The Power of Suffering: Hindrance or Catalyst to Finding Purpose?

Use this forum to discuss the March 2023 Philosophy Book of the Month, Rediscovering the Wisdom of Human Nature: How Civilization Destroys Happiness by Chet Shupe
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The Power of Suffering: Hindrance or Catalyst to Finding Purpose?

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This topic is about the March 2023 Philosophy Book of the Month, Rediscovering the Wisdom of Human Nature: How Civilization Destroys Happiness by Chet Shupe


Thus, civilized people see, as normal, the suffering they endure at the hands of legal subjugation. Modern humans suffer the effects of broken homes, spousal violence, loneliness, and all humanity suffers a background anxiety tinged with the guilt we feel as witnesses to habitat destruction—all the while, seeing it as normal.
(Location 289 - Kindle Version)

Is suffering necessary to find purpose and meaning in life, or does it hinder our ability to live a fulfilling life? While some argue that suffering can challenge us to develop resilience and empathy, others contend that it leads to despair and futility.

However, it can be argued that suffering is a powerful catalyst to finding purpose. It can provide opportunities for growth and personal development, and give us a sense of empathy and compassion for others. Furthermore, the experience of suffering can shape our values and beliefs, and help us find meaning in life.

What do you think? Is suffering a hindrance or catalyst to finding purpose in life?
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

– William James
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Re: The Power of Suffering: Hindrance or Catalyst to Finding Purpose?

Post by Stoppelmann »

Sushan wrote: March 19th, 2023, 8:09 pm This topic is about the March 2023 Philosophy Book of the Month, Rediscovering the Wisdom of Human Nature: How Civilization Destroys Happiness by Chet Shupe
Thus, civilized people see, as normal, the suffering they endure at the hands of legal subjugation. Modern humans suffer the effects of broken homes, spousal violence, loneliness, and all humanity suffers a background anxiety tinged with the guilt we feel as witnesses to habitat destruction—all the while, seeing it as normal.
(Location 289 - Kindle Version)

Is suffering necessary to find purpose and meaning in life, or does it hinder our ability to live a fulfilling life? While some argue that suffering can challenge us to develop resilience and empathy, others contend that it leads to despair and futility.

However, it can be argued that suffering is a powerful catalyst to finding purpose. It can provide opportunities for growth and personal development, and give us a sense of empathy and compassion for others. Furthermore, the experience of suffering can shape our values and beliefs, and help us find meaning in life.

What do you think? Is suffering a hindrance or catalyst to finding purpose in life?
To be honest, I think we need context to this question if we are to discuss the book, and Shupe is talking about a particular cause of suffering, which he says is civilisation.
But this suffering is not normal. Through it all, our souls have been screaming to us that we are off course, but we’re not listening—so convinced are we that our conscious minds, via the power of pure reason, will solve all problems, given time. Most painfully, we ignore the source of our suffering—humanity’s original mistake, which took us away from the life evolution had given us.
Shupe, Chet. Rediscovering the Wisdom of Human Nature: How Civilization Destroys Happiness (p. 27). BookBaby. Kindle Edition.
Coming from a spiritual context, humanity has been suffering since it awoke to the situation in which it finds itself, namely sentient thinkers in an animal body, with drives and instincts, desires and beliefs that the sentient mind, on the other hand, seeks to transcend. The struggle between ying and yang, the conscious mind and the shadow, good and evil, all of which are expressions of a dichotomy that man feels within himself and which he tries to "thingify," to make concrete or tangible.

In a sense, then, Shupe is right that we are off course because the dividing line runs within us, and neglect of that line leads to broken families, marital violence, loneliness, and a basic anxiety marked by guilt because we sense a contradiction within ourselves. But if we make attempts to combat this problem the cause by saying that civilization is the cause of suffering, we are barking up the wrong tree. The ancients knew that we must tame ourselves, but I am not sure that any civilization, or even most civilizations, have pursued the goal of self-knowledge as one of the most important – even though the maxim was carved in stone at the entrance to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi in Greece.

So suffering, in its many forms, is the symptom of this experience of dichotomy, of duality, and yes, we would like to return to the garden of Eden, but it is like a wonderful dream from which we have awoken and cannot return. The value of suffering lies in recognising it as a symptom of a problem, and just treating the symptom will not heal the disorder, nor will resilience against the suffering. If we know that our suffering has a cause in our conflict with our dual nature, we have to find a equanimity within ourselves, a balance that doesn’t neglect one side or another.

That is why meditation is some form has always been a method of centring and balancing oneself, and depending on our tradition, if we have one, there are numerous practices that help us deal with our condition. The Eastern traditions find an acceptance in not speaking of the mind as though it was purely rational, as is often the case in the West, especially in academic circles, but as “heart-mind” in which emotions also play a role. Desires and beliefs are emotionally loaded, and it isn’t in fighting them, but in knowing that they are there and accommodating them within limitations, that we find equanimity.

