Since I am feeling lazy, I will reprint a letter I sent to an Internet friend who has suffered some hard knocks in life. I cannot imagine my words represent any sort of magic bullet, but like all words, they do provide others with the opportunity to correct and revise something "so utterly full of shit."
Comparing and contrasting the tragedies that people suffer or continue
to suffer is self-centered and stupid. "Worse" and "better" are not the
point -- tragedy is the point. And as Anne Lindbergh once observed when
asked about her toddler son who was kidnapped, held for ransom and then
found dead, "I think everyone has suffered a tragedy."
A tragic experience is not something anyone can escape. Writhe and weep
as anyone might, still, you can't un-ring the bell or un-think the
thought. And since no one can escape, the question becomes what to do.
My personal preference is this: To the extent anyone might wish to
clarify or deflate a tragedy, the best option is to stop running from
it. This is easy to say and not so easy to do. Nevertheless, it is the
only workable plan I can envision: Turn around.
In practical terms there is the possibility 1. of finding a counselor or
someone skilled in psychological work. Talking things out, however long
it takes, however difficult it may become, is a very good tool; 2. of
taking up a serious meditation practice, a realm in which serious
attention is paid to serious matters ... over and over and over again.
These two suggestions are not mutually exclusive and there is no reason
not to consider doing both. Tragedy is an equal-opportunity employer so
there is no age restriction or other credential required in this work.
In books and lectures, Buddhism always sounds wonderful ... so logical,
so compassionate, so full of wisdom. But Gautama was not in business to
do business with Amazon Books or with the trinket-sellers in some bazaar
or with the well-dressed priests of whatever temple. He was in business
for blood-and-guts tragedies and other issues that reached down into
men and women and tore their hearts out. He suggested ways for a serious
peace in a world wracked by literal and metaphorical war. He was
sympathetic, but he DID NOT PROMISE ... that would have been arrogant
and self-centered. He made observations and he made suggestions and....
In times long after Gautama's death, the observation would be made, "The
greater the tragedy, the greater the enlightenment." This may sound
like a promise or a trick statement, but really it is just an
observation of fact ... sort of like saying, "the car is blue" or "the
man is tall." Whether anyone chooses to make the effort is simply a
Be firm but gentle.
Take good care.