The reality of suffering has dominated my mind, all my life. How to cope with it? How to alleviate it? How to help others alleviate it in their lives? How to prevent it before it happens?
Can all suffering be prevented before it happens? I mean, that’s the basic question. A random plague? A recession? A dictator that comes to power? A mother abusing a child? Everything has a cause. Even the random plague started from something. Nothing comes from nothing, and so theoretically everything can be stopped. An omnipotent, all powerful being that can be everywhere at once could technically prevent all these things.
But can such a being prevent all suffering? What about the case where a man wants something that someone else has? Help the man get it and the other will suffer. Help the first keep it and the one that desires will suffer. What about two people that hate each other? You cannot stop their hatred from harming each other, no matter who you help. What about someone that hates himself?
So we see now that not all suffering can be prevented. Indeed most suffering cannot be prevented, because most suffering doesn’t come from the natural world. It comes from humans. Humans that suffer. Humans that make others suffer. Human desire, hate, fear, jealousy, anger, vengefulness, pride, etc. Things labelled as “sin” in Christian theology. These things cannot be prevented.
Well, there is one way. One way to stop the suffering of all the situations described above. Kill all parties involved. If everyone dies, the disease of hate, fear, anger, jealousy…these things won’t spread. This equality is the only way to completely prevent suffering.
What about allieviating suffering? Maybe I can’t stop suffering, but can I help all who suffer? You can cure illnesses, you can sort out unfair situations and be just. But once suffering takes root in a heart, the repercussions will happen. That suffering spreads, and there is no cure for that spreading of suffering. Except, as we have seen, compassion and mercy. If the one who suffers shows mercy and can feel compassion, the suffering may stop spreading. Similarly, if someone who is about to suffer clings to discipline, courage, rationality, ethics, and hope, then they may be able to avoid their own suffering, or mitigate the effects of that suffering in their heart and mind.
But this isnt something for another to do on someone else’s behalf. If the question is, what can I do for the suffering of others, then the answer is basically…try to get them to help themselves? This is probably the logic with which the proverb “God helps those who help themselves” was coined, because really, to get others to help themselves, you need to be untouched by fate. Otherwise the trust is broken. For example, why would I let someone try to guide me out of suffering, if that person was actively suffering himself? But no human being is untouched by fate. So…this too, is a no-go.
In Christianity, Jesus carried the sins of the world, or so the story goes. This is all well and good, and the visualization of the suffering that sin creates is I agree a powerful deterrent to creating more suffering. But that’s only for people that care in the first place. It doesn’t solve the problem that people still spread suffering. And so, while it is a good try to get others to help themselves, it is not enough.
So, we have two sides to stopping suffering. Destruction, and compassion. Either way, one thing is necessary. Power. Because obviously a weak person cannot destroy anything. Less obviously, a weak person cannot truly be compassionate to everyone.
So, good and evil. A desire to end suffering, and the creation of suffering due to ‘”sinful” action. And within “good”, two different approaches.
I don’t know where I’m going with this. Perhaps…what I’m trying to say is, even with a straight-cut goal, there is still so much internal struggle. What to do in each individual situation is always unclear.