I was thinking about how my mind works in response to two related things.
I was reading some of Tim Boucher’s writings on his site. I visit his site every so often partly because he comes up in many web searches as he happens to share many of my same interests: Jung, Philip K. Dick, Ken Wilber, Joseph Campbell, Gnosticism, conspiracy theory, mythology, psychology, etc. I agree with much of Boucher’s ideas. In his thinking, he is analytical, imaginative, and curious. Also, he normally is fairly critical of anything New Agey and I can be similarly critical.
But then I came across his post What The Hell Happened To Me? which is different than his typical writing. This was shortly after a period (August 2005 to October 1007) when he had questioned deeply and had a difficult time, and I guess he had come to a new insight. My response to this post was a combination of surprise and irritation. In that post, he claims to have overcome suffering which is fine and dandy. But the damn post sounds like an advertisement for a New Age self-help program. I sensed no deep insight, no authenticity. I was disappointed that Boucher had turned to the light side. I’m not unhappy for his happiness. I just would hate for someone with such a great intellect to lose his edge.
My point isn’t to complain about Boucher, but to describe my reaction. And then compare it to my reaction to something else.
A couple of weeks ago, a co-worker told me about a girl at a local highschool who killed herself. My immediate response wasn’t sadness. I was… what’s the proper word… not quite glad but I did feel something akin to a positive emotion. Let me explain.
I’ve suffered depression for decades now. I’ve felt suicidal many times over the years and even attempted once. I don’t take it lightly, and I doubt the girl did either. Committing suicide is immensely difficult. The average successful suicide usually comes after many many attempts. You have to really want to die which means you have to be really suffering. It’s true that suffering doesn’t always last. However, this girl was young… and if she was already suffering this much at this young of an age, then there was a very good chance that life wasn’t going to get easier.
I was “glad” that she escaped a life of potentially great suffering. Anyone who has experienced long-term severe depression realizes how life can become a personal hell. Some say suicide is selfish and I say bullshit. It’s the ultimate act of self-negation. Nobody wants to die. A suicidal person simply doesn’t want to suffer and everyone has their breaking point. Yes, I’m sorry that life was so sad for her and I’m sorry about how her family must feel, but I’m not sorry that her suffering in this world is now at an end. And if there is an afterlife, I hope it’s much better.
Boucher claims that suffering isn’t a real emotion, that we weren’t sent here to suffer. Sure, sure. I’m glad that Boucher’s suffering went away, but it doesn’t always go away for everyone, probably not even for most people… and he shouldn’t feel so sure that suffering will never come back for him. The position that suffering is unnecessary can be one of the most cruel beliefs because then people just blame themselves. The fact is that humans suffer. Sometimes suffering becomes less and sometimes it becomes worse… just like any other experience in life. Boucher has suffered in the past and so he thinks he understands, but he is in no position to judge the suffering of all of mankind. Many gurus and prophets have denied suffering. Such people (and their claims) come and go, and yet suffering continues.