I have just been reading in the Times about the terrible suffering is Misrata in Lybia. They are running out of food, there is no electricity and no fresh water. Since February at least three hundred have died and over a thousand have been injured - the hospitals are running out of supplies and there are no beds available. At least twenty children have been killed and many more injured with shrapnel. The situation is appalling and yet we can do nothing.
We go about our everyday lives, maybe giving them a thought when the situation appears on the TV screen, or when it is written in the newspaper (although have you noticed how it is not long before a news story is sidelined in favour of a new one).
This carefree attitude in spite of suffering seems to be programmed into us. On a more personal level, I remember when my first husband died I was struck by how everything went on as though nothing had happened, how people passed, laughing, in the street.
WH Auden summed it up when he said, "suffering takes place while someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along.
There is also, as one gets older, a feeling that, however many friends and relatives one has, in the end - the final analysis - we are all on our own. Tom Scott, the Scots Poet, who died in 1995 summed this situation up very well when he said that the 'solitudes' begin to close round one. I like the idea of that word.
The birds and the animals go about their daily business totally regardless of anything that goes on around them (unless food is involved). I feel that we should not be like that - after all, we share the world with people in Libya, Ivory Coast, Japan, countries where there is oppression, aids in Africa - I could go on but it would be pointless.
But as Ronald Blythe says about this idea of suffering being personal while we get on with our lives - the same applies to happiness.