hood. Nah, you want me to help you come up with a plan of direct action to ease suffering out and create the space for joy and gratitude and abundance to come rushing in – fork over the dough. Cash only.
To suffer or not to suffer. It might be the question.
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