No, this article isn’t about contemplating death and suffering. It’s about holding it in your arms and kissing it on its forehead. Ironically, I am writing about it on my 21st birthday.
We have progressed as a civilization (if I may call it so) towards absolute brilliance of the surroundings. There has never been a better time to be alive to experience the robust systems and infrastructure. Mechanics of how the world used to work are being regularly challenged and getting successfully overthrown. Accessibility to those mechanics is quite literally on the tip of your fingers, from requesting transportation within seconds of your precious time to pleasantly communicating with other beings a thousand miles of sufferings away. How can we forget? Looking like a dog is also a snap away. Information is in extreme abundance. Yet, sadly, knowledge isn’t. Sadly, the ability of the mind to feel all isn’t.
I have been a joyful person in all of my 21 years of life; extremely grateful for everything in it and everything not in it. I have been told to enjoy life to the fullest and seize every tiny moment, to not bother about the small things that affect you, but to overcome them. To be a caring, compassionate person and lead a fun, happy life, but, somehow I have realized satisfying both the conditions simultaneously isn’t possible. Somewhere down the road, I see myself pleasantly, happily suffering, as I now am. I am writing to propose a better design for tomorrow, through feeling the suffering of others; not of the self, of others.
“Suffering unites all life.” — The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism
I should be clear that in my journey, I haven’t usually sought out the sufferer or tried to provide any compassion to them. This story is about trying to experience different forms of pain, different reasons of sadness and sympathizing with the griefs of millions of souls around the world. I should also be clear that never have I truly felt what others have and never shall I.
Sadness has always been looked upon as an unworthy feeling. Tremendous efforts are poured to get rid of it, to focus on different activities that makes one happy instead, to forget and forgive is promoted. Systems around us have been built to support our dopamine levels. From little, yet frequently releasing happiness secretions through social-media approval to the approval of love from people around us. Is it normal to only seek pleasure and not unhappiness? Weren’t we told to find a balance in life?
So I close my eyes and transport myself to the windows around the world. I have been through a mother’s heart when her child died at birth. I haven’t cried, but she did and I felt.
I have been through a father’s eyes when his son never came for the Sunday lunch. I cried, but he didn't; because he’s a father and I am still a son.
I have been one of the 5 million children to go missing, only to be found tied to a bed by some pedophile. I knew nothing and I felt nothing, yet, I cried.
I have tried to make myself feel what hunger feels and why someone steals; after 8 hours, gratefully, I was rich enough to feed my cravings all it needs. The hungry starved, but I couldn’t. They laughed and slept through it, while I tried to drink all my tears.
I have wrenched my heart on a child, blood shot with a war bullet. All I heard was a torn mother’s silence.
I have been into a criminal’s heart and lived through the grief and regret of taking a life. He cried when the sun went down and I felt him do.
I slept under my grave and had the most peaceful sleep. The next morning, I felt that accepting and befriending the harshness of death was one of the most softening experiences in my life.
I have seen people dancing away all their worries at a pub and I fell in love at midnight with a hundred drunken hearts and all their fallen troubles.
I have been in the shoes of a son who battled against the passage of time and what it did to his parent’s skin. I felt the depth of seeing the wrinkled chin on your mother for the first time. I didn't fight it anymore and I embraced the magnificent time; my mother was more graceful than ever before and I kissed her a good night.
I felt it all and yet I didn't. I understood it all and yet I didn't. I was a thief, stealing the little sadness of the world and none of it was mine.
Is this even practical? Of course, it isn't. In fact it’s a pretentious attempt at feeling what others do. The impact I was aiming to make was to absorb some sadness and live through it. Thinking about situations, reading upon those events and putting yourself in those thoughts, affects you over time. You’ll be more sympathetic, you’ll be more thoughtful. The mouse in your hand might tremble before clicking on another article, but, you will. We need to realize and not just realize, but try to feel what the universal mother does. In today’s world, there is a crying need for builders, makers and movers who push the world forward, to not just push it forward, but collectively design it for a wide array of people keeping in mind their rich history and emotions. While we push better physical mechanics to the world, we need to pause and think about the internals. There is a huge divide between the two, just as there is between the sciences and the liberal arts. We need a better intersection between them; tools that don’t isolate us from the reality and our emotions, but celebrate them and enlighten us (click here to discover something that I built with that vision). From the richest to the poorest, everyone has their own suffering and the only way to equally progress together and build systems that are deeply personal is through undergoing each one’s suffering. To strip a man down to his bare basics and touch the stories they have buried deep down in them.
To embrace, live and love your pains is a pleasure that no pleasure can replace. To hate and get rid of your pains is a pain that no pain will replace.
Here’s to a great 21 years on this beautiful planet and a hope to help build it even better in the next 21!