Sunday, October 9, 2011

This Mortal Coil: Life is Hard

Four Noble Truths
1. Life means suffering.
2. The origin of suffering is attachment.
3. The cessation of suffering is attainable.
4. The path to the cessation of suffering.
-Buddha

“Those things that hurt, instruct.” -Benjamin Franklin

"Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering." - Carl Jung

The media blitz lies to us everyday with its promises of happiness in a jar. We currently live in an age of untold abundance yet anxiety, depression and ill health are rife. The more pills we take, gadgets we buy and booze we guzzle; the sicker society becomes. With all our riches, what have we lost? 




This Mortal Coil - Series


This mortal coil is an ongoing series devoted to the big questions: Why do we exist and how does one live a good life in the context of a complex society? Other installments in this series include:

Suicide Forest
Shangri-La and the 2nd Death

In this installment, we take a look at the often asked question: Why does god allow men to suffer?

The Road Less Traveled

In 1978, Simon and Schuster published "The Road Less Traveled" by M. Scott Peck, a psychiatrist.  The book was initially turned down Random House as being too Christ centered. Simon and Schuster too had little faith in it, publishing only 5,000 copies in its initial run.  It was only after M. Scott Peck began promoting it with a lecture tour that the book really took off.  Six years after publication, in 1984 the book finally hit the best-seller lists and eventually went on to become a world wide hit, selling over ten million copies.  In it, M. Scott Peck described what it takes to live a fulfilled life.

Disclaimer: It should be noted that M. Scott Peck failed to live up to many of the ideals described in his book. He was a womanizer, divorced his first wife and was estranged from two of his children.

 Note: Despite the above disclaimer, M. Scott Peck's work resonates with me. With humans, the standard is not perfection but the ability to learn from mistakes. Dr. Peck seems to have drawn a slew of valuable lessons from his work with his patients and from his own life.

Pain

no desire to touch the fire
there's just a,just a sad obsession
feel the pain,it leaves no stain,leaves no stain
feel the pain,the name of the game
feel the pain,it leaves no stain ....stain
feel the pain,the name of the game
feel the pain
-Brian James, The Damned




Problem solving causes pain but ultimately leads to a happier life.  Problem solving tends to dredge up a lot of uncomfortable emotions especially in a group setting that we often go to great lengths to avoid: Guilt, regret anger.... In fact, due to all the grief it causes, it is often a wonder how much effort humankind devotes to problem solving. The fact is that problem solving and the life skills it imparts leads to more fulfilling lifes. Below is an excerpt from Quality of Life Therapy by Michael b. Frisch that explains this phenomenon:


Delayed Gratification



 The key component to problem solving is the ability to exercise self control and delay gratification. The below snippet from the book, the Psychology of Personality, highlights some of the dire consequences that result from lack of the skills:

The Psychology of Personality: Viewpoints, Research, and Applications By Bernardo J. Carducci

It also contrasts the lack of this ability with the benefits that it brings:
 

The below video vividly demonstrates this concept and emphasizes the importance of families in learning self control:




Parents

Without a loving bond created at an early age, children do not develop a conscience (the ability to empathize with others) and self control. The importance of loving parents cannot be overstated. Sometimes concepts such as this are best demonstrated by their absence. The below video shows the chilling impact on a young girl who was raised by a single father who abused her:



Child of Rage - The Documentary (Part 2)
Child of Rage - The Documentary (Part 3)












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