Tuesday, December 04, 2007


All creatures suffer, as the Buddha taught. It's the one thing we have in common with each other, with weasels and wolves and wombats.

All creatures grow old, grow sick, and die as well, but we're the only ones that know in advance those things will happen. The weasels and wolves and wombats are off the hook of that sorrowful knowledge.

Some suffering is inevitable, but other kinds are optional. Smoking was always optional in the old days, and now my heroin is nicotine. It's like a demon that's determined not to let go, so the struggle and the suffering will go on, probably a year or more. All I can do is take each day as it comes, and take them all one at a time. After a year has gone by I'll re-assess my relationship with this dirty fighter, who makes me sick in other parts of my body besides brain and lungs, and will go to seemingly any lengths to avoid relinquishing control of me.

It was probably good, in that case, that I was called out this morning to make a 12-step call, and asked to intervene in the case of a young alcohol addict coming off a nine-day run on hard booze. He was a pitiful sight by the time I got to him -- red as a hunk of corned beef, shaking, and blind in one eye.

"I guess I didn't take my contacts out for a week," he said.

And he was grateful for the ride to rehab, where he'll spend the next three days or so detoxing. I've never done it, but I've heard it involves significant amounts of intense suffering. So it goes, as Vonnegut always said.

"For a while the fool's mischief
Tastes sweet, sweet as honey.
But in the end it turns bitter.
And how bitterly he suffers!"

After I grumbled, rolled out, got some hot water on my sore back, and generally scraped myself off getting ready for that 12-step call this morning, I ran into the old lady from up the street who takes care of cats when people are gone, and has an unknown number of her own. She asked about my twin tomcats, then said,

"That new little kitty that I got sure thinks I'm her mama."

And it hit me, as I said goodbye and turned away, how many people in the world are only looking for something warm-blooded that they can love, and that might even love them back. The incredible loneliness of the human soul hit me like a bullet as I walked away, and the tears stood in my eyes, and I wept bitterly to think of all this suffering.

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