Why Suffering?

“I don’t think anything liberates you except suffering.” (Harold Talbott)

I had a good friend, Bob Shea who is dead now. He used to like to say: “…pain is inevitable; suffering is optional”. While he never explained what he meant by that, I took him to mean, that I could avoid suffering if I only had the right attitude. I’ve changed my mind after listening to Harold Talbott.

Harold Talbott in the YouTube video, The Almost Final Days of Thomas Merton: The Role of Suffering tells a mythical story of Buddha walking along meeting a tigress who was unable to feed her cubs. What the Buddha does next is superhuman. He offers himself to the tigress as food for her and her cubs.

I’m beginning to understand that suffering freely chosen is not painful or at least it’s worth the ordeal. Suffering not accepted is merely pain. Following the above story further, we don’t get to choose our pain; we merely encounter it along our life’s journey. What we do with it turns it into gift or pain.

As I look at my own life’s journey, that’s truly been the case. Just to share one example. For forty-five years I did not accept my sexuality. I denied my feelings and I ran from any truly intimate encounter. That was mere pain even though I thought it was just life. When I began to accept my sexuality, eventually embracing it, it was no longer a source of pain, but truly a source of life. Accepting my “suffering” truly liberated me. I think Talbott ‘s above quote is accurate.

Finally, Talbott equates Jesus’ acceptance of his cross to the Buddha’s offering of his body for food for the tigress and her cubs. Interesting, don’t you think?

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

Dan O’Donnell, a layman has covenanted with the Chicago Community. In addition to the standard covenant, Dan promises to work at connecting all partners known and unknown, to a conscious following the the way of Jesus, the way of the cross which Dan believes transforms all failure, democratizing the human journey

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Author: CPP

We are a community of laymen and laywomen who, with vowed Passionists, seek to share in the charism of St. Paul of the Cross through prayer, ongoing spiritual formation, and proclamation of the message of Christ Crucified.

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