Julie/ October 18, 2023/ Paul Brenner, MD, PhD

(This blog was originally written in 2019 by Dr. Brenner but was lost to our archives, until recently. We are so proud to share his words of wisdom and love that persist even after he has passed on to the next big adventure.)

My years at the San Diego Cancer Center became a seminar in suffering. Suffering is not medically treatable.  It is a pain that can only be resolved by the individual who is experiencing it.

“…It matters little that you suffer, so long as you feel alive with a sense of the close bond that connects all living things, so long as love does not die!” ― Hermann Hesse

There was a time when I chose to live an isolated life for an extended period of time.  When I would call my sister, Claire, and share my emotional pain, she would repeatedly say, “Paul, I love your suffering. You always find meaning in it.  Call me when you unravel it.” Without saying goodbye, she would hang up.  This always brought laughter and a brighter mood.  Obediently, I would call back, share my insight; and, in the telling, invariably forget it myself…while my sister remembered it. Over time, I learned not to share my wisdom until I had lived it.  Insight, like a fine wine, should never be shared before its time.

“Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it.” — Spinoza

To form ‘a clear and precise picture of suffering’ and, to live the insight that comes from that suffering, is the way to alleviate suffering. The emotional pain of suffering cannot be alleviated by medicine or another. The experience of that emotional pain demands the acceptance of our fragility, our imperfection, our helplessness, our limitation, and so our humanness.  In that acceptance, we are left with the greatest gift of all: compassion.  Compassion is finding love in all things, self, other, and all aspects of life.