Christianity has a long history of recommending beating ourselves up about our desires, and then running to the cross to confess, but it has distorted the experience and caused imbalance, and in the end it inflames the problem, just like scratching an irritation on your skin inflames the spot. It is necessary to treat the irritation, not inflame it and cause contamination. So suffering is an opportunity to recognise the problem lies in our lack of balance, and compensate in whatever manner is helpful.
“Find someone who makes you realise three things:
One, that home is not a place, but a feeling.
Two, that time is not measured by a clock, but by moments.
And three, that heartbeats are not heard, but felt and shared.”
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Re: The Power of Suffering: Hindrance or Catalyst to Finding Purpose?

Post by Sushan »

Stoppelmann wrote: March 19th, 2023, 11:42 pm
Sushan wrote: March 19th, 2023, 8:09 pm This topic is about the March 2023 Philosophy Book of the Month, Rediscovering the Wisdom of Human Nature: How Civilization Destroys Happiness by Chet Shupe
Thus, civilized people see, as normal, the suffering they endure at the hands of legal subjugation. Modern humans suffer the effects of broken homes, spousal violence, loneliness, and all humanity suffers a background anxiety tinged with the guilt we feel as witnesses to habitat destruction—all the while, seeing it as normal.
(Location 289 - Kindle Version)

Is suffering necessary to find purpose and meaning in life, or does it hinder our ability to live a fulfilling life? While some argue that suffering can challenge us to develop resilience and empathy, others contend that it leads to despair and futility.

However, it can be argued that suffering is a powerful catalyst to finding purpose. It can provide opportunities for growth and personal development, and give us a sense of empathy and compassion for others. Furthermore, the experience of suffering can shape our values and beliefs, and help us find meaning in life.

What do you think? Is suffering a hindrance or catalyst to finding purpose in life?
To be honest, I think we need context to this question if we are to discuss the book, and Shupe is talking about a particular cause of suffering, which he says is civilisation.
But this suffering is not normal. Through it all, our souls have been screaming to us that we are off course, but we’re not listening—so convinced are we that our conscious minds, via the power of pure reason, will solve all problems, given time. Most painfully, we ignore the source of our suffering—humanity’s original mistake, which took us away from the life evolution had given us.
Shupe, Chet. Rediscovering the Wisdom of Human Nature: How Civilization Destroys Happiness (p. 27). BookBaby. Kindle Edition.
Coming from a spiritual context, humanity has been suffering since it awoke to the situation in which it finds itself, namely sentient thinkers in an animal body, with drives and instincts, desires and beliefs that the sentient mind, on the other hand, seeks to transcend. The struggle between ying and yang, the conscious mind and the shadow, good and evil, all of which are expressions of a dichotomy that man feels within himself and which he tries to "thingify," to make concrete or tangible.

In a sense, then, Shupe is right that we are off course because the dividing line runs within us, and neglect of that line leads to broken families, marital violence, loneliness, and a basic anxiety marked by guilt because we sense a contradiction within ourselves. But if we make attempts to combat this problem the cause by saying that civilization is the cause of suffering, we are barking up the wrong tree. The ancients knew that we must tame ourselves, but I am not sure that any civilization, or even most civilizations, have pursued the goal of self-knowledge as one of the most important – even though the maxim was carved in stone at the entrance to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi in Greece.

So suffering, in its many forms, is the symptom of this experience of dichotomy, of duality, and yes, we would like to return to the garden of Eden, but it is like a wonderful dream from which we have awoken and cannot return. The value of suffering lies in recognising it as a symptom of a problem, and just treating the symptom will not heal the disorder, nor will resilience against the suffering. If we know that our suffering has a cause in our conflict with our dual nature, we have to find a equanimity within ourselves, a balance that doesn’t neglect one side or another.

That is why meditation is some form has always been a method of centring and balancing oneself, and depending on our tradition, if we have one, there are numerous practices that help us deal with our condition. The Eastern traditions find an acceptance in not speaking of the mind as though it was purely rational, as is often the case in the West, especially in academic circles, but as “heart-mind” in which emotions also play a role. Desires and beliefs are emotionally loaded, and it isn’t in fighting them, but in knowing that they are there and accommodating them within limitations, that we find equanimity.

Christianity has a long history of recommending beating ourselves up about our desires, and then running to the cross to confess, but it has distorted the experience and caused imbalance, and in the end it inflames the problem, just like scratching an irritation on your skin inflames the spot. It is necessary to treat the irritation, not inflame it and cause contamination. So suffering is an opportunity to recognise the problem lies in our lack of balance, and compensate in whatever manner is helpful.
I appreciate your insightful response, and I agree that context is crucial when discussing the role of suffering in finding purpose in life. As you've mentioned, Shupe focuses on the suffering caused by civilization, which is only one aspect of the broader experience of suffering.

Your point about the ancient understanding of suffering and the importance of self-knowledge is particularly compelling. It reminds us that the pursuit of balance and equanimity within ourselves is vital in addressing the suffering we experience. I also appreciate your discussion on the value of meditation and various traditions that help us manage our dual nature.

It's interesting to consider how different cultural perspectives and belief systems shape our understanding of suffering and how to address it. Your example of Christianity's approach and its potential drawbacks highlights the importance of finding effective methods to treat the root cause of our suffering rather than merely suppressing it.
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

– William James
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