Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Downside of Schadenfreude: On Not Profiting from Sorrow


New slogan is a bit of a doozy:
Don’t seek others’ pain as the limbs of your own happiness.
The language is a bit obfuscating, but not terribly so. Still, I turned to the page about this tenet and found a much more intelligible version: "Don't look to profit from sorrow." The explanation added depth to my preliminary understanding as well:
"All Buddhist practice, and mind training in particular, is about ending suffering. Anticipation of gain from others' suffering, or even complacency about it, breaches the intention of this practice."
After reading that I had a moment of guilt, especially after all the videos of cat fails that I've watched. I can even admit to the occasional juicy moment of schadenfreude. However, since I'm not one to shy away from growth and challenge, I moved onto the Tricycle page about this tenet.

One paragraph in particular stood out as a reason for me to work on this but not to beat myself up too much about it:
"This slogan is about exploitation. It is about taking advantage of others in order to maintain our wealth and privilege. It could also be applied to our attitude to our mother earth. It is about the habit of take take take, with no gratitude, and with blindness as to the consequences."
That idea of "with no gratitude" resonated, still resonates, so strongly. Gratitude is a huge thing for me. I'm grateful to people who hurt me because it gives me the opportunity to grow. I'm grateful to people who help me for the same reason. I'm especially grateful for cat fail videos that make me laugh. Heck, I'm even grateful to the animals and plants who give their lives so I can eat, to the farmers who grow my food, to the drivers who transport it, to the cooks and grocery clerks and so on. I think it is impossible to live and never benefit from someone else's pain even distantly. It *is* possible to feel grateful for the people who help you be who you are.

It's about mindfulness. Lief's advice for this tenet, "Whether you think of yourself as privileged or as underprivileged, contemplate the effect of buying into the paradigm that increasing your happiness depends on decreasing the happiness of others," doesn't feel as applicable to my life this week. Instead, I'm going to try to pay attention to all the people who do benefit my life in whatever way and express my gratitude for them.

So, that's what I'll be working on. Until next time, namaste and all that.

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