An Excerpt from A Troubled Guest: Life and Death Stories by Nancy Mairs

Nancy Mairs presents a series of essays that offer an unflinching look at death in its many manifestation. Here is an excerpt on suffering as a source of meaning.

"Beneath my interest in death, as in disability before it, lay my desire to understand the role of affliction in perfecting human experience. Although suffering is a state often considered scandalous in modern society, a mark of illness to be cured or moral deviance to be corrected, from a spiritual perspective it is simply an element in the human condition, to be neither courted nor combated. To refuse to suffer is to refuse fully to live. Doing so leads not only to risky behaviors (self-mutilation, anorexia nervosa, and addiction all stem from an inauthentic relation to suffering) but also to an anesthesia of the soul which renders play all but impossible. In short, suffering needs to be redeemed and reincorporated into the framework we use to ascribe meaning to otherwise chaotic experience. Without death to round our little lives, they have neither shape nor sweetness nor significance."