Just some thoughts about suffering, life, and the meaning of evil (and good)

I don’t have  all the answers.  I don’t even feel strong.  I have gone through some tribulations recently which have really tested my faith and strengths.  I have not prayed a lot, at least not in the traditional way.  But I have teared up and reflected on the difficult circumstances where I am at the moment.  Seeing a loved one suffer is very consuming.    To be more specific, my wife has just gone into surgery, and the recovery has been exhausting.  Seeing her in this condition takes a lot from me.  It helps me to reflect profoundly about Life.  It encourages me to appreciate what I do have, and remember to value what I often take for granted.  In the midst of this difficult time, many friends and family members have demonstrated true care and concern.  I doubted many times that this kind of love from fellow humans even existed.   They have shown me true love; a piece of heaven.  Life as it should be.

But I go back to the routine, I return to living the “normal life”, and I am then reminded again of the selfish, arrogant, greedy, cold world we live in.  This is truly an evil world.  How do I come up with this bold conclusion?   Having a clear distinction between evil and its opposite (good) is essential.  Good is to empty ourselves from preconceived ideas, bias, religion, discrimination, and other traits that we use to maintain selfish, rigid lifestyles. This is the first step.  The second step is to then reach out and put the other’s needs as equal as our own.  Good is to perceive others as equal, no matter how different.  Good is to forgive, volunteer, share, sacrifice, and accept others, always in joy and not expecting a reward. Good is simply everything that truly unites us.  This is the same as the definition of Love.  How often does this really happen?  I mean, really happen?  Rarely.

Now, evil is the easy part.  Evil is to simply think about my own needs, ambitions, goals, and desires, above everyone else’s.  It is to think about my own plans first.  Evil is to believe and live as if we own this world, or worst, as if we own each other.  Evil is to walk an extra mile to obtain someone else’s goods and profits.  Evil is to submit to the natural tendencies to feed our selfish desires. Evil is simply everything we do that isolates us.   How often does this happen?  All the time.  Do I sound extreme?  Well, I can accept that.

So this world is truly evil.  I don’t think I have to use specific examples about this fact.  This is probably why Christians call it the “fallen world”, and Hindus call it “an illusion.”  But the moments that I experience while my wife recovers give me a glimpse of what good is all about.  It humbles me to the point of recognizing how finite I truly am.  It reminds me of how little I know about life and how fragile life truly is.  And then I think about how absurd it is to be born, grow up, learn so much, and to finally die. We simply die, cease to exist. Or do we? There’s got to be something else.  There’s got to be continuation of growth and learning.  I still feel there is a lot to learn, but I am not sure if my physical body can withstand all the years it takes to learn all there is to know.  At least I am sure that, in the past couple of years,  I have learned that Life is about giving, about serving, about emptying ourselves and simplifying our lives so that we can continue to serve.  Life is about uniting with others in peace and acceptance.  I don’t own anything.  I am as insignificant as a grain of salt.  Yet, I am important enough to have friends and family call me and ask me how my wife is doing.  Weird, but true. And if this is supposed to make me feel stronger, I don’t feel it yet.  However, I am still hopeful this will give me some strengths for the future.

Anyways, thank you for taking the time to read my rambling writing and venting.  I just  needed to get all of this out of my chest and into the keyboard.  Good night.

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About Noel

I am a person who has realized that the teachings of Jesus are centralized in the genuine care and service of others. I have evolved from fundamentalism to a moderate spiritual approach. I am a reflecting person who has grown to not fear doubt but to embrace it as a means to growth and increasing closeness to God. View all posts by Noel

19 responses to “Just some thoughts about suffering, life, and the meaning of evil (and good)

  • Michael Palmer

    I was surfing through wordpress and found your post. I first want to say thank you for your honesty. It’s difficult when life is painful, and it’s even more difficult to be honest about the pain in life.

    As a Christian, I cringe when people take the easy way out and say, “Well, God is in control. You should just trust him.” Often times, life hurts like hell, and we are just struggling to believe in God, let alone, trust him.

