Suffering is an undeniable facet of life, with its magnitude and significance varying from person to person based on their unique experiences and coping mechanisms. How individuals confront suffering also diverges greatly. Take Mrs. Megan Devine, for example, who endures immense agony when witnessing her husband drown before her eyes. Prior to this harrowing experience, she, as a psychologist, used to urge her clients to exhibit strength in the face of their trials, employing motivational words to expedite their return to normalcy. However, her perspective has since evolved.
Megan now recognizes that those in suffering require empathy more than mere motivational encouragement to facilitate their recovery. True empathy entails being present, granting time, and dignifying suffering’s raw truth, accompanying it until healing occurs.
Much like setting a broken bone with a cast instead of merely uttering healing words, empathy serves as the cast around emotional wounds. It involves offering time and companionship until the wounds mend – a concept reminiscent of our ancestral mourning rituals. These rituals aimed to confront the reality of suffering and acknowledge the necessity for companionship and empathy until healing. This stands in stark contrast to modern culture’s approach, where suffering and sadness are often stigmatized as complications or diseases. Society tends to equate human well-being solely with happiness, suggesting that pain and sadness should be swiftly remedied with painkillers or quick fixes.
According to Megan, suffering and loss are integral to the spectrum of love. Without a deep connection or affection for someone or something, the loss wouldn’t resonate as pain does.
In this era marked by pervasive suffering, recognizing it, self-care, and the resilience to carry the weight of a broken heart represent acts of courage. In times when suffering casts a shadow over our lives collectively, standing together with empathy is more constructive than burdening each other with questions about the purpose of existence amid suffering. It involves dwelling in a neutral territory between pure optimism and pessimism, a realm we call hope.
Both pure optimism and pessimism tend to induce inaction. Why act when everything is perfect, or conversely, when everything appears bleak, can actions truly make a difference? The neutral ground between these extremes, hope, emerges when we embrace both truth and uncertainty, offering fertile ground for meaningful action.
Nietzsche posited two forms of consciousness: fundamental truths and practical ideas. However, hope takes root precisely in the space between these two aspects of human awareness. While fundamental truths often carry bitterness, darkness, suffering, disabilities, oppression, and inequality, we cannot thrive on these alone. In addition to these harsh realities, we require practical ideas and dreams that acknowledge life’s fundamental truths. Hope, accompanied by action, emerges from this interplay.
It is my hope that, amidst a backdrop of widespread suffering, we do not misinterpret empathy, self-care, and resilience, leading to mutual harm. To conclude, let us reiterate that shouldering the burdens of our era, acknowledging them, practicing self-care, and persevering with hearts fragmented into a thousand pieces, embody a profound form of courage.