[Apologies to humble worm, who thought I was going to tell a story :)
I'm not good at telling stories...]
"I have seen this world as a great howl of pain, I have seen this world as a great ocean of blood..."
Lately I've been thinking a lot about suffering--more than just dead birds and bugs. I should be feeling good--several weeks ago, Teresa and I had the dreaded Conversation about me moving out, and strangely she took it very well. Still, her disease progresses and is scary to watch, and she is diagnosed with other, scarier diseases--yet, childishly, I don't know if it is for her or for me that I mourn when I see an emerald-green dead bird and scoop it off the sidewalk into my coffee cup, put it gently into a planter, on moist soil in the shade...
There's a line of "reasoning" that goes: A decent God would not allow innocent people to suffer. Innocent people suffer. Therefore, there is no God. This syllogism makes so many faulty assumptions, it's hard to know where to begin--so I won't, because it isn't my job here to teach logic to the logically challenged. There's another line of "reasoning" that goes: There is a God. People suffer. Therefore, God wants people to suffer because (it's all part of His plan; they deserve to suffer; they're destined to suffer; suffering is good for you; all of the above). This one makes even less sense than the first one, and both depend for their persuasive force (if any) upon the assumption that matter and spirit are starkly separate, even opposite, categories.
I remember how shocked I was to discover that mind and body, spirit and matter might not be "opposites." This singular cognition occurred 22 years ago due to two college classes, one concerning quantum mechanics and modern philosophy (yes, taught by a real, live physicist, in case members of the Truth Society are reading), and the other in anthropology of religion--we were studying the aboriginal Dream Time. It has taken me ever since to process the mere possibility that I might be a spiritual being having a human experience, that seemingly inert matter might have a conscious substrate, that the abstract truth might, after all, have something to do with what someone had or did not have for dinner.
What has been hardest for me to abandon from that patriarchal, either/or, flesh-damning charnel house of Truth (whether masquerading as Theology, Scientism, or New-ageyness)? Probably the reassurance it whispers: follow the rules, sacrifice your desires, and it will all be all right. The pain you feel is God's intention--you're being purified. Or--it's only neurons firing, grief, love, loss, suffering--merely mental, nothing more. Or--it's all an illusion, brought on by negative vibes.
Reunite spirit and matter and you come face to face with: shit happens.
You might deserve it (or you might not). It might make sense (but it probably won't). You might have been able to avoid it through proper planning and foresight (but don't bet on it). I guess the Grail knight answer lies somewhere between the triad of reductive follies mentioned above, and can be summed up in the (welcome) cliché Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional. For me this saying has been a koan--the harder I've tried to wrap my mind around it, the more my mind has warped to fit. Sometimes... I almost believe.