Seven Ways of Looking at Pointless Suffering

Why do we suffer? Why do people die young? Is there any point to our physical and emotional pain? Do horrors like hurricanes have meaning? In Seven Ways of Looking at Pointless Suffering, I tackle the hardest question of all. My goal is not to wallow in misery but to be alive to existence. James Baldwin, describing the “double-edged” power of the blues, says, “To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the breaking of bread. It will be a great day for America, incidentally, when we begin to eat bread again, instead of the blasphemous and tasteless foam rubber that we have substituted for it.” I have no desire to be grim.  I just don’t want to eat tasteless foam rubber. My book is just as likely to draw lessons from Bugs Bunny as from Confucius, from my time teaching philosophy to prisoners as from Hannah Arendt’s attempts to come to terms with the Holocaust. Ultimately, I claim to be fully human means to embody a mysterious paradox: we must simultaneously accept suffering and oppose it. When we do, we go on the terrific adventure of being alive.

Seven Ways of Looking at Pointless Suffering
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