Tuesday, September 2, 2014

On Suffering

Flickr Credit: KristyFaith

I do not want to write this post. In fact, I have been actively avoiding writing it ever since I wrote the last
one. At first, I thought I had time. Then I got sick.

I do not know what it is like for you when you get sick. Maybe you enjoy getting sick, because you get off from school or work. I have not taken a sick day in nearly six years—and it is not fun. I do it because I don’t want to make up work. And also to prove that I can.

I do permit myself to get sick on the weekends, and I am writing this on a Sunday. My nose and lips are chapped and I keep pulling off flakes of dead skin that itch if I don’t and sting if I do. I don’t like moving my lips. My head throbs when I cough—less than it did yesterday, but still some. My back is sore especially, and my knee. I don’t know why, but apparently organs that have no business feeling ill decide that they can catch a cold too. There’s a tickle in the back of my throat that is a cough yet to come, and it will bring with it gobs of phlegm when my lungs can take no more. And my lungs have taken quite a beating.

You see, I have asthma. A cold that could take a normal person 2-4 days to get over might take me a week. Maybe more, if it’s bad. I woke up this morning hyperventilating, not because I was panicking, but because my lungs had contracted to the point where I could not logically meet my oxygen quota if I wanted to survive. I wrangled up my medicine, started my penguin nebulizer, and breathed.

There are a lot of good feelings in the world. It feels good when you are loved. It feels good when you finish an Avengers movie. It feels good when you wake up to a red sky and white snowdrifts. But to this day I maintain that there is no better feeling than being able to breathe again. It hurt to suck air into my lungs, but I didn’t care, because the pain was better than the wheezing.

I’m not complaining—that is simply how it is. It sucks when I am sick, but if I think about it, it is the same for all the book characters we know and love.

There is suffering. It lasts. It’s not easily solved. Things hurt in places they aren’t supposed to hurt, and there are other distractions that are only making it worse. They wake up to the terror of almost losing the battle, only to find a way to make it through… at a price.

Voldemort is on the prowl, he has spies everywhere. Harry has to deal with breaks in friendship, he doesn’t know where to go, and the Dark Lord’s wish is that he sacrifice himself alone in the forest. They will win… but the dead piling up don’t see their newfound freedom.

Frodo has the ring, but the land is devastated and he doesn’t know if he will make it. There is only Sam, and him, and Gollum, and Gollum wants the ring. He doesn’t want to throw it in—but he will, and the darkness will end… but Frodo will pay for with his health and free memories until he goes to the Grey Havens.

There is a huge mess, the Cat in the Hat has abandoned them, and Mom is coming home this instant. They clean up, but, ironically, the children must lie to their mother to maintain their integrity.


Otto Malpense.

Jane Eyre.

Captain America.

Jesus Christ.

There is suffering. And that matters. Not everybody has such a hard time with colds. Some people are sent to put a ring down a volcano and defeat the evil eye that has watched the land for many years. Some people are sent to die for the world’s sins and go to Hell. But some people get colds.

The point is this: every book, every story must have suffering. There is no point otherwise. Maybe you felt sorry for me when I described my cold, maybe you didn’t. But regardless, you did learn that I am in a fight, and that makes me interesting. I am not just sitting at this computer, scrolling through Pinterest and chatting with my friends. There are other things, other pains, and they haunt me even past my sleep.

And that is why it matters to them too. Characters must be interesting—even the secondary or tertiary characters. They must have pains. They must have struggles that they will die for or die from. It makes us care… and the good ones remind us of ourselves a little bit, too.

How do you feel about suffering? 


  1. I applaud you for writing over 800 words on the fact that you have a cold. :)

    1. Thank you. :) I enjoy proclaiming the news without spreading the germs. :D

  2. In America, it can be easy to avoid suffering. We like reading about suffering well enough, but we spend a lot of time avoiding the suffering of our oversees troops, the people of Ethiopia, or the thousands of orphans in China. This post is a great reminder that suffering is going on to various degrees and levels all over the world. When put in perspective, our 'suffering' like running out of milk after pouring the cereal, or not having the right pair of shoes, is so minuscule.
    Thanks for commenting on Inklined!

    ~Sarah Faulkner

    1. #FirstWorldProblems

      You're definitely right; Americans are more privileged than we know—and sometimes we don't even know about the struggling people on our own doorsteps. Yeah, I complain about a cold, but there's more stuff to be done in the world. Perhaps I should have mentioned that more in the post!

      And absolutely. ;)