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Happiness and Suffering

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There is a movie called The Diving Bell and the Butterfly in which a man suffers a devastating stroke. He is not an old man, and the stroke is particularly disabling, as his whole body was affected. I was thinking how this man was able to find any happiness or purpose in his life. He was married with two children, and I thought of how distressing it was to live a life of such disability when one had been so active before. Reading more about this story on the Internet, I found something about him while he was disabled: he said that he would have been happy to just have control over one tiny part of his body after the stroke.

I think of how just one event in our lives, for worse or better, is quite daunting. One minute we could have everything and feel invincible, and the next lose absolutely everything that’s important to us. Last spring there was a string of tornadoes in our area and I couldn’t sleep the night the tornadoes were supposed to be passing through because I was afraid. The tornado warnings went off several times and we expected the worst. These were especially vicious tornadoes. In a neighboring town, brick houses with sturdy foundations were hurled like toys in the wind while their owners huddled fearfully in basements or under porches. The tornadoes did not touch us, but I felt sorry for those who did get hit. I didn’t like the suffering it caused people. In fact, more and more, I detest suffering. I hate it when I suffer, but I hate it just as much when anyone suffers, especially children. When I was younger I was more selfish and when I heard things on the news I mostly brushed it off if it didn’t directly affect me. But now I am seeing more and more how we are all connected.

What I think of as happiness ten years ago doesn’t even match what I think is important for happiness now. I don’t want just my happiness, but others to be happy as well. It used to be that I equated happiness with material comforts, but I feel that way less and less as time goes on. Although the security of having some type of income, health insurance, etc. is essential to one’s peace of mind, it doesn’t equal happiness. I struggle so much with the concept that God wants us to be happy, yet there is so much needless suffering. I know that if there is a God, He wouldn’t want to control our lives as if we were robots, but still, can’t He stop some of the horrific events that happen? Why can’t he intervene in those cases, and how can He watch it happen?

Unless there is a bigger picture—and why can’t we have a glimpse of it? If we could just know there is a reason why certain events happen, it could be much easier to bear.

I always think if one could know the meaning and purpose of their life that could be the source of their happiness. To some extent that is true, but I also think peace is also key to happiness. I once experienced a peaceful state that was almost otherworldly. I was writing in a journal, and suddenly I felt so peaceful, light, floating, almost. It only lasted a couple of minutes, but it was a feeling I had never felt before or since. It was a feeling of being connected to everything there is, a feeling of being truly alive. For a few moments I felt profound peace; a peace that transcended all human understanding; a feeling that everything was going to be okay. It has been one of my life’s goals to feel that way again because in those few moments, I experienced pure happiness and understanding.

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