Suffering takes on a wide variety of forms, each instance relative to the environment and culture in which it takes place. The adult world is ripe with endless suffering. Sometimes suffering is physical, sometimes emotional. Each harmful in its own way. To live is to suffer. To survive is to find meaning in the suffering.
I had a really rough day last week. My 15mo old son fell asleep on my lap. He loves it there. I enjoy holding my son while he sleeps. It is very peaceful for both of us. However, the painfully humid environment of my Southern California, third-floor apartment combined with the warm corpus of my sleeping child caused me to perspire. I quickly found myself in a situation of intense suffering when my scrotum used the heightened atmospheric moisture created by the humidity and adhered itself to my inner thigh. Any man will tell you that sticky scrotum is not a sought after scrotal state. I was thus in a position of choice. Do I shift my body to ease my extreme discomfort and risk waking my son? Or do I persevere through the temporary hardship and allow him to continue sleeping peacefully. Fatherhood is filled with these kind of life-or-death decisions.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. I endure routine suffering. Just the other day I found myself in yet another prickly situation. While playing with my son on the floor, I inadvertently cut my thumb on a foreign object buried deep within our carpet. The unknown and mysterious object punctured my skin. There was blood everywhere. My thumb bled for a period of at least 25 seconds. The cut was deep enough that at least 0.0005 milliliters of blood spilled down my hand. It was easily enough to perform a blood transfusion on a tadpole larvae or chafer beetle pupae. Luckily I have superhuman thrombogenesis, extra strength hemoglobin, and an unnaturally high tolerance for pain.
My endless personal turmoil is not limited to physical pain. Emotional suffering plays a large role in my daily agony. I’ve been married for almost six years which represents roughly 20% of my life. One can deduce from that timeline, that of the approximately 10,500 days I’ve spent on this Earth, at least 2,100 of them have been spent in some state of emotional confusion which has contributed to my continued existence as an emotionless black hole of feelings. There is no individual less emotionally available than myself. And while marriage is not to blame for this, it certainly creates a hurricane of emotions that simply are not readily accessible within the frivolous exoskeleton known as my emotional welfare.
The triumph of the human spirit is evident in my day-to-day lifestyle. I’ve overcome severe instances of suffering that would have left a lesser man crippled. I’ve proven to myself that I can endure unwelcome troughs and crests of emotion, humidity induced sticky sac, and even torturous stab wounds that damn near resulted in stigmata.
Suffering manifests in a variety of guises. In Western Africa, suffering is dehydration and malnourishment due to drought and lack of resources. This type of suffering often results in widespread famine and eventual death. Suffering in Eastern Europe is excruciating physical labor due to a poor infrastructure created from decades of imperialism and economic oppression. This kind of suffering leads to lower life expectancy and scarcity of resources. Suffering in middle eastern nations is the constant threat of religious and ethnic warfare. This kind of suffering results in war-torn families and potential physical disfigurement. Suffering for me is when I lose my phone charger and my battery life in less than 20%. This kind of suffering leads to my phone dying. Life is hard.