… on… suffering….

Halloween.   What a perfect time to talk about suffering.  The two images today are part of a series titled “All Our Efforts Are Futile”.  In the long view, everything we make seems to fall apart.  No matter how much effort and how good it seems when it was first created our work, over time, will deteriorate.  It’s just a fact of life.   It’s a constant reminder of our own impermanence.

All Our Efforts Are Futile

The foundation of all mental illness
is the unwillingness to experience legitimate suffering.
~ Carl Jung

It seems to me that we spend most of our life trying to avoid suffering. But just like our own impermanence and the inevitable decay of all we build, suffering is a part of our life experience. But what is “legitimate suffering?”
Is it the suffering that comes as a result of the actions of others? Is it the suffering that comes from our own actions?

I once saw a mental health advertisement on a city bus:  it was a quote from a Newsweek magazine article from 2014 that had the headline “One In Five Adults Suffers From Mental Illness Each Year”.  Those are not very good odds by any standard.  If you look around you every 5th person you see may be suffering from some mental illness.   Now mental illness takes many forms and that descriptor is not exclusive  to the more elaborate/newsworthy like a sociopath.   But can be something as common as depression or melancholia.  I wonder if it is wise to describe these conditions as mental illness because everyone experiences them at some point in their life it is part of life experience and any number of things can spark that fire.   But mental illness is just one type of suffering.   There is also the suffering from physical illness.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed a couple of things.  One is that life is filled with suffering; but that suffering changes and metamorphoses over time.  In my younger years the suffering was more emotional but as I’ve gotten older the suffering has changed and become more physical just due to the natural aging of the body.  A constant reminder of impermanence.   I’ve also noticed something in my youth I did almost anything to avoid suffering.  I ignored it, I joked about it, I lied about it, I would participate in activities that would temporarily subdue it.   But as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to accept suffering much as one would accept a constant companion.  I don’t enjoy it but I do accept it and try to give it the space it needs.   I have found that this more nurturing approach actually eases the suffering and helps me understand it – including how my actions may have brought it on.

All Our Efforts Are Futile 2

“Fear is the path to the dark side.
Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering”  
~ Yoda (from Star Wars)

“Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret — it leads only to evil.” ~ Psalm 37:8 (NIV)

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete,
not lacking anything. ”  ~ James 1: 2-4 (NIV)

I have found this last quote to be especially true. We should consider it a joy to undergo suffering when it produces so many good things such as perseverance, maturity and a sense of completeness. We should not take the “consider it a joy” phrase as a directive to seek out suffering nor should we use it to justify causing suffering in others. Suffering will come automatically – usually when we least expect it, when it is unplanned and inconvenient. So when it comes welcome it. It’s okay and if you see someone suffering sometimes the best thing to do is not trying to ease their suffering (although many will argue that is what we should do) but to just be there with them in their suffering. Suffering is made more bearable when we are not alone. But be careful of being too empathetic so that you suffer along with them. Being with them does not require you to suffer because they suffer. Remember you are the supporter in that scenario.

I found tons of videos on YouTube that deal with escaping suffering including many well meaning gurus, religious leaders, teachers, philosophers and songs. It is so darn hard to find one deals with enduring suffering. In a world of escapism, quick fixes, and good vibrations have we forgotten the role of suffering in our lives and therefore put our own mental health at risk?


Does the USPS need to End?

So lately I’ve been wondering what’s up with the United States Postal Service (USPS). It seems that they are more intent on building job security for a continually failing system instead of actually delivering packages quickly and safely. There are many locations that have seen local postage sorting facilities close. One of the results of this is that packages are constantly being rerouted and there are longer delivery times as a result. If I mail a package in my city it can take 2 days longer for delivery than if I drive 5 minutes to the next town. And the only reason is that my city sends it’s mail to another location within the state for sorting. And these problems with the USPS are not just in my city or state. They are nationwide. 3 times now I’ve ordered merchandise online and following the tracking has been humorous and disconcerting. Here’s just two examples of what has happened recently.

1. I live in Ohio. The most recent fiasco is an order I placed on Amazon.com It was being shipped from New York. Ohio is is just 2 states west of New York. But what did I see when I followed the tracking id? The package was sent first to Missouri which is 3 states west of Ohio. So why did the USPS overshoot Ohio and send to Missouri before sending it back east to Ohio? Good question. It certainly is NOT economical – and they wonder why the USPS is losing money. It is adding additional days to the delivery time which is just poor service. And now it has overshot Ohio again and gone east to Pennsylvania. Oh by the way, I’m still waiting for this one to arrive. Maybe after a week or two the postal service will get tired of playing hopscotch with my mail.

2. On another order I had placed online. It was being shipped from Kansas. Something got all screwed up with the tracking id because it was tracking twice using the same tracking#. I had to laugh at the absurdity because the first time it tracked showed the package was delivered 2 months before I even ordered it. As if that wasn’t absurd enough, when the same tracking ID was re-tracked the route it took added two weeks to the delivery time. It was sent from kansas (4 states west of Ohio) to California (on the west coast), then to Texas and finally to Ohio. As it was, I could have driven to Kansas, picked up the package and driven back and had it sooner.

So what the Hell is going on?
Is the USPS just practicing job security for it’s employees and making the customer suffer?
I say it’s time to let the USPS die a natural death. Have those employees absorbed into alternate carrier systems (UPS, FEDEX, DHL, etc) and let’s get back to on-time, economical and efficient delivery. And the USPS postmaster general needs a new job altogether.
Meanwhile I’ll wait for my next package to be tracked to every state of the union before I actually get it.