    It seems you’re in a great place, so I affirm you for that. God is truly good, and though life often times is ugly, and evil, he does love us. I will pray for you, and for your wife. May God’s peace and healing surround you both.

    peace to you.
    Michael

  • tradersolstice

    If Good is to empty ourselves of all the (presumably negative) experiences that we use to maintain “selfish, rigid lifestyles,” are we not emptying ourselves of the things that made us who we are? Are these not  the things which led us to think that _____ is evil, or ____ is good?

    And is it also good to perceive others as our equals, when they in fact may not be? And If, perhaps, someone’s definition of Good differs from the one above, are they still Good, if they follow their own definition of it?

    Many people get caught up in the moral good for the greatest result, without regard for self. To a certain extent, that is how we build families and communities that work together with love, and because I think we can agree that this is a good thing, it works for them.

    However, we are self-centered beings (meaning that our core interests are in our own well-being and survival), and if we pay attention to our own needs and wants (the fundamental need to eat, or the want to maintain a healthy relationship, for example), we are better for it. We feel better about ourselves, and the positive energy we exude from that feeling of self-satisfaction, the fulfilment of our desires, such as to write a novel in thirty days, radiates in what we do for others. It can make us more understanding, sympathetic, and supportive of others’ struggles and tribulations.

    And so it cannot be such a terrible thing to be “self-ish” in that we strive to meet our own needs (for we must!) before looking out for the welfare of others – for if we are not prepared, or have no experience of the negative things in life, how can we understand each other’s suffering, or communicate solutions effectively, if we have no definition, no reference point?

    While I disagree that it is Evil to think about our own needs before someone else’s (for some needs, plans, and wants are simpler and more humble than others), because if I am not doing exactly what I should be doing, what my body and spirit and mind say I should be doing, I cannot be that angel for others, who brings with me a selfless desire to help and support (which, makes some people feel better, therefore meeting a “selfish” desire), then they cannot fully benefit from everything I have contribute to the world (i.e. them). Likewise, If they are not being and doing who and what they should be – that is, meeting their needs and desires to contribute _____ to the world – I cannot fully be me, because they are taking something away from what they could contribute to the world we both live in (i.e. me), and could be taking away one of these experiences which I could learn from and use to form my definition of what is good, and what is evil.

    My apologies for the longwinded reply. The world isn’t such an evil place, though, Noel. People may not speak your language, but that doesn’t mean they’re not listening.

    • Noel

      Tradersolstice, my definition of Good is to empty ourselves of those qualities that make us selfish, that make us “the center of our lives”. which does not include who we truly are. We are truly a part of a whole, part of a big community, and being selfish is separating ourselves from this big community to a life of true isolation, indulged in individual ambitions, and consumption.This kind of isolated lifestyle is the definition of evil, because it involves working hard to exclusively satisfy the self, without the regard of the rest of the community. This is then manifested in greed, lies, hatred, envy, wars, addictions, etc. When we take the bold and unpopular step of denying all of these qualities (which are natural but not good), then we start practicing good, and therefore getting closer to God. Jesus’ teachings reflect this when he talked about “denying the self” , “loving our enemies”, “turning the other cheek” , “being humble” etc. This does not mean that I am not going to take care of my basic need, since doing good is not putting others above me, but equal to me. Thank you for commenting and sharing.

      • Hopeful_watcher

        Noel, your description of good, bares a greater resemblance to holy righteousness than anything else. It is my opinion that the dichotomy of good vs. evil is a false dichotomy set up by the evil one. For the exact reason of needing to try and define what good and evil is. These definitions are subjective and therefore corruptible for a more sinister purpose.

        1 John 3:10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever does not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loves not his brother.

        The true dichotomy is sinfulness vs. Righteousness, for everything that is not of God and righteousness is sinfulness. Righteousness can not be twisted around to mean different things to a secular world, but goodness can. If you don’t believe that just listen to how people say, “I am a good person. I am going to heaven.” Now if you asked that person if they are righteous in the Lord’s eyes they will probably look at you funny or in confusion.

        Blessings to you and may your wife recover and feel better soon.

    • Hopeful_watcher

      Trader, I try not to view anyone in terms of being equal or unequal as that requires a judgement on my part and then an unstated level of worthiness.

      Instead, I seek the lowest seat in every situation and consider myself a servant to all those around me. Even a king can be a servant (as our savior showed us), so we can leave all the trappings of judgmentalism at the door and just focus on the needs of those around us.

