Sunday, September 8, 2013

Passion and Suffering in Today's Marketplace of Life - Thanks Obama

I'm sitting out here on the porch in the morning with the new puppy reading a book my wife got from the library about how to pay for college. We are about to experience the financial wringer of the college years with our oldest son entering his junior year in high school. One thing I've learned through hard experience is that pain forewarned about stings less than the sudden kind. The only kernel of truth I've gleaned so far universally applicable is that the base income year used by college financial aid offices begins in the January of the child's high school junior year, in other words, for us it would be next year's tax returns that matter when calculating the amount of aid. Life sucks, but not so much. I guess that's the main thrust of my post this week. You can stop reading now, or if you enjoy the sheer poetry of my writing, you are free to continue to read.

Have you seen this video?
 I thought it was funny and apropos of the idea mentioned above. It's tapping into a meme making the rounds on the Internet making fun of begrudging right wingers pissed off at life. I first encountered it when reading the comments in an article by Paul Solman on the problem of the government's official unemployment figures not taking into account the third of the work force that has stopped applying for full time jobs and now relies on freelance work to make ends meet. There is genuine pain out there in the land with the convoluted and shrinking landscape of remunerative and sustainable work, and opinion is generally divided as to the proper way to meet these challenges. About half of the commenters in the article were of the opinion that individual pluck and fortitude could get you through, and the other half were full of the idea that individuality is merely a mental construct and we are truly just chaff in the wind of the large social forces about which we can do little. I think both camps are correct and here's where it gets deep. Getting ahead, progressing in your life, is about passion, and passion is inseparable from suffering. This is what the great teachers in all ages have sought to pass on. There are certain things you can't get away from, but your individual outlook will determine your ability to align with those universals in a more harmonious way. For Christians, we lay our suffering at the feet of Christ who suffered beyond all imagining for our sake when He could have chosen a different path as the son of God.

Whether you are homeless and out of work due to forces beyond your control, or whether you are a comfortable middle-class citizen with a family and a pension facing the squeeze of college expenses, the amount of suffering is relative but nonetheless pretty constant if you look at it through a lifetime. There are some people who suffer more than others, and that is one of the mysteries and inequities that gnaw at you. The victims of chemical attacks in Syria - the children who didn't deserve it - they arouse our compassion, and there is that word again - passion - this time shared out among us like communion bread and companionship. Suffering has no value for those that suffer, that is all of us. But it is a currency, a gold standard, if you like, that we deal with and in all of our lives.
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