Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


No Problem At All:

Suffering Is Optional

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

December 15, 2010



"Happiness is a function of accepting what is."  ... 
"Life is suffering." ... Prince Gautama Siddhārtha aka Buddha

"Life is Life. Suffering is suffering. In Life, suffering is optional." ... Laurence Platt




I catch a cold extremely rarely these days - if ever. For that matter I don't get sick any more. In the past before I experienced Werner's work I got sick a lot. I often caught a cold. I was also what you might call "accident prone". Something was always happening with or to my body ie there was always something wrong with my physical well being. I crashed my bike needing stitches. I fell from a tree I was climbing requiring I lay immobile on my back for six weeks. I broke my nose. I ran a screwdriver through my wrist. I split my forehead with my surfboard - the left side and then the right side on separate occasions ... you know, that sort of thing. It was always something. Very dramatic.

I started inquiring into the condition in which I lived with regard to my own health and physical well being as if I was the source of it  even if I didn't really get that totally - at least not yet. What I got while looking at it this way was very revealing. My father Asher Manfred was a general practitioner, a family doctor. He always provided the very best in bedside patient care. He loved taking care of people when they were sick. It was his passion. What I saw was making myself sick  and getting injured were great ways to get his love and attention. Uncovering this was a breakthrough for me. From then on if I wanted his love and attention I simply asked him for them (much  easier, yes?). Not surprisingly, he gave them to me. In this way I completely transformed my health and physical well being. The spate of sniffles and physical injuries came to an abrupt and complete stop. Today I don't even own a handkerchief.

Having said that, there's a fleeting moment before I caught a cold in which I suddenly knew  I'm about to catch a cold. In this moment a choice  is present: I can choose to catch a cold or I can choose not to. If I choose to catch a cold, or if I simply avoid  choosing not to, or if I delay choosing  until the moment of choice has passed, then I catch a cold. But in this moment of choice when I know I'm about to catch a cold, if I choose not to catch a cold then I don't catch a cold. It's that simple.

Although sickness and issues with physical well being are but a fraction of the domain of experience called suffering, there's a conversation to be had about the much broader distinction "suffering" which runs along similar lines (and along equally simple  lines) as the above conversation about catching a cold.

From the Cambridge International Dictionary:

<quote>
Definition
suffering


noun
from the verb suffer (EXPERIENCE)
to experience or show the effects of something bad
<unquote>

There are many  conversations to be had about suffering in fact. They run the gamut from

 1)  enduring suffering, to
 2)  blaming suffering on something or someone - and suffering anyway, to
 3)  understanding  suffering - and suffering anyway, to
 4)  accepting suffering - and suffering anyway, to
 5)  being responsible  for experiencing suffering thereby transforming suffering.

It's the fifth option, being responsible for experiencing suffering thereby transforming suffering which interests me.

<aside>

If there's something you can bet the bank on  it's this: you can't make  people be responsible for their suffering. It doesn't work that way and it doesn't do any good if you try to. However if you take  responsibility for your own suffering, choosing to do so freely and after consideration, you'll transform your experience of suffering.

That, by the way, is something else you can bet the bank on.

<un-aside>

The full  conversation about being responsible for experiencing suffering thereby transforming suffering is one to be had on another occasion. What I intend to have now is an important, pragmatic, powerful component of the full conversation about being responsible for experiencing suffering, similar to the one above about not catching a cold by choosing, in the moment of choice before you catch a cold, to not catch a cold.

There's the same moment of choice which occurs for me when I know  a problem is about to start, when I know suffering is about to start. It's a kind of "Uh oh!"  moment when I know something bad  is about to happen, a fleeting moment before I start suffering in which I suddenly know I'm about to start suffering. In this moment a choice is present: I can choose to suffer or I can choose not to. If I choose to suffer, or if I simply avoid choosing not to, or if I delay choosing until the moment of choice has passed, then I suffer. But in this moment of choice when I know I'm about to suffer, if I choose not to suffer then I don't suffer.

It's really important to get if I choose not to suffer, whatever happens happens anyway. Choosing not to suffer doesn't change the circumstances. What it does is transform something. What it transforms is my experience of whatever happens. Whatever happens is only what's so. What's so is only suffering if I don't choose not to suffer.

It's been said "Life is suffering". With due respect to the saint who's reputed to have said it, Life isn't suffering. Life is Life. Suffering is suffering. In Life, suffering is optional. In Life, suffering is only required if I choose to experience what's so as suffering, or if I simply avoid choosing not to, or if I delay choosing until the moment of choice has passed. It's that simple. Just like catching a cold. Or not.
Werner Erhard says "Happiness is a function of accepting what is.". True Buddhists, I suspect, love Werner.



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