Thursday, May 10, 2018

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. 2-on-1 #18

Picture yourself in a small, artsy collection of shops. You enter a shop that looks interesting - back in the day we called them head shops - and are immediately almost overwhelmed by the scent of incense burning -  Lavender, Sandalwood, Jasmine, Patchouli, Rose or maybe Vanilla. Vanilla so sickly sweet it makes you want to swear off vanilla milkshakes for the rest of your life. Playing softly in the background is some music you cannot quite peg  but because there is a sitar you guess it may be Indian. You look up to see several large posters - the old hippy version of Hallmark Cards that
boldly proclaim:
    Image result for Pain is inevitable; Suffering is optional posters

And then you ponder -are either of those statements really true? I mean what the heck - Buddha would never lie to us would he?

When I look back on all the crap I learned in high school, its a wonder I can think at all. Paul Simon would not sing  it if not true, would he? Wait - he didn't.

It is a given that in a lifetime pain is inevitable - be it physical or emotional. Somewhere down the road of life we all encounter the pain of heartbreak  or the more easily understood pain of falling off a bike, a jungle jim or having a well thrown dodge ball bounce off your head. In my case, a fastball off a knuckle, massively jammed finger and riding my bike headlong into a car stand out among the physical pain memories. I blame Bruce Carpenter for the baseball pain to this day :) .The others are my fault.

The bike incident happened when I was about 8 - I was hustling home - flat out flying - down the road and completely missed the car that turned in front of me. Now remember - thus was circa 1957 or so and cars were not the  lightweight little things they are today - this was a full size Desoto.  Just the fins likely outweighed today's vehicles.

I tried to take a bite  out of the grill. Mr. Desoto won and I was promptly hustled off to  the ER for surgery to stitch up the piece of my mouth that was hanging down. I remember the mask with ether flowing through it covering my nose and awoke in the back seat of my grandmothers Oldsmobile at the local drive in theater. It happened to be close to the hospital and so there we sat, watching Hell and High Water. My mouth hurt like hell and I could swear  the scent of ether was omnipresent. My mouth hurt like hell for a week or so. So....that suffering was not optional - simply the result of my carelessness.

My guitar playing career was effectively ended during a Sunday football game my friends and I engaged in. While absolutely destroying my pal Dave Hitchcock, I jammed, dislocated and did everything  but break the ring finger on my left hand. Being tough, I continued to play the rest of the game but my hand was literally on fire. It remained that way for weeks but I was tough. The tough that is defined by stupid. That hand hurt for six months in total, will to this day not straighten out and caused me to lose my college ring and a wedding band or two over the years. So clearly that suffering was not optional although the pain and suffering of listeners to my admittedly lame guitar efforts did evaporate along with the callouses on my fingertips.

Now I think these two examples the suffering related to physical pain was in no way optional.

Emotional pain, however, is an entirely different matter. We have all, at one time or another, experienced a breakup with a loved one.  We probably have experienced both sides of that equation - breaker or breakee. In my case my go to song was this little ditty 
I guess you could say I chose to suffer by playing the song over and over.. Truth is, I still think of the girl whenever I hear the song. We reconnected years later and are great friends.

The other obvious emotional hit I have  absorbed is the loss of Lynn four years ago. Emotional pain of the highest order. But the suffering afterword did not match the intensity of the pain. The last ten years of Lynn's life were not pleasant. You might say I suffered along with her during those years and when she did die it was a relief as her suffering came to an end. So, essentially, did mine. I still get emotional when I hear a couple of songs that remind me of Lynn but that emotion these days is tied up in remembering the good times. Simple stuff like visiting her at BYU, playing catch on some early dates, moving across the country twice and simultaneously bursting into laughter when we crossed the state line back into California on our return trip.
So here we are, discussing a quote attributed to Buddha but admittedly attributed to others as well.  Based on my experience, suffering is essentially optional. We can control the strength and duration of suffering and control  our lives.  It is no wondwe there are over 500 million Buddhists in the world - the doctrines - if you can even call them that - seem based in rational thought rather than rooted in fear.

Be sure to check Ramana's take on his chosen subject here.


  1. We have converged back to being in agreement. You have shared your personal experiences where as I have philosophised.

  2. Well you are after all the sage of Pune....

  3. "Vanilla so sickly sweet it makes you want to swear off vanilla milkshakes for the rest of your life."
    ditto. someone always made vanilla coffee at work and oh good grief Charlie Brown. just shoot me now.
    i am in the company of the Pune Sage and the Nevada City Wiseman Jock.
    both are distinguished self made men (the good kind) and known for their wonderful humor and their street smarts and their literary wisdom and skills not to mention good taste in all genres of music!
    sometimes i can't keep up. but that does not make me shy to try. LOL!
    signed the laughing Buddhette.

  4. Wise-ass ex-jock is probably more appropriate - LOL - and shy is NOT in your vocabulary Tammy LOL

  5. WAEJ? i kinda like it!
    definitely makes me think of a radio station in our past! :)
    some re-runs i would watch for sure.