Zen at Church: The Plan of Happiness… or Suffering?By: shenpa warrior
I read recently that the average adult in the world earns $8,000 a year. The author suggested that if you’re lucky enough to have a fridge and you’re not worried about dysentery, you’re doing quite well. (Side note: A friend of mine recently complained that her family on Oregon Trail all got dysentery and her daughter was snatched by an eagle. Apparently Oregon Trail is harder than it used to be.)
Regardless, we may not all have needed help from the “food stamp President,” but most of us still suffer in some way or another. According to research on infant development, about 10% of young children have a fundamentally secure relationship with their caregivers. The rest of us – the 90% (NOT the 99) – are insecure in one way or another, to varying degrees. This insecurity shows up as emptiness, depression, anxiety, feelings of unworthiness, or negative self-talk. Many have an inability to trust that good things will happen.
We’re all in the same soup. Many of us wonder how much we can take. Even amidst times of joy – we are often confronted with the unbearable. It may seem small, but one of the things I find to be nearly unbearable is the fact that, as a parent, despite my efforts, I will pass some of my own flaws onto my children. That my own worries may become their worries.
None of my concerns are unique – some have it better, some much, much worse. One thing about white privilege is you can always look at someone else and think, “At least I don’t have it THAT bad.”
Yet, no matter the background, many are confronted with the unbearable. Hidden shame, depression, disease, addiction, betrayal, failure. Chronic pain. Disappointment in parenting. Not to mention the lack of basic needs for so many…
A psychologist and mentor of mine has spent decades studying infant development, and is currently exploring how it impacts spirituality (much of his work has inspired this series). He has worked with people with drug addictions, with street-dependent youth, with the “1%” who live in giant houses on grassy hills, and with college students.
With all of these populations, some things remain the same.
Life can be so hard, almost unbearable, for so many. Life might be kicking you in the teeth. It probably already has.
- If this is the plan of happiness, why is it filled with so much suffering?
- What then, does happiness mean, if not “happy” or “usually happy”?
- Are happiness and suffering not mutually exclusive?