Suffering, self, and service

The Pittsburgh attacker spent plenty of time on social networking websites that stoked his fear, anger and isolation. I think about the net a good deal, and while the world wide web has the capability to help us form a better comprehension of how”we” (global humanity), it may also cultivate a strong sense of”them” (the harmful other), as this case shows. In brief, the idea is: suffering is an essential human condition, and it’s mostly brought about by our awareness of self and how events affect us as humans (jealousy, greed, desiring, disappointment, etc). Meanwhile, there really is no”self”, as everything in the world is connected. Consequently, if you’re able to release your focus on the self, you are able to dissolve the suffering. (This is a good summary of those concepts.)

To put it differently, we’re simultaneously increasing our ability to understand one another through connectedness and data, and fracturing along tribal lines, increasing the feeling of space and disconnectedness. The massacre in Pittsburgh is dreadful and awful, and yet another example of the degree to which society appears to be fraying. My own examples are of course insignificant in comparison to the wider environment of fear, suffering, and violence. But I want to believe that we have the capacity as people to re-knit the ties that bind us together, somehow.

I think about these concepts in the daily: for me they manifest in all the small moments of going about my job and getting things done. Quite often, I feel a resistance welling up, often manifested as panic, which I’ve written about, but more generally I believe the culprit is your self-centered thinking. When this occurs, an idea that works for me is actively trying to replace thoughts of itself with ideas of support: take the suffering that comes from seeing things through the lens of your personal self, and divert it to the support of others. 

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