      To be a servant requires us to relinquish our victimized status that we assign to ourselves. For example, we say things like, “its not fair they have a better job and can afford that boat” or anything else we feel sorry for ourselves about. For whatever reason, us humans hold on tightly to our victim status and never free ourselves to be servants to our fellow man and woman.

      • jasonswartz

        My definition of righteousness is someone who can justify the Creators actions. If a person cannot within his reason understand the will behind the Creators actions, he can maintain the state of righteousness by going Above his reason and have faith that the Creator is just and benevolent.

        Righteousness is justifying the creators actions. Self- righteousness is justifying my actions.

        So many times what has happened in my Life did not make sense and I blamed the Creator or anybody else I could. However all my passed pain I can now justify because I finally found Him within my heart. So I do as much work towards the Creator because I know that the Sun can’t shine everyday and tragedy strike the good and the wicked alike. I pray that I will not lose my faith when darkness comes to visit..

  • jasonswartz

    Having suffered addiction and the level of emptiness and self absorbtion that it creates within a person I have felt the evil within me and I am sure that I have dealt my share of evil to those around me. However while I was in this evil state I remember it as deep suffering, lack and poverty. Darkness is not an equal and opposite force against Light. There is only one Force the Light, and darkness is merely the lack of Light. Evil is a symptom of poverty and no challenger to the only power (Good) GOD However from that very emptiness within me was made the yearning and desire for the Creator to save me. So how can that evil be bad if it was what brought me to the Creator. It was the experience of what God is Not, that made me seek out what God is.

    Isaiah 45:7 (King James Version):
    I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

    I can tell from your writing that you are on the right path Noel because your intentions behind your words are toward HIM. Let your soul (desire for the Creator) guide you. With all of this said when a loved one is ill it will always hurt, even with a faith as big as Abraham. The Creator reveals a part of Himself and conceals two parts, so that you never walk in complete knowledge of His ways. How else can we grow our faith, if not for that fact that he keeps us all guessing.

    I saw this site a few days ago and it really hit home, maybe it can give ya a boost during these difficult times. My heart and thoughts are with you and your family.as well as the Creator…..but I know that you already knew that. =)

    http://www.perceivingreality.com/

    • hopeful_watcher

      Jason,
      I like your observation of darkness not being a force, but being a state of being in lack of light. Likewise, living in a state without God in our lives will only lead to evil or unrighteous desires in our heart.

      I agree that living in sin and darkness isn’t all bad, when it spurs you towards the light. This is Grace of the Lord calling us out of evil. God did this over and over again with Israel allowing them to fall to her enemies, so they know that genuine peace and security can only come from the Lord.

      This is like my dad telling me over and over again not to touch that cattle fence or you will get a shock. On a walk with him one day curiousity got the best of me and I touched it anyway. The hard learned lessons are always the strongest.

  • Steve Tanner

    I need only look at my wife and imagine how I would feel if her health and well-being were in jeopardy to understand how you feel. It seems ironic that we actually can use a self-centered perspective to understand others… sometimes. Nevertheless, my intent is not to debate philosophy or religious doctrine. but rather to reach out and say that I feel you. May you feel the healing Spirit as it touches your wife.

  • cafeproz

    Noel,

    I was very touched by your piece… your feelings, your honesty, but also because I have recently been thinking about some of the same subjects… although from a different perspective.

    Someone was telling me this week about Satan making things worse and worse etc… and I have to really disagree. I think Satan is “us”. Satan is every time well intentioned people are too busy living their shortsighted lives to engage into, support or otherwise encourage the greater good of the greater body (be it, couple, family, nation, or world etc)

    In that sense I join you in thinking that evil is focusing on ourselves.

    Thanks for the post.

    • Noel

      Cafeproz, that is an intriguing thought. “Satan is us” (sounds like a great title for a blog post!). It makes sense when we think about us being our own enemies. If Jesus commanded us to deny the self, why would He say this if the “self” is not considered an enemy? We make ourselves selfish, we create our ambitions, negative thoughts, addictions, selfish agendas, etc. which separate us from God. Focusing exclusively on ourselves distract us from focusing on the community, thus focusing on God. Thanks for your comment.

  • jasonswartz

    Just google ego (egoism) and satan together. See what pops up.

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