Summary of Chapter 5 - When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough
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Summary of Chapter 5 - When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough

Kushner, Rabbi Harold. When All You've Ever Wanted Isn't Enough: The Search for a Life That Matters. Simon & Schuster, 1986.

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Summary of Chapter 5 - When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough

In the fifth chapter "Feeling No Pain, Feeling No Joy" from When All You've Ever Wanted Isn't Enough the author, Harold Kushner, shares his experiences and conversations which led him to unite the perception of rejoicing and distress. Kushner depicts an equal explanation of people unable to enjoy love and happiness at its full potential without leaving oneself open to pain and suffering.

Upon being invited to be a guest speaker at an event based on overcoming situations which caused pain and suffering, Kushner not only had the opportunity to discuss his religious views on coping, Kushner had the pleasure of listening to the other influential commentators and how their religion suggests dealing with such matters. A Hinduist accompanied Kushner for dinner expressing a much different perspective of losing a loved one. As a Hindu, he believed pain is subjectable, and with discipline, the hurt emotions can be ignored and unfelt. Relating to Kushner's past of losing a child, the Hinduist urged Kushner to see there was a blessing amongst the emotions. Kushner respectfully begged to differ offering his sentiment. "When I protect myself against the danger of loss…by teaching myself not to care, not let anyone get to close to me, I lose part of my soul" (Kushner 89).

Another guest Kushner shared a meal with described to Kushner his solution to evading pain. His suggested method of lowering one's expectations lead him to conclude by reducing one's expectancy, pain has limited opportunities to interfere. "…lower the level of what you want to that which you already have, or even lower, … Then instead of frustration and want, you will have tranquility and peace of mind" (Kushner 92). Despite being uplifted by his guest's philosophy, Kushner argued choosing to lower one's expectations desensitizes feelings over time. This act of giving up is also surrendering "… the image of God in us" (Kushner 92). Kushner advises living life in such fashion is not worth the price of reaching happiness at its full capacity. "To become less attached … because life is unfair and unpredictable immunizes me against great pain but also serves to rob me of great hope and great joy" (Kushner 92).

Kushner references growth and one of its characteristics, pain. The growing pains of life could include physical changes such as a person's body developing, or a woman anguished in pain from bearing a child. Personal growth can show up unexpectedly as a result of a major life change caused from a job or a divorce which ignited a fire to pursue their passions. People need to live their lives open to the opportunity to feel pain while also understanding the hurt can lead to a greater outcome and the flood of unwanted emotions will not last forever. Without pain, people are cut off and denied the ability to give all of themselves to a job they love, a person they love, anything they could possibly ever want to love. Even though leaving oneself open to be hurt and constantly waiting for the floor to drop out is scary, a much more terrifying thought is going through life without ever genuinely being in love due to of being too disheartened to even try knowing the possibility of failure exists. "I am afraid … of young people who will grow up afraid to love, afraid to give themselves completely to another person, because they will have seen how much it hurts to take the risk loving and have it not work out" (Kushner 94).

By closing oneself off to pain, whether that be by avoiding disappointment at all costs, choosing to be numb to the feeling of pain, or by building up walls to protect what's inside from all the misfortune that could come, also in turn, then forfeits any acceptance of pleasantries making their way to one's door. "Emotional flatness" (Kushner 98) will be the result of such fearful living, which inflicts souls to be emotionally jaded and blind to the true potential of love and happiness which could be bestowed upon them if only a risk were to be made.

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