How original of a title right? Most philosophers label the human condition of suffering as "the problem of pain," "problem of suffering," or "the problem of evil," so I thought I would include each one. This weekend a friend of mine told me his tale, a very painful tale (emotionally) of suffering and addiction he has had to deal with for years upon years. Up until recently, the suffering was brutal; he has just recently gotten over the addiction part and he has entered recovery. Though the war in his mind and body is over, the grief and pain lingers with him. The question of why still rings the bell of his mind. Why do bad things happen to young people? He understands bad things happen, but why do bad things happen to innocent children? After hearing his journey, I honestly couldn't give an answer because I so absorbed the man's misery and anguish; how could I reply? I have never experienced the pain he went through. Some of you might be wondering what the man went through, but it's not my story to tell. It's his and I will leave it at that.
I mentioned that I couldn't give an adequate answer because I was so absorbed and burdened for the man. I knew what to say but I couldn't. I wonder if any of you have experienced that problem. I assume it was because I could almost see the misery all over him as he was telling me about his past problems and pain. I guess if he had been fully recovered at the time of the event, I wouldn't have been so empathetic and we could have had a discussion about suffering and God. This was a very existential moment for me. The human condition of such strong emotional suffering was right before my eyes; I had no idea what to say and then I realized that listening and showing concern through that is sometimes all the grieved want (notice I said sometimes).
What Kierkegaard wrote, "My life is one great suffering, unknown and incomprehensible to all others," sums up what my friend told me of his life thus far. Grief is not a strong enough word for such emotional suffering. True human depression is a terrible thing. My friend told me, I'll never forget it, that he has wished time and again that he was an animal so he wouldn't have to worry and deal with the things human beings deal with. Can you imagine that? His suffering is so real, so monstrous, that he wishes he was a cat, dog, bird, anything but human so he doesn't have to experience his suffering. I cannot imagine.
He didn't tell me this, but his situation reminds me of Heidegger's idea of the human condition. He said (I'm using my own words) that man is thrown into a world, without any prior knowledge or option, that was there before their existence and will be there after their existence. Why his account reminded me of Heidegger is because my friend asked why his problem happened at such a young age. Why? He didn't choose for that to happen to him. It was as if he had no option. Like an innocent citizen who witnesses a murder and then suffers the consequence of witnessing the murder, my friend didn't plan his predicament either. He had no option. It's as if he was thrown into the situation.
Why does this happen? Why do we seem to find ourselves in a world or situation we didn't plan? Well, in short, "stuff happens." That's what some folks say, "You know, stuff happens," but I find that inadequate and evasive. I think we all know deep down that chance isn't a good enough answer. Although, chance does take the blame off of "fate" or "God," so perhaps that's why some say in a chaotic, random, universe unplanned bad things happen to people. I don't think we have to resort to that conclusion.
Pain is real. Suffering is widespread. There is evil in the world.
In the next series of posts I want to examine the problem of evil a little further. Think of this as an online research between me and you. Morality has been the focus of my research (you can tell by looking around this blog), so the problem of evil seems like a good transition. I have posts on evil, but they aren't my words or research; I merely shared what I found, so I would like to do my own writing. In doing so, maybe we'll find the answers to our questions.