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July 25, 2012

Life is precious. We as individuals are born, created at a moment of conception. Yet death is an inevitable companion to that conception. All living things die eventually. That is a part of life. Yet death can come at any time through accidents, illness, even murder, of “being in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Eventually death comes with “old age”, implying a life span that varies from species to species, and also varies within a specie. Death happens to all living things. Yet, while we humans are not alone with death, we humans are perhaps unique in that we keep asking the question, “Why?”

Especially puzzling is how do we explain to ourselves an early death. It is even more poignant when a child dies from illness, or is killed by a car when darting out into a street, or by a random bullet. Our life can be “cut short,” at any time, suggesting that “it’s not fair,” that we are somehow “meant” to live out a more or less average life span. We have interjected purpose to our being born. And does that mean that when we have lived our life span and die, that we have fulfilled our purpose? And what is that purpose?

Also puzzling is why pain and suffering are a part of life as we experience it. Yet it seems to be. A few are “lucky.” Some are born with “good genes” or are born to parents with lots of money, and are healthy and can live a “full life” without want. Yet others are born with imperfect genes, or into a life of want, both of which can lead to much pain and suffering. But we all know those who in spite a great suffering nevertheless still lead a “full life” in that they contribute both to themselves and to those around them. But must pain and suffering be a part of life? And is death the final event to end the pain and suffering? Living life itself is surely part of our purpose in being here.

I have never been comfortable with answers that describe pain and suffering as punishment from God.. God does not play favorites, curing some cancer sufferers for example and leaving others to die. Pain and suffering seem to be part of our humanness. But through it we can relate to other life. We can become sensitive to other people and their own pain and suffering. We can recognize and accept – even celebrate – our humanness. We can begin to recognize and experience that we are part of something outside of ourselves, even outside of our humanness.

It must be recognized, however, that much of the pain and suffering we experience we do to ourselves. It is caused by other humans or by the society that we humans have created for ourselves. We hurt each other. We kill each other. We go to war. In our relationships we often bring hurt and pain to those around us. Is this all a part of being human? It certainly seems to be a part of much of our human history and culture. Maybe even asking these questions is a part of our humanness. And just maybe one of our purposes in being here is to help alleviate and assuage the hurt and pain and suffering that our fellow human beings are experiencing – and maybe by extension to all living things.

Grief is a particular form of pain and suffering that happens only because we have loved. Grief is always a companion to love. Grief comes when we lose one we love. Do we truly grieve over something or someone we do not love.? Does this not tell us something? That we are reaching our highest in life when we are in a love relationship. That love is the purpose of our living. The breaking of that relationship is of course a time for grieving. But also a time of gratefulness for the experiencing of love. Because it is in loving that we grow and we fulfill our greatest potential to be alive, to be a part of life in this universe. So we must never stop loving! Even with pain and suffering, we must never stop loving.

Loren Bullock
June 3, 2007

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