I once met a Zen-trained painter in Japan, in his 90s, who told me that suffering is a privilege, it moves us toward thinking about essential things and shakes us out of shortsighted complacency; when he was a boy, he said, it was believed you should pay for suffering, it proves such a hidden blessing.

Yet none of that begins to apply to a child gassed to death (or born with AIDS or hit by a “limited strike”). Philosophy cannot cure a toothache, and the person who starts going on about its long-term benefits may induce a headache, too.

Pico Iyer in the New York Times on The Value of Suffering. Hat tip: Evelyn Rusli.

7 thoughts on “The Value of Suffering

  1. Kind of like light vs dark, hot vs cold. we wouldn’t know how to enjoy one without the other. Very cool (or is it hot) experience, thank you for sharing… Have a good life.

  2. There is value in everything. Suffer enough to use it to take for progress, not enough to prevent progress… don’t be fooled into thinking suffering is all good.

  3. People in the west will not be able to appreciate such thoughts because the western civilization is based on the premise that all human suffering can be erased due to technology and science.

    But we all know that it is not true. People who admit it (generally from the East) understand the value of suffering.

  4. Absolutely, it does help us view the world differently. We can only experience sweetness by also experiencing bitterness. But there are limits.
    I guess the main point is to count your blessings as it could always be a lot worse.
    I have work piled so high on my desk, but I have money in my pocket, friends on my phone and a roof over my head.
    If you are reading this post, you are automatically better off than at least 90% of the world. I bet you also have access to drinking water.
    However, its not always easy to count your blessings when you think things could be better. Things could always be better, but that is a never ending pursuit for perfection.

  5. The more a man can forget, the greater the number of metamorphoses which his life can undergo; the more he can remember, the more divine his life becomes.
    Soren Kierkegaard

  6. “The mystery then, of which we speak, is the light that shines in the darkness, Christ Our Lord, Who reveals Himself most wondrously to those who suffer so that suffering and death can do nothing more than bring us to the mercy of the Father.

    But the point which we must clarify is that Christ reveals Himself to those who suffer in Christ, to those who humbly accept their pain as a personal sharing in His Passion and who are thus obedient to Christ’s command that we take up our cross and follow Him. Suffering by itself is simply the reminder that death will claim these mortal bodies of ours, but suffering in Christ is the promise that we will be raised with Christ, when our mortality will be remade in his immortality and all that in our lives which is broken because it is perishable and finite will be made imperishable and incorrupt.”

    Edward James Slattery
    Roman Catholic Bishop
    Diocese of Tulsa

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