I Have No Eyes, and I Must Cry
Earlier this evening, while taking a walk, I encountered a dying dog at the side of the road. Its body was crumpled from the waist down and a thick layer of blood formed a shallow pool around it. The blood was bright red and smelled quite fresh. The dying dog looked up at me with a confused, pained expression. I didn’t say anything. Instead, I continued quietly on my way.
It occurred to me that the dog, as unfortunate as it appeared, was actually quite lucky. Now, before you accuse me of being a sadistic monster, my reasoning is quite simple. That dog was on the verge of death. As frightening as the thought may seem, death is in fact the only escape any sentient creature has from suffering. And I know that dog felt great pain. I could hear the agony in its howls. I could see the desperation in its eyes. In its dying moment of suffering, death offered a paradise of eternal rest.
This got me thinking even more. What if our entire existence is simply a long eructation of suffering and pain? I dare anyone to name a moment in their life where they did not feel some measure of pain. If you think you can, the reality is your mind may have blanked it out. Because that is what our minds do. It tricks us into forming coping mechanisms from a reality fraught with suffering.
While I continued walking, I noticed that on the horizon the sun began to fall in a blaze of reddish orange. As I stared at the violent colours, I did something I had not done in years. I thought about the concept of God. About eight years ago I decided that God was simply an accepted form of insanity. Instead of talking to an imaginary friend or muttering to myself, I can believe in God and pray to him. God is the get out of jail free card for the broken and hurt. You’re going through physical, mental or emotional pain? God understands. He feels your pain too. He won’t take it away but he’s there to help make it easier to bear. I wonder if that dog saw God when it was dying.
Anyone who has had any experience with suffering has at one point in their lives asked the eternal question – if God exists, why is there suffering? The problem is few people ever ask the question – if God exists, does he feel pain when he watches his creation suffer? If he does, it begs another question. If God is all that is good and pure, how can he feel pain or suffer? Of course, these existential questions are all meaningless if we consider the notion that God is simply another creation of our own minds in order to cope with a brutal, apathetic universe.
The very title of one of my favorite books, No Pain Like this Body, is taken from one of the sayings of Buddha. Published back in 1972, this book is about a woman who slowly succumbs to the brutality of her violent husband, while trying to care for her young children during a nightmarish rainy season. It is a book about pain. Throughout the book, God is described as watching with “his big, big eyes”. Near the end of the book, when a great tragedy has befallen the family, the grandmother, pleads with God to offer some assistance. The passage reads, “With her head in her hand she called the sky God. The sky God was rolling in blackness, but she was still calling God; calling him hard hard; crying and getting on as if the sky God had any time with her. Nanny didn’t know that the sky God was just a lump of blackness; she didn’t know that he was dead and rotten in the sky.” I should also note that the author of the book, a 28-year-old, Harold Sonny Ladoo, was found bludgeoned to death at the side of a cane road in Trinidad in 1973. I wonder if God saw him when he was dying.
Consider some more Buddhist philosophy which helps put suffering into perspective. Buddha’s Four Noble Truths are based on the relationship between suffering and desire. The reasoning is humans seek an escape to suffering by fooling themselves with fleeting physical pleasures. The basic principle is that suffering is inescapable while one is alive but it can be minimized by removing desire from the equation. This ties in nicely with a Scripture I would often read as a child. Found in Matthew 5:29, it says, “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” My interpretation of that passage is if a part of you is causing you pain, you need to remove it or else you end up torturing your entire soul.
When I came home from my walk, I passed one of my childhood pictures that I framed and left in the living room. I must have been about 8 years old in it. A thought began to germinate in my mind. I thought that the one part of me that led to most of my suffering were my eyes. I thought that to see is to desire, and to desire is to become attached, and to become attached is to suffer. I entered the bathroom and stood in front of the mirror, with a pair of scissors in my hand and Matthew 5:29 in my mind. I stared at my reflection and saw my youthful years were forever lost, and with them the prospect of being a great writer or journalist. I opened the scissors, took one of the shiny, cold blades, pressed it against the edge of my eye socket, and kept on pressing, and kept on pressing…
Written May 2020.