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November 15, 2017

A Life without Suffering is not the Life I Want.

“Why do we fall, Bruce? We fall, so that we can learn to pick ourselves back up.” ~ The Dark Knight

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No matter who we are or where we come from, we will suffer at some point throughout the course of our lives.

Suffering is a universal human certainty. All of us will face our dark night of the soul—all of us will fall, at one point or another.

The question is not about whether or not we will experience suffering; rather, it is about how we will respond when we are faced with our deepest sorrows.

Not long ago, I fell…pretty damn hard.

The coping mechanisms I had been using to maintain my sense of self while enduring my condition no longer served their purpose. It was like I had been running on fumes for months and months, and finally, I’d come to a point where I needed to make some changes before I ran myself into the ground. I had been justifying my choices in life, rather than endlessly inquiring into them. In essence, I was not being a good friend to myself.

So, how will we react when we stare into the abyss? How will we respond when the existential torment of human life comes to rear its ugly head?

This question has called to me over the past couple of years, as I have been dealing with a severe chronic illness that has rendered me disabled and put me in an ongoing state of discomfort. If we are incapable of responding rightly to the challenges of life, then how can we possibly experience the fullness of life? How can we experience the joy and beauty of being human, without understanding the profound suffering that comes along with it?

In my experience, the more capable I have become at facing my own suffering—at looking at the darker parts of my own nature, of contending with difficulties in life—then the fruits of my labors seem all the more sweet and worth the trouble. The more skilled I become in accepting and overcoming my own sorrow, then the feelings of gratitude and appreciation come to flow much more readily within me. With a deeper knowledge of suffering comes a greater capacity for happiness.

This reminds me of something Bruce Wayne’s father told him in the film “Batman Begins”: “Why do we fall, Bruce? We fall, so that we can learn to pick ourselves back up.”

To move through life without having to struggle with all of one’s soul to overcome hardship is truly an unfortunate life to live. We learn through struggle. We find ourselves through the chaos. We learn what it means to be alive through mastering difficult situations—and this is something I am constantly reminding myself of.

Through my dealings with chronic illness, there have been many moments of deep joy and exultation that have come from fostering a spiritual understanding of my condition, as well as many waves of extreme sadness and heartache that have arisen from the lifestyle I’ve adapted to in order to contend with my symptoms.

We fall, so that we can pick ourselves back up.

The months following my little excursion into my heart of darkness have been a complete and total rejuvenation of my life and my approach to recovering from chronic illness. I have become a student once again, both of the mind and of the heart, and I have moved from a place of condemnation and judgment to one of curiosity and openness.

This couldn’t have happened if I hadn’t hit bottom—and in that, I have become grateful of the suffering I’ve experienced throughout the course of this f*cking illness.

Suffering is necessary in growing as a human being. Let’s not run away from it.

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Relephant:

Is All of Life Suffering? 

The Four Noble Truths. Isn’t suffering important for growth? 

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Author: Samuel Kronen
Image: Flickr/Stefans02
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Waydawgy Lewis

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