Our Town: Celebrate joy to assuage the pain of daily suffering


I recall when I was 14 one of our horses had just won a race at Aqueduct and my father and I were walking along the track to the backstretch where the horse would be cooled down and washed.

The horse was Dr. Carrington and he won maybe $35,000 for us that afternoon.

But I could see my father was very unhappy. He was grumbling with his head down and cursing under his breath.

I asked him what was wrong and he yelled out “If that God dammed third place horse came in second we would have won a huge daily double.”

I quickly remarked “but we just won a $35,000 purse, isn’t that enough?”

He looked at me and said “Well Tommy, I guess I’m never happy.”

Sad indeed to win $35,000 and not take a moment’s joy from it. My old man is not alone with this problem.

I would venture to say that habitual misery is the lot in life for nearly all Americans. I think we must be wired this way.

Buddha told us ‘life is suffering” and Henry David Thoreau said “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

Despite the familiar answer that “I’m doing great!” the inner reality is that men do lead lives of quiet desperation.

And clear proof that humans are constantly suffering is to note how many drug stores like CVS’S, Rite Aides or Walgreens’ are in our neighborhoods.

Last Sunday  I attended my first Westbury Friends Meeting.

The Quakers are a successful and highly educated group and their Sunday hour-long meeting is a silent meditation intermixed with people standing up to share thoughts about their spiritual journey.

Someone spoke  about the Bible’s Book of Job and how angry Job was about his losses, financial setbacks  and his illnesses. Job was tired of all his suffering.

Job is a guy I can relate to.

I can’t recall the last time I was pain free.  I go through an unrelenting cycle of suffering.

It may start with prostate pain and a visit to Dr. Goldberg, my urologist in Manhasset.

This will clear in time only to be replaced by chest pain, worry about a heart attack and a visit to Cardiac Associates in Garden City.

Testing reveals all is well with the heart but this good news may last about the length of time it takes for me to get  to my car in the parking lot where upon I may begin to feel  back pain.

Physical therapy will help the back but this will be followed by an attack of hives.

This sounds like a Woody Allen film but I am arguing that nearly every adult in America is suffering silently about  something or other be it physical or mental.

So  I took a survey and asked people the question “What percentage of your day is spent suffering. “

The first group I surveyed was the staff at Minuteman Press in Williston Park who looked to be in their 30s.

They paused when I asked the question and were nice enough to be honest.

All three discussed the various physical and psychological suffering they experience each day.

The interview even touched upon the Jean Paul Sartre quote “Hell is other people.”

They decided that they spend about 85 percent of the day suffering in some way.

Knight suggested that a survey of three was not big enough so I decided to ask Jasmine my yoga instructor the same question.

She is this adorable looking 20 something and she said  ”Well maybe about 50 percent of my day is spent suffering.”

Fair statement.

I sometimes wonder if trees and flowers suffer as much as humans do.

If you look at a tree covered with snow it rightfully ought to feel cold and miserable but something tells me they don’t suffer like us. It must have something to do with IQ.

I don’t think dogs or cats suffer like us either.  If you watch them carefully they seem quite relaxed and content most of the time.

I also believe that Americans suffer more than any other nations.

We take fewer vacations than others.

Italians have their ‘dolce far niente’, the French invented café society and even the South Koreans enjoy K-Pop, Psy and Gangnam Style.

To complete the survey I needed to observe children and determine their level of suffering.

I stopped by Johns Variety Store in Williston Park hoping to find a kid to observe. No kids but I did notice toys like Slinky, Silly Putty, and board games like Scrabble, Clue, Monopoly, and Chutes and Ladders.

The vibes in the store were pure happiness and joy.

I then walked down a few stores to Bagel Express and noticed a 9 year old boy doing a dance of some kind in front of the milk and soda case.

What more proof do you need? Kids are intrinsically joyful and not filled with much suffering.

The survey is complete and the conclusion is simple.

Over time we human adults build up much scar tissue and lots of painful memories which make us apprehensive.

We are sentient creatures,  highly sensitive and cautious.  Our skittishness, fearfulness and worry  insures our survival.

But wouldn’t it be grand if we could enlarge our share of happiness and reduce our share of suffering.

Maybe someone could invent a board came called Chutes and Ladders for Adults. Something simple to play and guaranteed to instill joy into our suffering adult American brains.

Any ideas?


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