SEED QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: What do you make of adversity helping answer the question 'Why be good?' Can you share a personal experience of a time adversity helped you grow? What helps you to avoid despair when faced with adversity?
I have looked at adversity, both for myself and in others very closely to see what it does....
For myself I have seen that the biggest adversity in my life (a tryst with Bipolar) opened up a totally new way of being for me (eventually, over 5 years of sitting with it) and today this fundamentally shapes who I am....
But I have also seen people regress....adversity pushes them into more base emotions and bitterness, makes them conclude (perhaps inaccurately) about the world and so on....
My sense is that the realization that we have almost no control over external events is stark, when fully embraced. Standing in that, with a belief that the Universe is well-intentioned (and that is also merely an assumption we choose) is difficult business!
Experimenting with Stoicism and engaging actively with the idea of death are practices that are preparation for adversity - and yet each time it meets me, it is always a surprise encounter! And that is what it is meant to be perhaps :)
It is my experience and observation that we all experience adversity and suffering in varying degrees. How we take it makes the difference in the impact of adversities. I also realize that some adversities are out of my control such as natural happenings like floods, hurricanes, volcanoes and earth quakes. But most of our sufferings are self created and self-sustained,
Looking back at my life, I see how we growing up in a poor family did not suffer for not having many things others had in their lives. My parents had a deep sense of contentment with whatever possessions we had. By growing up in such a family, I did not feel the poverty within me for not having "enough" in my life. I married a woman I loved very dearly. She was born and raised in a very rich family having luxurious things she wanted. She left her home and embraced to live in the poor extended family out of deep love for me.Love and faith were our anchors that kept us flowing with the wonderful life.
That happy journey ended when she passed away about three years ago. Did I suffer? You bet. Losing some one, a soul mate for some 60 plus years of my life is very very hard. Is there a grace in suffering? Yes.I have realized the truth that every hi has a bye and every bye has a hi.Nothing is here for ever.Living life with this awareness is keeping the cup of my life full.Sharing the fullness of my living with others and serving them from my heart is a blessing to me and I feel gratitude for receiving such blessings from others. It is by giving I indeed receive.
May the suffering we go through enkindle the light of forgiveness and compassion in us and make us feel connected with each other..
Jagdish P Dave
There are a lot of comments in this piece that I had difficulty with. For example, I believe all events are uncontrollable -- at best I have some influence on events. I believe our control on the world is very limited. We don't know if we are going to a "better place" after this life -- you never know. I don't even know if there is a better place. We don't know everything about adversity or anything else. You never know how long it takes to recover from trauma. Seeking out tragedy makes no more sense than seeking out anything. Protecting people from severe suffering is not a must. Now for the questions to respond to. We don't be 'good' because of the presence of or lack of adversity. I'll define 'good' for now as being true to myself. Adversity underlines that being good is the way to be, it is its own reward, it's not done because I'm in painless times or painful times. I haven't always lived up to that and don't know that I will in severe adversity but I do believe it. Adversity always helps me grow, because it pushes me beyond my present boundaries and into being different in responding to the adversity. Leaving my best friend who was also my business partner was a time of great adversity for me -- sad about our split and my leaving him, scared about what would be next, doubting myself, and I moved on. That's a very short version of that story but I grew in dealing with the situation and finding more of my own self and my own way. What helps me avoid despair -- having a stubborn determined mother and being much that way myself, wanting to see a situation through to the end (that's why the form of suicide I've decided on is living until I don't), believing that you never know what will happen and wanting to find out, not allowing myself despair (yet), believing that I grow from adversity. I guess I don't believe in despair -- and maybe I haven't encountered a severe enough adversity yet.[Hide Full Comment]
Why be good? Because being good opens the opportunity for others to be as well. I interpreted good as Compassionate; being compassionate serves everyone and often costs nothing but energy and time. Growth from adversity: I believe it is all in how we choose to view a situation: what can I learn from this? what is the potential gift in this experience? how can this help me be more compassionate and understanding of others? Personal experience: My father tried to kill himself 5 times, by the time I was 15 he could no longer work and he died when I was 22. What were the gifts? Compassion & seeking to understand what was going on for him. unless we ask and seek to understand, we do not know what is going on for someone. The asking may open an opportunity for the person to speak, share and release some of their own sadness or the burden they feel that they are alone. The experience of growing up with my father led me to listening deeply to others who may be challenged with mental illness or whatever challenge they are facing. It also led me to Free Hugs and connecting, conversing and offering comfort through 2 words on a cardboard sign. and when I went through depression myself it helped me to see that the darkness helped me view the light with even more gratitude. Overcoming adversity once also helps you realize you can do it again and again and you can serve others to overcome as well. Hugs from my heart to yours.[Hide Full Comment]
When it is really adversity and not just inconvenience, I get through it one breath at a time.
And I remind myself of G.K. Chesterton's aphorism:
"Inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered, and adventure is inconvenience, rightly considered."
In today's economic downturn, my life is full of adventures, one breath at a time.