If you see a spark, you will find it in the ashes.
A friend of mine called me today to ask my advice. She's enduring the ending of a long relationship, feeling destitute, lonely, and broken. She asked, "Should I go on some meds to make me feel better?"
"Feel better?" I said. "Why should you feel better? Something really important is happening here in your life. It's a major change and what you're likely to feel is grief."
She blurted, "I don't want to feel grief. I don't want to be sad!"
Well, of course we don't want to feel sad. But...really...isn't there an appropriate time for sadness? Have we, as a culture- as a people, lost our tolerance for feeling? Is there some cosmic treaty guaranteeing that neither you nor I nor our neighbor nor best friend will get through life absent suffering?
Still, so many people seem to want a drive-thru cure, 30-second gorilla glue, for a broken heart- for normal feelings like sadness or grief or despair. Many have not had much practice in sorrow, loss, hunger, desire, or want. Affluence attenuates tolerance. Low emotional tolerance increases the risk of depression and other negative psychological outcomes.
And, what do we miss by our evasions, as Jaspers asks? What happens when we obviate emotional risk? There is a sublime, and I would argue necessary, beauty and aptitude waiting to be discovered in the dark emotions. Suffering offers opportunities for change, transformation, and transcendence.
Is it painful? Of course. But since there is no way to eradicate all suffering from the world, perhaps, the most genuinely humane thing we can do for ourselves and for each other is to feel our suffering and that of others. And in so doing, search for the spark, the light, within the ashes.
It just might be the spark that saves another.
In the end, the best I can offer my friend is to feel with her- to confront the suffering by her side, and to fearlessly accompany her on her journey into the dark emotions. In the words of de Montaigne, "the man who fears suffering is already suffering what he fears."