Project Learn to Live, Tuesday, June 18, 2014: PAIN & SUFFERING, FORGIVE & FORGET
What’s the best way to end suffering? Don’t fight; forgive and forget.
It’s not a coincidence that I just finished reading John Green’s young adult novel Looking For Alaska. Last week, I reviewed the sex and death parts of the movie version of The Fault in Our Stars, for the Washington Post’s PostEverything in an article titled “How the Fault in Our Stars” looked to an actual cancer survivor,” which got me thinking about other John Green books. I’d heard somewhere or other that Looking For Alaska was his other “really good” book, so I picked up Alaska as well as a replacement copy of The Fault—my original copy having been misplaced, last year, during the chaotic shuffling between the Johns Hopkins University Hospital neurology ward and home—from amongst the towering clutter on the ‘best-selling young adult author John Green’ table at Barnes and Noble.
Despite what I’d heard, Alaska is not “really good” book but it’s a quick read that would have been my second-favorite-book-of-all-time, just behind The Fault, if I were still fifteen year old me (maybe it would have even come in ahead of The Fault for the ‘incendiary-to-parents-who-are-delusional’ botched blow job scene. Fifteen year old me would have related).
Anyway, I’m not writing a review of another John Green book constructed to manipulate teenage genitals, heartstrings, and tear ducts; instead I thought I’d note that Alaska reminded me of a Buddhist teaching paraphrased in a first-person teenage musing: “When you stopped wishing things wouldn’t fall apart, you’d stop suffering when they did.”
I’d been reading for a good portion of this afternoon, once again, ignoring the dishes, vacuuming, piles of unfolded clothes, and third mattress cleaning necessary after a bed wetting accident over the weekend. During this pause from the main character’s maudlin teenage grief, I realized that the migraine that has been plaguing me on and off for weeks had dulled. I’d finally given in to my body that sure as hell wasn’t going to let me get to any chores today, and lay down to just read. I’d stopped wishing for a reprieve from the pain in my head, arms, legs, feet, hands, bladder, stomach, and jaw, and I’d forgotten for nearly two hours that I “needed” to do my apartment chores, write another article, call four different doctors, drop off prescriptions, blend fruit for smoothies, etc. I’d forgiven myself for my inability to be productive and stopped wishing the suffering would stop, and then the suffering (sort of) stopped—at least, the headache part of the suffering.
Good call and thank you for the reminder, John Green and Buddha.