How to deal with suffering
IT’S been a horrible few weeks in the world, and a hard time for sensitive people. The daily news has been so distressing and appalling that if I were not a journalist, I wouldn’t turn on or read the news.
As it is, I can’t read the papers over breakfast, or watch television news over dinner, as what I see often makes my stomach turn and I can’t digest my food.
Last week there were two or three stories that had me feeling ill and powerless, but I soldiered on, feeling dreadful: children hit by cars, abused, murdered, starving; the massacring of animals; revelations of torture. But something snapped one morning after one particular story: I was in the bathroom putting on make-up, then I was suddenly crouched on the floor, crying. My partner tried to comfort me but I said this to him, and I am saying it now.
Sometimes it’s respectful to grieve openly for all beings that suffer untold cruelty in the world. To cry for the starving children in Africa; the wars; the sickening violence; the rape of our environment; our brutality towards animals; the lack of humanity and unfairness of it all. And it’s not only respectful, it’s necessary. It goes to the heart of our humanity. It’s a sign that we can’t accept the way it is. Our souls are screaming out in protest. We grieve also that we’re so powerless to fix things. How did all that publicity on the cruelty of animal exports change a thing?
I rang a dear friend who is a counsellor, because I needed help getting through the day: ‘‘I feel like nothing I do will make a difference,’’ I said into the phone. But rather than bolster me up, he said: ‘‘I feel the same. There are days when after I hear the news I just want to hide behind a closed door.’’
There is much good in the world. But ‘‘survival of the fittest’’ prevails. The head ape, the silverback, will always dominate. The strong will rule, the sensitive will be subjugated, and all the protests in the streets will not stop the order of things. There may be change somewhere on the planet for one moment in time, but history will repeat itself.
When I get like this, I start to give up hope. But then I remind myself that the finer qualities of being human means we keep going and we keep trying even though our hearts are breaking — maybe even because our hearts are breaking. We may grieve, we may scream in horror and despair. But continuing to try to be of help in our own small ways — against all odds — is the only way to find meaning in this strange, unfathomable world.
How do you express your despair? Do you send money? Are you an activist? Or do you feel powerless? How can we change things?
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Full story The Australian