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The Daily Dharma – October 22, 2021

You Know Me by William Farlow

It’s hard to accept [the fact that we don’t need to suffer the way we think we do]. Human beings seem to have a long-term love affair with personal suffering. As much as we complain about it, and seek all sorts of remedies, we come back to it again and again, because it seems so real to us, and so important. We are like tragically co-dependent lovers who can’t stop coming back to a toxic relationship, no matter how many times it hurts us. I have heard of brain research showing that we’re hardwired to react much more strongly to drama and difficulty than to peace and easefulness, though we think we are trying to avoid the former and develop the latter. I recently saw a Facebook post about Rwanda that may or may not be true, though it sounds true. The post said that in response to the trauma of the genocide that happened there, people went outside and spent a lot of time in the sun. They also did a lot of communal singing and dancing. Then the Western therapists came to help. The therapists had them sit individually in small dim rooms and encouraged them to recount, again and again, in detail, the terrible things they had witnessed. The Rwandan people did not see this as a reasonable way to cope, so they sent the well-meaning therapists home. Maybe they were in denial, I don’t know; certainly in our culture we would say they were. But who knows? In any case, the emptiness teachings [of Buddhism] don’t offer solutions to problems we must solve; they tell us that these problems are illusions. This doesn’t deny that problems can be solved, and it doesn’t brush them off as trivial or unreal. It simply takes the edge off our desperation.

Norman Fischer
from When You Greet Me I Bow