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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Source of Suffering

The Buddha said that all of life is suffering and that all suffering is caused by desire. If that's the case, then the only two ways to eradicate suffering would be to either strive to fulfill one's desires or to eliminate desire altogether.

I can't help but think the ol' boy was on to something here. Obviously, the Buddhist route to eliminating desire by eliminating the ego is absurd. But isn't it true, at least much of the time, that the pain we feel is the result of not having what we want? In the words of that other great philosophical sage, Mick Jagger, "You can't always get what you want" and "I can't get no satisfaction."

St. Augustine (a much more reliable source) stumbled onto a similar truism when he prayed, "Our hearts are restless, O Lord, till they rest in you."

We want. We desire. We crave. We lack. We need. We hunger and thirst. We lust. We envy. You get the point. And much of what we desire can be good wholesome stuff. We suffer because we want a more intimate emotional bond with our spouses. We suffer because we miss our children. We suffer because we want to be free of cancer or worry or debt.

Finding contentment in God is easier said than done. Each day you need to kneel before the Creator and acknowledge your emptiness before Him. Learn and meditate upon His promises. These will fill you up. Gather to receive the Eucharist often. The Bread from heaven will sate your hunger. And you will confess, with David, the Lord is your shepherd and you shall lack nothing.

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Kelly Klages said...

Your point about craving and desire causing us so many problems reminded me straightaway of James 4:1-6, where he makes pretty much the same point.

Of course, as you said, many of the things we desire are good and wholesome. Even good, wholesome desires can rob us of contentment in Christ alone. Yet there's another aspect to this-- sin. We are not going to be "content" to the point of not suffering or desiring in this world, because we know that there is something better to be had that we have lost. As Father Brown says when confronted with an Eastern mystic: "The Christian is more modest. He wants something." As we struggle in this world of sin, we desire for all things to be fully restored and made right again. We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come, the end of broken relationships caused by sin, and all that good stuff.

Julie Stiegemeyer said...

Sometimes for me, it comes down to unfulfilled expectations. I may not even be consciously aware of these expectations, but when something different happens in my life, I'm thrown for a loop. For example, I grew up with two brothers, so I assumed (without even giving it much conscious thought) that I'd have at least two or three kids. Getting used to a new way of thinking sometimes causes trouble.

Darrell said...

I enjoyed this post quite a bit ... and I'm not quite sure why, but it drew to mind two of my favorite passages:

From the gospels: "I believe, Lord. Help thou my unbelief." This is a daily prayer for me. I think it ties into the ego thing somehow but I can't exactly say how. Probably something to do with my certainty that if I really believed on the level that I should, my repetitive sins wouldn't be so repetitive.

Then there's this from Jack Lewis, which I'm paraphrasing: In the end, there are really only two kinds of people; those who say to God 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says 'Thy will be done.'

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