Dying Daily #171: Helplessness

I have these times where I feel overwhelmed by the suffering around me and in the world.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, suffering is caused by our wishing things were different. Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. We are distressed not by events, but by our reaction to them.

I am comfortable applying these things to myself regardless of what is happening, and encouraging others to apply them to the things in their life, but then there are things I cannot bring myself to say are simply neutral.

A child starving to death with a vulture watching (and a photographer, who later committed suicide if I am not mistaken).

People watching their friends and families murdered in wars and genocides.

People in places and countries and social structures who never even have a chance; it’s almost like their lives are on a rail headed toward tragedy.

Kids watching their family and security disintegrate, helpless to do anything about it.

And that’s the word right there: helpless.

We are all so helpless in the face of the overwhelming suffering in this world. I am not sure anyone could fix it, even the people with more money than God like Bill Gates or Elon Musk.

I am not sure what to do about it.

I help where I can, the people around me and anyone who ventures close enough for me to be useful.

A nonexistent amount in the big scheme.

Negligible even in the smallest of small schemes.

I don’t know what to do with it, but I do try to make sure I remember that what I feel in reaction to other people’s suffering is not equal to their actual suffering. This is where empathy is problematic: if we aren’t careful we end up making it about us, and this isn’t helpful to anyone. 

How you feel while talking to a child who lost their parents is not anywhere on the level of being the child who lost their parents, not matter how acutely you imagine what it might be like.

If we can keep this in check we can be with people in their suffering. We can accept the things we cannot change, and be ready to help make changes where we can.

I may be missing something, but this is all I see us being able to do for a great number of the terrible things that happen in this still-wonderful world.