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Inanna and Gilgamesh: Me and My Lover

Inanna, the goddess who survived many ordeals, knelt by a tree longing for a bed. It was her spirit-friend tree, her solace, the sanctuary to which she escaped when life was too much. Yet the Queen of the Underworld (her dark sister) had taken over the tree, embedding herself comfortably in the trunk. And a serpent lazily twined around, up and down Inanna’s previous source of hope. As she despaired, a friend appeared. Gilgamesh and Inanna had had hard times and would have more. But they cared for and respected each other, and now he was there to help. Now, Gilgamesh was no saint. He was king of Uruk, and we all know that...
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Conclusion: Are You Immune? (“On Gratitude and Suffering,” Part IV)

Every human might suffer more in the future than they have in the past. If it happens to you, be compassionate with yourself. PART IV: Are You Immune? Empathy is born of suffering. Political activism can be born of suffering (and of guilt and of many other factors — does it really matter which as long as the outcome is laudable?) Spiritual awakenings, life purposes, historic events, meaningful relationships, political coalitions — many great things are born of suffering. We rob ourselves of the potential for greatness by denigrating suffering and the sufferer, whether in ourselves or others, just as much as we rob ourselves of balance and perspective when we fail to cultivate...
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Is Suffering Contagious? (“On Gratitude and Suffering,” Part III)

Avoid suffering, avoid life. PART III: Is Suffering Contagious? It is possible to literally feel other people’s emotions. Sometimes vicariously, through mental anguish. Other times we literally feel people’s emotions in our bodies; as an empath that happens frequently to me. So, yes, it is possible to “catch” another person’s anger, grief or melancholy. What we do with it says a great deal about who we are. “When I am tempted to judge others for their suffering, I try to remember that the boundaries between disaster and good fortune are thin and unstable.” — Deborah, writing in 1999. Many of us avoid people who suffer, partially because we fear their suffering is contagious. Some...
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“Stop Whining!” (“On Gratitude and Suffering,” Part II)

Are you charitable? PART II: “Stop Whining” I feel gratitude because I have suffered. The greater my suffering, the greater my ability to appreciate that which I have. I am keenly aware of those factors in my life that have held me separate from greater misery and created positive experiences and emotions. So when I hear someone speak of someone else who is suffering by saying, “They should count their blessings and stop whining,” I experience it as what is sometimes called a “mind-fuck.” A mind-fuck is something that postulates one thing without acknowledging another factor that is also true and contradicts the first postulation. A mind-fuck twists logic, and often presumes multiple false...
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There but for the Grace of God (“On Gratitude and Suffering,” Part I)

I wrote this essay in 1999 while living in upstate New York. These reflections, from a time in my life that many things were working well, seem relevant to “Living in My Car, With Dogs.” I have broken the essay into four parts. PART I: There but for the Grace of God I have so much to be grateful for. So many people who have had the experiences of abuse, violence, loss, and mental health challenges that I have had are on the streets, or in a brothel, or dead of suicide like two of my childhood friends, or living the life of the dead see-sawing between heroin-induced haze and prison-imposed regret like another...
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