The Canadian Imagination

What it means to be Canadian; examining and reworking Canada as a nation.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Suffering

In and of itself, suffering is not evil.

Nor, in and of itself, is suffering good. As well say that any state of existence is inherently good or evil, based solely upon our isolated perception and thus caught in the immediacies of the short-term "now". The state of suffering is integral to the state of being alive.

Fear and injury and famine and loss are terrible things; yet somehow, in defiance of Maslow's hierarchy, in their extremes they frequently seem to tease out something in the human psyche that otherwise lies dormant. To exist in seeming adequacy (or at least in the kind of non-adequacy that cannot be readily tuned out) is to be generally invisible. A sudden change of fortune -- in either direction! -- brings us at least temporarily to the awareness of others.

For now, at least, we still seem to be human enough not to be able to turn a blind eye to another's suffering, when it is brought about by something sudden and overwhelming.

And maybe that is the point?

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