A friend's message:
... It was not until last week that I have to know the truth (from one of my colleagues): his wife has suffered from cancer. I was so shocked by the news. For over a week, I have been thinking of the meaning of life. What is the most precious thing in life? A decent job, money, a partner or self experiences? Jobs and money are necessary for survival but they are not everything. A partner is so diffcult to find. It may be self experiences that really count in the end. After all, life is so short and full of the unexpected ...
Some words I say:
I am so sorry to hear news like this. I hate to know people suffering from any kinds of disease or from any kind of uneasiness. I guess that is my personality. I am quite easy to identify with those people. However, they do suffer, and there is nothing we can do for them. All we could do is to give our support and to be strong for them. I guess this is why I want to work for NPO/NGOs. At least, working in these organizations gives me the chance to be there for these people.
Just look at those poor man in Darfur; genocide is way more scarier than any kinds of physical disease. They need our help in whatever ways that can at least help them feel that life is still worth living. Of course, this is very different from your story, but I want you to know that the meaning of living a life is not just pursuing something so trivial, such a money, position, and material satisfaction. Indeed, material part is important for our living in this world, but it is not the only thing that we should look on to. We are human beings, and we are born with the ability to love and give help. To love someone, like a partner, or to love every living thing. To help whoever needs help. This is a belief that we should always bear in mind.
Of course, you can practice this through material ways, but I firmly believe if you practice this through your heart, your mind, and practice it in everyday life, such as being a good support for the one you care about, then what you receive would be more precious than what you give. Don't we usually hear "I’ll be there for you" in movies? Dalai Lama also says that "offering our support without us being realizing that we are actually offering support always gains us delightful feelings that make us happy." Isn't being happy the only goal that we all try so hard to look for in this life? When a person feels happy, naturally s/he thinks whatever actions s/he does is full of meanings that inherently makes his life meaningful.
Back to your story, I believe your friend is not asking for assistance. He is only telling you something that has become so unbearable in his heart. He is only sharing his feelings with you. Nothing you can do to change the conditions of his wife, but your support would give him strength that helps him to be strong in front of his wife. When he is strong, he can stand by his wife and help her face the unexpected future. Sometimes, I feel cancer is the disease Buddha gives us to remind us what we have lost, namely, love. Cancer patients are weak, both physically and mentally. All they need is the will to live. There are cases that cancer patients survive their disease because of their strong will to live. According to these case studies, the result shows most of these patients receive strong and good support from their friends and relatives. Instead of feeling terrible, we need to offer our love/support to them, be there for them.
I am reading Zhuang Zi （莊子） now. His words are smart, and he does enjoy playing with our trivial notions on the meaning of life and the universe. What is life? Is it something that you really can pursue and change? Why does he tell us to comply with the rules of the universe? Is it because we are never able to overcome nature? But why do we always try to succeed the nature? Don't our trivial goals only bring us unhappiness due to our constant failure to achieve these goals? Isn't life full of delightful feelings and happiness when we finally start to comply with the rules of the universe, or in other words, when we finally stop pursuing trivial things?
I found Zhuang Zi's theory quite similar to the teaching of Buddha. They both ask us to learn to quit our trivial habits in this life and to look at the world we live in. They both mention that the meaning of life is tightly bound to our notion of being happy in our everyday life. Of course, they are not saying that we should pursue happiness. They both highlight the idea that if we can comply with the rule of the universe, naturally we will stop craving, and this would definitely bring us peacefulness. Doesn't a peaceful mind make us happy?