SUFFERING –   THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC – PART V (cont’d)

This leaves only the matter of dealing with our own suffering. Of course we rely upon science and the healing arts to ease the physical suffering, limit the loss of life, and shorten the epidemic. However philosophy offers many voices of intellectual, spiritual, and even emotional consolation; the most developed analyses and responses include:

1.   Hinduism – suffering is due to karma, that is, the consequence of prior actions – not true perhaps of the virus per se, but likely of some aspects of suffering due to our inadequate planning. The Hindu solution is fulfillment of duty, piety, and virtue. I would add greater preparation for future crises.

2.   Stoicism – suffering is due to fate and providence which we do not control, but lessened by what we can control, our own reaction. Its solution is detachment and the reluctant acceptance of our plight.

3.   Epicureanism – suffering is due to deterministic providence, but our experience of it can be diminished by ataraxia, essentially contentment with what we can easily attain and avoidance of unnecessary stress or unease.

4.   Buddhism – life itself is suffering, universal, but not inevitable. Peace is achieved by meditation, elimination of desire, the adoption of optimism over negativity, hope, presence, and love.

5.   Christianity – suffering as original sin or the unfathomable purposes of God. Its consolation is endurance as proof of faith and a path to sacred existence.

6.   Existentialism – suffering as due to the indifference of the universe. Relief comes from transcendence, self-affirmation, courage, and the recognition of our vulnerability as a fact of the human condition. Viktor Frankl might add for those sick with the virus or who have lost loved ones to it, to find meaning in their suffering by being worthy of it.1

Last I would add that when seen against the canvas of the history and future of mankind, this pandemic reveals the sameness of our situation with those of all people. We perhaps of all of nature’s creation experience the pinnacle of suffering; it is the price we pay for the blessing of our great intelligence and knowledge of existence. But none of us is alone; times like these remind us of our tie to all men past, present, and future, of our interdependence, our mutual caring, and our incredible power when united to craft a sanctuary for human expression, creativity, and dignity. We alone can make of Earth either heaven or hell, and by choosing the former achieve a measure of the divine out of the simple chemicals that make up our species.

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