Now the Theodicy is slow going. These scholars of yore were long-winded. They were before the Internet and so their readers had fewer distractions (phone, TV, computer, etc) vying for their attention. In fact the attention spans have historically been much longer than they are today. Short-term memory as well. Just the other night my friend's wife complained that she can't remember anything that happened to her the day before. Although her long-term memory is perfect. I'd worry that this was the early signs of Alzheimer's, since dementia presents this way, but really her lament is merely a symptom of the current age. Why do I have to remember facts when I can run to Wikipedia and look them up, or bark an order at my phone, or at Amazon Echo (neither of which I own) to answer my questions for me. This can't be good for the human race, a fact I'll return to - oh but that reminds me, if everything is for the best, and our interests are always served, then becoming a race of ineffectual, flabby consumers is just what God/the Universe intended. Unless that day never comes. But a visit to the McDonald's drive-thru is enough to convince a person that the day is already here.
It's just really baffling to think that the world is perfect as it is. I for one could imagine a world without suffering, pain, anguish and death. Not the details, which are hard to envision, but in vague, broad brush strokes, a paradisical place where everybody was happy all the time, where every day was bright and sunny, where a smile was today's equivalent of a straight face. One word, boring! Ya think? But it's comical to think that a world in which the vast majority of inhabitants consume animal products, and also where various health experts and religious leaders throughout history have discouraged meat-eating, could be perfect. Isn't this a contradiction? How can eating hamburgers be okay when beef causes cancer and heart-disease? Among Buddha's laws was that we should not be cruel to other living things or kill. Eating meat involves both transgressions. But I have used this contradiction, between what we "should" do and what most of us actually do, to argue my way out of endeavors on account of their futility. In response to the suggestion of one friend that I accompany her to a public school and lecture the kids on healthy eating, I replied, "I don't think God created obesity in order that I should fight it." In other words, leave well enough alone. Maybe this is escapist, I don't know. It felt right at the time.
But suffering does have a purpose. Take running, which I do quite a lot of. Training for a marathon and completing the 26.2-mile race involves a lot of effort, struggle, commitment, even pain. And the fact that such inconveniences are involved make it worthwhile. If running a marathon were easy, maybe fewer people would do it than the 20-plus thousand that complete the LA Marathon every year. How's that for irony. My friend recently asked me for an example of a paradox. Well, look nor farther than running marathons, if in our alternate world they were easy to achieve. I guess for some people even in this world they are. Like George Sheehan, who ran marathons in around 3 hours per, and well into his fifties, while logging a mere 30 or so miles per week. That stat never fails to astound me.
But I take comfort in the fact that things are as they should be. Sure, I'd prefer it if I didn't have screws in my leg, if I never had to clear my throat or detangle my hair, where people would call me back when they say they will, a world without traffic and smog, one in which my writings would be appreciated, one without hemorrhoids and herpes and hangnails and hangovers, and I really could do without making my bed every dang morning, but these things are just part and parcel of life. They add to the tapestry. And your life is your art. Maybe the true purpose of suffering is to allow us to feel relief when our time has come. And despite what Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari, who imagines a future in which humans become useless and their lives lose all meaning, has to say in his new book, Homo Deus, which is that technology will one day allow us to defeat death - egad, not wanting to go on living and being doomed to live forever, now that is a real paradise! - for now and the foreseeable future, dying and suffering have their rooted place.
So suffer to your heart's content, and when it comes time, die that way too, but do so with a smile on your face, is what I say. A perfect world is one in which we all get to wear hairpieces like Liebniz did. Give me that, and I am happy. It all boils down to simple pleasures I guess.