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Etymologically, the opposite of “suffering” is, therefore, “apathy”
September 8, 2013 10:48 AM   Subscribe

The Value of Suffering by Pico Iyer [New York Times]
posted by Fizz (17 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

Thanks, I think I found my new favorite haiku:

“The world of dew
is the world of dew.
And yet, and yet--”
posted by OrangeDrink at 11:09 AM on September 8, 2013

Tsuyu no yo wa tsuyu no yo nagara sari nagara
The world of dew --
A world of dew it is indeed,
And yet, and yet . . .

After his poem of reluctant grief, Issa saw another son die and his own body paralyzed. His wife died, giving birth to another child, and that child died, maybe because of a careless nurse. He married again and was separated within weeks. He married a third time and his house was destroyed by fire. Finally, his third wife bore him a healthy daughter — but Issa himself died, at 64, before he could see the little girl born.
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 11:17 AM on September 8, 2013

Everything I touch
with tenderness, alas,
pricks like a bramble.

posted by whyareyouatriangle at 11:18 AM on September 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

The world is horrible enough without the horror of people reconciling to it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:51 AM on September 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

I wish I could find the exact quote, but there's a phrase I often think about that goes along the lines of

"The world is so beautiful, it's amazing we're not laughing all the time. The world is so terrible, it's amazing we're not crying all the time."
posted by OrangeDrink at 12:14 PM on September 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

Is the message here essentially "Suffering happens. It's how we react that matters?"

I also must admit, I don't quite understand the meaning of the dew poem. Can someone elaborate for the uninitiated?
posted by zooropa at 12:22 PM on September 8, 2013

The idea, as I interpret it, is that the world is temporary and will disappear, but despite understanding this we get attached and feel despondent about it. Essentially a poem about the concept of mono no aware.
posted by OrangeDrink at 12:25 PM on September 8, 2013 [8 favorites]

Yeah, but what I love about it is it doesn't specify what comes after the "and yet." If you translate the metaphor back into crude literality, it's something like "Impermanent shit is impermanent — and yet...."

And, well, there are actually a lot of different sentiments you could fill in after the "and yet" and still have the contrast make sense. I'm sure some of them would have been especially salient for his audience, and there's definitely some (probably a nonidentical set) that are salient for me, but the openness of it is really what I find awesome. In a way, it asks the same question as the article: "okay, shit sucks — but so what are you gonna balance against that?"
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 1:04 PM on September 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Issa's poem strikes a lot of resonant tones in the context of Mahayana Buddhism. The "world of dew" brings to mind the famous verse uttered by the Buddha at the end of the Diamond Sutra:
As a lamp, a cataract, a star in space;
an illusion, a dewdrop, a bubble;
a dream, a cloud, a flash of lightning:
view all created things like this.
When he says "a world of dew it is indeed," the poet confirms his understanding of the Buddhist teachings of emptiness and impermanence. But instead of clinging to this view, he expresses compassion and suffers with the pain of the world. This is a basic theme of the Mahayana, for which the highest ideal is the bodhisattva who attains enlightenment for the sake of other beings, and who "returns" to the messy world instead of staying in the peace of nirvana. Issa wrote in his diary:
In the end, on the 21st day of Sixth Month, together with the morning-glory blossoms, she withered. Her mother clinging to the corpse, burst into tears. At this moment, although I tried to resign myself to the fact that water, once it flows past, doesn’t come by a second time, or blossoms, once fallen, never return to the trees... I couldn’t break the chain of love.
I can't resist the association between dew and tears. And that reminds me of a couple of other Issa haikus:
the morning dew
teaches the way...
to the Pure Land

in leaf dew
In this sense, Issa's mourning tears themselves express the Buddha-dharma...
posted by mbrock at 1:15 PM on September 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

“The world of dew
is the world of dew.
And yet, and yet--”

I know the sentiment is different but every time I hear this haiku I'm reminded of this bit from Stanley Kunitz's The Testing Tree:

In a murderous time
the heart breaks and breaks
and lives by breaking.
It is necessary to go
through dark and deeper dark
and not to turn.

The second and third lines, especially.
posted by dobbs at 1:27 PM on September 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Pico, living for years now in Japan, has clearly picked up a Buddhist perspective. Some of here, in the West, thinking of suffering, recall The Book of Job
posted by Postroad at 2:03 PM on September 8, 2013

This quote from the article reminded me of Ask Metafilter:
Anyone who’s been close to a loved one suffering from depression knows that the vicious cycle behind her condition means that, by definition, she can’t hear the logic or reassurances we extend to her; if she could, she wouldn’t be suffering from depression.

So many people go on there asking to be reasoned out of their discomfort and don't want to hear that it's not going to work, that they have to do the digging in their own mind assisted by a professional. Maybe it must work for some people, I don't know.
posted by bleep at 2:55 PM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

The world is horrible enough without the horror of people reconciling to it.

But where does one find reconciliation? Even the Lama shed a tear.
posted by mr. digits at 6:49 PM on September 8, 2013

I can't help but recall the New Age aphorism that's been floating around for years (and this in response to the FPP' title Etymologically, the opposite of “suffering” is, therefore, “apathy”): The opposite of Love is not Hate; it is Apathy (or, more commonly, Indifference).

We all know cliches can be more true than up-to-date flippant wit.
posted by kozad at 9:12 PM on September 8, 2013

What it said is that the root word giving "suffering" is related to "passion." But the opposite of "passion" isn't "apathy"--it's "action," as "passive" is the opposite of "active."
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:41 AM on September 9, 2013

Pico, living for years now in Japan, has clearly picked up a Buddhist perspective.

I was curious about the author and looked at his Wikipedia page. His full name is "Siddharth Pico Raghavan Iyer" and his parents were an Indian philosopher and a religious scholar, so I am guessing he's had a grasp on Buddhism most of his life.

Now, it's possbile his years in Japan have colored his perspective with a Zen flavor; but that's a different thing since Zen is just one particular school of Buddhism.
posted by aught at 8:20 AM on September 9, 2013

“The world of dew
is the world of dew.
And yet, and yet--

Do the Dew.”
posted by stenseng at 1:58 PM on September 9, 2013

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