Continued from yesterday... just for this question, here.
“Is suffering a prerequisite to understanding suffering?”
Much longer answer… everyone, I think, or most people at least, know some form of suffering. Most of us have been in deep emotional pain at one point or another. Suffering is relative, as is reality. Or, as Dr Phil likes to say– there is no reality, only perception.
All of that only makes sense if I actually get to my point. Which is– you can’t compare pain. You can’t compare losing a husband to losing a baby to losing a parent. You can’t compare any of those to the torture of infertility or the horror of sexual abuse. Human suffering is not a quantitative factor– therefore, it can’t be a necessary facet of understanding the pain of others.
Or it is completely necessary to have suffered yourself in order to have compassion for those who are suffering– and all of us, just by being human, qualify.
If you know what I mean.
The sense of helplessness coming off people is a palpable, tangible quality that dogs the air when I can’t hold it anymore and crack with pain in the presence of others. I’ve discovered a sharp, definitive place where people differ– I know the personality trait that makes people Worthy or Unworthy in my eyes in this strange After–light.
It’s simply in the ability to bear witness, or not. To able to stay and watch as someone else, another human being, rails against the Universe and sobs from a place inside themselves that most of us don’t like to even think about, let alone poke around in.
I judge people on whether they leave, or stay. Whether they can sit with me, with this, with what’s happened, and bear the weight of it. If they can handle the knowledge that they can do nothing except be here, do nothing expect listen and bring me a not cup of sugary tea when it’s all done. If they can bear the knowledge that this is not a movie, this is not fiction… this is my life. My pain is real; and, for the most part, unfixable.
Or…. if they can not.
Being bereaved yourself can mean you have a whole level of insight into grief that others don’t, that you do know more instinctively than others what to say or what to do in any given situation. But having experienced grief doesn’t mean you understand it. And it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re any better at dealing with or being in the presence of someone else’s pain than the next random soul to wander through that person’s life.
I can say, in all honestly, I divide people in my mind into those that are ’real’ and those that are not. The people I respect, I do so because they have shown me that they can, if the universe requires it of them, sit on their hands and feel powerless and, for a short time at least, be OK with that.
That they’re not afraid to bear witness to the pain of another; if a witness, a bystander, someone to mark their tears on the ledger of human suffering, is all that other person needs.