RUMINATIONS FROM DEEP INSIDE
THE ORDINARINESS OF SUFFERING
By Lavjay Butani
“Do you have a few hours to spare?” he said, somewhat sarcastically, on stepping outside the room following his interview. “The next patients I just saw are a couple who for some reason refused to be seen in separate rooms. And they have so many complaints and things that are wrong with them that I could go on and on. I really don’t know where to being.” Such was the reception that awaited me as I walked into the S clinic this past weekend – a volunteer student run clinic designed to serve the uninsured community of Sacramento.
Nothing could have prepared me for the sadness that permeated the face of couple who sat so close to each other side by side on chairs across the door ….yet who were so far apart that an unbridgeable chasm seemed to separate them. Faces that seemed resigned-accepting of misfortunes that had befallen them: loss of a job, bearing the burden of talking care of an extended family, lack of help with house work-all snowballing into a dense web of anxiety, anxiety and dread perhaps at losing the very meaning of their lives. Bodies that sat still, not looking at each other, worn from the trauma of an unforgiving life-aching with pains, so less real than the physical pain of a trauma victim – and in fact, far deeper and almost integrated into their very existence and being.
They wanted to be listened to…to feel that they had been heard, to share their suffering. I did not get the sense that they wanted munch more than that. Each seemed ensconced in their own world; a world that seemed very distant to me, yet so possibly close to my own reality.
Because what I saw in their eyes and their faces were glimpse of myself…or at least what I could become if fate were to so ordain. What shook me was the pervasiveness…the ordinariness…of sadness and suffering. A haunting image of the fleeting nature of happiness and the transience of tranquility…of how suffering surrounds us in every moment of our existence and how we so comfortably numb ourselves to it.
Life would be so hard, wouldn’t it, if we were so acknowledge of suffering of all creatures…and become one with them. But isn’t that what humanity is meant to do…to listen to the ‘other side of silence’ as George Elliot said and become one with the world?