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Student Bob Brintz lives with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and is almost completely paralyzed. Through his writings on the website patientslikeme.com, borrowing heavily from Buddhist teachings, he tries to encourage other ALS patients (PALS) that they too can transform their way of thinking to one that allows joyful living with ALS. Bob was featured in the Mandala July-September 2013 print edition in his article “I Will Be Paralyzed and Happy.”
In a recent response to a 2006 post on the PatientsLikeMe ALS forum, member David, who was diagnosed with bulbar onset motor neuron disease in June 2012, asks, in regard to patients opting not to engage in a battery of life-extending interventions, “How do we want to spend our remaining years and months? If we choose not to fight, are we giving up? Do we love life less?” He ended his post with a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche, the 19th-century German philosopher: “Hope, in reality, is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man.”
Bob responds in “A Path to Survival III: On Hope”:
“ … I feel compelled to reply to David because I believe that his thoughts are shared by many other PALS and they strike me as being in some respects illogical. In saying this, I don’t intend to be judgmental or critical of anyone. My only objective is to help other PALS find their path to survival, if they so choose, as I have found mine.
“… Nietzsche’s was certainly not a philosophy of hopelessness and despair. Although he saw the suffering nature of human existence, he also recognized the great potential of man to overcome every suffering.
“I believe Nietzsche would have seen hope as I define it: as a potent antidote to suffering. From my perspective, hope is a constant mindset or attitude that embraces the positive potential of this very moment. (Hopelessness, in contrast, embraces the negative potential of the present moment.) The essence of hope is to find purpose and meaning in our continued existence. Determined effort (action) to fulfill our meaning and purpose produces that condition we call happiness, well-being, inner peace, joie de vivre. This condition overcomes all suffering.
“Importantly, hope is neither false nor unrealistic. Hope recognizes the glass is half empty, but drinks with gusto from the half that is full. Hope sees the dark cloud overhead, but searches for and finds the silver lining.
“ … What positive potential, what meaning and purpose, you might ask, could I possibly have foreseen in a future paralyzed and on a vent with ALS? I saw that the vent offered me many opportunities that the alternative didn’t, such as: to continue to be my wife’s husband, my children’s father, my mother’s son, a brother, an uncle, a friend; to continue to learn, to grow, to inspire others as others have so inspired me; to love and to be loved; to feel and to care; to laugh and to cry; to continue to contribute to the betterment of the World; to experience the richness and wonder of being alive … so very alive.”
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Mandala Publications is the official publication of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), an international charitable organization founded by two Tibetan Buddhist masters, Lama Thubten Yeshe (1935-1984) and Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche. FPMT is a vibrant international community, with a network of 160 affiliate centers, projects and services, and members in more than 30 countries.
Mandala print magazine is published in January, April, July and October. Mandala is available via the Friends of FPMT program.