Why We Suffer: Asceticism and The Search For Inner Harmony

Job 1:12—

“And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord…”

I am not exactly a fanatic of the Bible, but I still find myself captivated by many of its stories, and the meanings they have passed down (I mean, it’s been around for God knows how long, constantly changing and re-interpreted).

For example, the story of Job, who may well be one of the most unluckiest saps to ever keep his faith in an inherently benevolent God. For some reason, during a bet between Satan and God, the former claimed no one would worship or obey him if they weren’t granted his divine grace. The result? Put your most devout follower to the test (taking Jehovah’s protection away from him), even if that means destroying everything and everyone that he had, and driving the subject himself to near death.

Because, y’know, nothing bad ever happens when we mortals lose everything we are attached to.

Above: Divine Agony

Despite this overwhelming cruelty and the spiteful comments of his friends, Job stayed strong and true to his faith (claiming it was just “God’s will”), with Satan finally backing down and God giving Job replacements—plus interest—for everything he had lost. Now while I think this was sadistic, as God rarely ever ‘steps in’ as is, it shows how far evil must go to crush an integrous man, able to shrug off his suffering as God’s will, and I can’t help but relating to Job in moments when our principals and core beliefs are jeopardized by forces beyond our control.

In an age of rapid information and ubiquitous technologies, it is easy to feel trapped and be distracted from our true selves. To embrace simple living, that is, living on the bare necessities and constitutes of mankind —so that I may better myself as a person with moral obligations—is what I strive towards every day. This kind of thinking, whether if your a Bohemian refusing to use a cell phone or in extreme athletics or a starving monk, is known as Asceticism… However, it does come with limits.

Let’s start first by defining what that word. Asceticism is from the Greek word áskesis, which means training, or exercise. There are many differing views and types of this lifestyle choice (for example the Stoics versus the Hindus), but its main principles remain the same: pleasure is ultimately unfulfilling, and the only way to live with true purpose is to self-discipline the mind and body via abstinence from worldly pleasures, such as sex, drugs, or rock n’ roll. Of course, this may do the same thing as Hedonism, leaving one exhausted and empty, and I am a firm believer of the Buddha’s middle-way: everything must come with moderation to prevent suffering. And moderation must come with changes of behavior, awareness, and communication.

This year, I vow to minimalize all toxic substances (and people) from my life, and increase my levels of endurance in productive activities such as running, surfing, meditation, and especially writing.

So, let me know guys and gals: what ways do you search for balance in your life?