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Psalms 90:15

Should anyone come after me
let him deny himself,
take up his cross and follow me.

Matthew 16:24


And not once only, while circling this
road, is our pain renewed:
I say pain and ought to say solace.

Dante



The word "to suffer" comes from the Latin sufferire, a variant of sufferre, which means "to bear, undergo, endure, carry or put under." The makeup of the word is more telling; su comes from sub "up, under" + ferre means "to carry." Literally, to suffer means to carry something.

But this act of carrying something is not a mere handling of objects in the way that we carry this or that. There is something in that which is carried that makes the carrying a little harder than any other old thing. This "something" makes the carrier go down or under it. It might be because of its weight, or size, or both; yet what can be inferred is that it is no longer the hands which carry it--it is already the body which goes under it. The body then tries to buttress its weight; the shoulders try to provide balance; the arms attempt to encircle it in vain; the knees in a constant tension between buckling and straightening.

That which is carried then is like a boulder. Or like a cross.

***

Why suffer? That cannot be answered. Better: How does one suffer?

If the word can be trusted, one suffers because he carries something heavy and huge, that is, he carries a burden. And how does he arrive at carrying such a burden?

There are only two possibilities: either it was given to him or he chose it. To be sure, the former case is more interesting than the latter; we can always tell the man who chooses to have a burden to be careful of what he wishes for for he might just get it. It is his fault; not in the derogatory sense but in the implicit sense: what you take as a burden can also be released from you. e.g. detachment, releasement, letting be.

What is more interesting then is a burden I receive. Whence did it come and who gave it? That is also a very good question because, like all good questions, it cannot be answered. Such a burden is like a present left outside your door in the middle of the night. It is there from nowhere.

But if it is a gift, surely, I can refuse it, i.e., leave it at my door or leave it at someone else's door. You can run but you can't hide. For essentially, a burden chooses you and you do not choose your burden. It waits for your acknowledgment, it waits to be received.

Take it, pick it up.

***

They say that it is better to suffer because you will learn from it, because you will grow from it. That may be true but you cannot tell that to a man languishing in jail for a crime he did not commit, or to the parents of an autistic son. Tell that to the Marines.

For to suffer knows only one thing: it is the carrying itself and nothing other. Once the burden is off my back, that is no longer suffering; yet while I carry it, the act of carrying it is the one thing necessary. So please do not tell a man who suffers that all shall be well and there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Even Christ asked if the Cup can be taken away from him as he was suffering in the garden. Honesty, that.

***

Meister Eckhart says:
We read that Saint Anthony in the desert was once in particular torment from evil spirits, and when he had overcome his distress our Lord appeared joyfully to him in bodily form. Then the holy man said: "O dear Lord, wherever were you when I was in such need?" Then our Lord said: "I was here, just where I am now; but it was my will and my pleasure to see how valiant you might be."
What God is this which enjoys and finds pleasure in the sufferings of men?

The laughing Christ.

***

Sisyphus still carries his boulder on his mountain.

It is said that the god is happy with his suffering. There is redemption even in Hades.

***

For there is consolation in suffering.

"But you must know that God's friends," Eckhart says, "are never without consolation, for whatever God wills is for them the greatest consolation of all, whether it be consolation or desolation."

***

Lead me Zeus and Destiny,
withersoever I am appointed to go.
I will follow without wavering; even though
I turn coward and shrink, I shall have
to follow all the same.

Epictetus

Kahit ilang beses bumagsak and Krus,
lagi itong ibinabangon muli,
at ng lakas na lampas sa kakayahan
ng nagbubuhat nito.

R.T.


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