(27/40) – Is your suffering dear to you?


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# 27 / 40 – August 2007


Is your suffering dear to you?

A question popped into my head a few weeks ago.
Every time I heard myself complain, or someone else utter a grievance, it would come to mind: “Is your suffering dear to you?”
As crazy as it might seem, I am attached to certain aspects of my misery. For example, I hold fast to, and even enjoy, the idea that I’m terminally unique – that I don’t fit in well with groups. And honestly, this is a misery I don’t feel like giving up. This suffering is dear to me. I get mileage out of it!
So, I want to ask the same question of you: “Is your suffering dear to you?”
Let’s face it, our problems often define us and anything that defines us – while spiritually it’s perhaps not the best idea to hold onto these things – makes us feel like we exist.
Georges Ivanovich Gurdjieff, a 19th & 20th century Armenian-Greek mystic, wrote:

“Another thing that people must sacrifice is their suffering. It is very difficult also to sacrifice one’s suffering. A man will renounce any pleasures you like but he will not give up his suffering.
Man is made in such a way that he is never so much attached to anything
as he is to his suffering. And it is necessary to be free from
suffering. No one who is not free from suffering, who has not
sacrificed his suffering, can work. Later on a great deal must be said
about suffering. Nothing can be attained without suffering but at the
same time one must begin by sacrificing suffering. Now, decipher what
this means.” (Emphasis added.)

About a week after the
phrase “Is your suffering dear to you?” surfaced in my consciousness, I
realized where it came from. I knew this phrase from a passage of
Talmud I had studied 15 years ago in which two holy men were
interacting and one asks the other, “Is your suffering dear to you?”
I looked up the Hebrew-Aramaic tale in Brachot 5b and saw the response given: “Neither it nor its reward.”
What does that mean? The explanation is this: in the ancient world (as people do today as well), it was commonly believed that God compensated people in the-world-to-come for their suffering in this world. That is, the more you suffered in this world and the more nobly you endured your suffering, the greater reward you could expect in heaven!
I pray that we all learn, in this world and soon, to not be attached to our suffering. I hope we all find a way to feel gratitude, acceptance, and peace with the world as it is. My dear wish is that all of us put down our misery and open ourselves to being with (the) God (of our understanding).
With love,

Rabbi Brian
A web version of this article is available here.
This article was also posted at Street Prophets.

Ask R.Abbi – This Month’s Question

Dear R.Abbi,
I saw you on Between the Lines with Barry Kibrick and found you very interesting.
I want to do something for the greater good, can you help me find my way? To be honest, I’m not even sure what that means – but I do know that I want to be able to help others in a meaningful way.
an artist and although some people like my work and are sometimes
moved, I’m not sure that qualifies as a worthwhile legacy for my life
here on earth.
Where do I begin?

Dear Searching,
Thank you for your e-mail.
To quote Maria from The Sound of Music, “Let’s start from the very beginning. That’s a very good place to start.”
I think you should begin right where you are.
But it’s an uncomfortable place to be, isn’t it?
Would that you had a lofty goal . . . how much easier that would be!
example, if you knew that by 2010 you wanted to have your art in five
prominent galleries with proceeds from the sales raising $500,000 for
AIDS awareness . . . well, then you would have a compass bearing, an
orientation, and a specific goal to work toward.

However, you don’t have your direction yet and that’s what is uncomfortable.
So, another way answer to your question is that you should start by being uncomfortable.
wish I could be the guy to give you all the answers. But, as you may
have guessed, you are the only one who has the answers. Rest assured,
it’s completely appropriate that you don’t know them yet.

After all, you’re just beginning to form the questions!
The following is a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke:

to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books
written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They
cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a
question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the
question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find
yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.

suggest the following prescriptive exercise, if you’d like to work on
it. Try writing out the words of the above poem once in the morning and
once in the evening every day for the next week. (And if you want,
check back in and tell me how it goes.)

course, should you find a path that works better for you – like making
a sculptural interpretation, dancing it out, or painting it – that
works too . . .

Be the artist that you are called to be.

With love,

If you have a question that you would like R.Abbi to answer, please e-mail: R.Abbi@rotb.org
Read the Ask R.Abbi blog at askrabbi.blogspot.com!


The 77% Weekly

The 77% Weekly: The Religion-Outside-The-Box Newsletter
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