I was walking down the street on the way to work, and someone bumped into me. They didn’t even look back or apologize. I was so angry. I lost control and yelled that the man should consider using their eyes when walking. A few moments later, after I had turned and walked away, he was yelling.
I looked back and saw that he had fallen and his face was bloody. I panicked, ran over, and called over another bystander. I said, “quick, call an ambulance!” I asked the man what happened. He said, “I tripped on the sidewalk and fell onto my face. I can’t see!” Although it was irrational, I felt nervous, and even guilty.
I never was a violent person before, but after that I was extra careful about what I said when I was angry. I made sure to say only kind things to people. As it turned out, this seemed to have an effect as well. The friend that I hoped would find love started dating someone a few days later. The friend that I wished would find success in their art was published after two months.
But then I noticed that these effects weren’t always positive. The friend who was published ended up feeling depressed after she realized that her success didn’t make her feel fulfilled. The friend who found love eventually broke up with his lover, and he experienced heartbreak like never before. Had I caused this suffering?
I felt that this power was dangerous, and I should only use it for serious cases. What were issues that really needed to be solved? Hunger? Oppression? Inequality? To learn, I started to read. I read about the history of human acts and terrible things. I learned what we had done to each other. I was shocked about how humanity could do such terrible things.
I read good things too. Stories of hope, creativity, and inspiration. Times when people helped others in distress, or when they offered themselves as a sacrifice to save others. But all of these stories had one thing in common. They were always in response to a terrible situation or unfair circumstance. Even the good things were somehow connected to bad things..
I tried to remain neutral as much as possible to prevent any more negative outcomes. I would say things like, “everything happens for a reason.” I found that these words didn’t alter anything in my surroundings, so I realized they must have had some truth. This seemed to work until one of my good friends got sick.
He suffered from a painful cancer. I didn’t want him to die, but I also was worried about the effects my words might have. Over time, his condition worsened. Of course, he didn’t want to die either, but the pain was taking a toll. So, every time the nurse would visit him, he would save a little bit of the pain medication. Over time, he built up enough to “end it all”. One day he confessed this to me, and I felt torn.
If I took away his pills, he would know it was me, and wouldn’t forgive me. If I told him I wanted him to live, I would be forced to see him suffer in some other worse ways. So I said, “everything happens for a reason.” He got angry and asked me to leave.
A few days later, my friend took the pills. I thought, ‘this must be for the best’ as I didn’t say anything that wasn’t neutral. Still, I fell into a deep melancholy. I didn’t leave my home or talk to anyone. I couldn’t dispel the idea that I could have done something to prevent this. Eventually, I thought that by just living I could be the one causing the world’s suffering.
Naturally, I considered suicide, but I also knew that this was not a neutral act, and as such, could have dire consequences. I remembered the books I read. Humans had been causing suffering long before I was born. They would likely continue to do so after I had left. No matter what I said or did, suffering would happen.
Over time, I got over my friend’s death. I met someone and we fell in love. After a few months, we got married. When the child came, we named her Lucy. I wanted everything good to happen for her, and I wanted to protect her from suffering. But, I knew that I couldn’t. This brought great sadness to me.
I saw Lucy experience great joy in many things, as a parent sees a child do. I also saw her experience suffering and pain. When she got older, she continued to struggle in finding her right career, a person to love, and other issues humans all experience. Throughout that time, I tried to remain neutral. I tried not to wish anything for her and said, “everything happens for a reason.” Luckily, she seemed to have a pretty normal life. It seemed to work.
When I was 60 years old, I developed an aggressive cancer. My daughter was 30 and very sad to see me in pain. My wife could barely handle it either. The doctor had told us that I had a low chance of survival. Of course, I did not want to suffer like this, and I knew how this was making my family suffer as well, but I also tried as hard as I could to remain neutral.
When the illness has progressed so far that I was on my deathbed, my daughter came to me and told me that she wished that I didn’t have to experience this. I told her that she should be careful to wish for such things, as we didn’t know the consequences. She got angry, and with tears in her eyes, she left. I called after her, “everything happens for a reason!” I hope I was right.