The Mystery of Suffering
The old lady wasn’t any better in the morning. She’d need to go to surgery. I gave her the straight dope; rationale, risks and benefits, alternatives etc. She received the news with fender bender equanimity. Folded her glasses in her lap. Smiled pleasantly. I trust what you say, doctor. Resigned to her fate. On her nightstand was a religious pamphlet opened up to a page entitled “The Mystery of Suffering”. Pain isn’t a mystery. We know how that works. C fibers and spinothalamic tracts and things of that nature. Straight biology. Teleologically we also know why: so old Kronk, the paleolithic dolt didn’t keep trying to touch that flickering flame or tease the copperhead again. Natural selection. It’s dangerous to feel nothing, to be impervious to physical pain. Suffering is different. It’s more psychological with a dash of ethics. How is this fair, you ask. Why me amongst all us billions? Shake a fist at the sky. Losing what you once had. Knowing you’ll never get what you really want. Knowing in the end everything gets lost. Wanting something so badly despite knowing you’ll have it only briefly. From the quantum perspective, suffering is the antimatter of love. Not its opposite. Opposites are different. Just as every electron is balanced by an oppositely charged proton, every great love is balanced in space by an equal hate. But love and hate are only linguistic opposites. It’s all just love, either sufficiently or insufficiently expressed depending on circumstances. Just as every elementary particle can be reduced further, into something even more elementary, etc etc, ad infinitum until everything is exactly the same One. Therefore every great love that arises casts a shadow of suffering. Even this is too poetic. A positron, on the other hand, is not the opposite of an electron, rather its necessary annihilatory antithesis always lurking while the electrons and protons swirl around. As suffering undergirds the battles of love and hate above. No love arises without it. Not every love requires a concomitant hatred but it does necessitate the existence of the very void to which it must return. The absence of a loving feeling can be described as the human experience of love’s antimatter. The best that can happen is when suffering brushes against love, even if just briefly. Both are instantaneously annihilated, leaving behind a “perfect energy”. For lack of a better term. A worse term would be: “the fundamental principle of the universe”. The second best thing that can happen is the moment just before they touch. In that nanosecond love senses the cosmic presence of its own suffering. Love is injured. Which is the last thing it feels before obliteration.. Let’s get this show on the road, doctor. The old lady was grinning broadly. This fancy grand dame has got things to DO. She was winking at me. I wanted to bring her something. A warm blanket. A cup of hot tea. A Sudoku. A soft cat to pet. I’m counting on you to take care of this pain I got, young man. I told her I wasn’t really a young man anymore and that my main goal was to ease her suffering. Oh don’t you worry about that, boy. I’ll take care of that old thing. She winked again. You just do what you do best .The spot right behind my left eyebrow began to throb. It radiated down into my heart. Why this always happens remains a mystery.