The General Theory of Relativity of Suffering and Enjoying

by Joachim Steingrubner <>, 26 May 95.

Suffering/Enjoying seems to be dependent on the social context.

This realization did not come to me as a result of analytical reflection; rather it was impinged on me on a recent trip through India and Southeast Asia.

On the first glance, the slums of Bombay seem to be a sea of carton sheds, occasionally equipped with a partial tin cover.

On closer examination, a very structured social life appears. All the various parts of the slums have their own history, heroes, and outlaws.

The key experience for me was when I discovered that there were 'bums' in the slums. It took me quite a while to digest this realization because to me there is quite a significance in this circumstance (which also sheds a new light on the question of poverty and bums in American cities.)

While my light skin perplexion, time restraints, and, last not least, my wife, were preventing me from immersing myself too deep into this particular social context, I still had the opportunity to attend both an 'up-scale' slum wedding and a 'Bombay Jet Set wedding'.

In a nutshell, I found the 'up-scale' slum people considerably happier than the rich elite. The wedding of the tuk-tuk driver and the tin-collectress was enjoyed by all and cheerfully celebrated.

The Harvard/UCLA-educated wedding party featuring the top guru of Bombay who arrived with his own security escort, was the emotional low on my entire trip.

Before wandering off into more details, I want to say that I now, more than ever, refrain from comparing my own living standard with others in different social contexts.

Pain/enjoyment is NOT a function of absolute measures; it is embedded in the environment in which we live and what we want to do within this environment.

I saw more joy in the eyes of kids waving to the bride at that slum wedding than I ever observed in the eyes of Western kids.

On that christmas eve in bombay, I was thinking of my own childhood and of the children that I now know in Western countries.

I pictured myself and them in front of the christmas tree. Somehow I envied the kids of the slum a bit. Their joy was deeper and more honest than what I knew before.

The ability to feel both pain and happiness, as a dichotomy, appears to be mutually dependant. The less one knows pain, the less one can experience happiness.

This might be very well one of the reasons for the 'pain worship' we see around us. In any case, well worth of careful consideration and reflection.