Everyone’s gone through it. That moment when something truly horrible happens to you. When it feels like your world will never be the same. When you look around and marvel that there is still air in your lungs, that you can still see the sun, that people can still laugh. That the world has not simply stopped is unbelievable to you.
And yet, you feel time tick along. Days later, you feel like you can move again but every step is like walking along the bottom of the ocean. Weeks later and you can still feel the weight of it, pressing down on your chest, squeezing into your eyes, eating parts of your mind. Months later, you wake up and it isn’t there. For a moment, it’s as though that horrible moment never occurred. And then it comes flooding back. It did happen. How could you forget? How could you move on?
Time passes and eventually you heal. Not fully. Not all the way back to who you were. But, at least into something that can get through the day, limping along, a broken version of you. And maybe, just maybe, you can laugh again. Maybe some kind person shares some touching words with you. Maybe a light hearted moment of joy slips in. Those things can help you feel a little less pain, but only a little. There are no kind words, or magic phrases, or secret books that can make this kind of pain go away. If you’ve been through this, I’m sorry. It’s a hard road to travel and there are no shortcuts. There are no absolute measures of suffering and everyone’s pain is their own.
When you are suffering, there is only the suffering and the time it takes to survive it. The suffering becomes your new reality. A reality with rules and structures that define you, and help you get through to the other side.
You can lean on existential ideas, whether religious or secular, and be supported by the idea is that there is meaning to this reality, to this suffering. There is some goal that can be reached through this suffering and your relationship to it. It might be a deeper connection with your faith, or a deeper connection with your family. It might be a deeper understanding of your place in the universe.
You could lean on nihilism, as an aspect of Buddhism. If nothing matters, because nothing has meaning, then neither joy nor suffering has meaning. If all suffering comes from desire, if all things are impermanent, then life and death are no different than dawn and dusk.
There is another option. And that way is the absurd.
It is absurd that a mind, capable of contemplating infinity, is made of grey pudding trapped in a bone shell. It is absurd that there are countless things to see and experience, yet we can be bored of them if we do them enough. It is absurd that some have more than they need and others die before they are named. It is absurd that your complex self is eradicated every night when you sleep. It is absurd that the only constant in love is that it will end. It is absurd that we cannot see ourselves the way others see us, yet their perceptions of us can dictate aspects of our lives.
And the blessing of seeing the absurd is that you can’t be angry or sad or hurt about it. You might be able to muster a chuckle, or maybe even a full on guffaw. It’s almost impossible to let sorrow drown you if instead of crushing you, the world amuses you.
Work through your pain, live with your wounds, but don’t let suffering take over.
Because the existence of suffering itself is completely absurd.