Short essay about the pain of knowing your friends are hurting and being able to do nothing to help.

Smoking. A slow, malevolent process. It takes away your breath, your heart, your mind, your life. The cigarette tears through the smoker, rotting their teeth, blackening their gums, burning their tongue. It creeps down the throat, shriveling the lungs, squeezing the breath from the body in an eclipse of darkness. It racks the body with pain, and dissolves the brain.
Nevertheless, the pain of the smoker is nothing compared to those who live around him. Secondhand smoke has been found to be even more detrimental to the health than primary smoke. The majority of the smoke from a cigarette or cigar is expelled outward, into the atmosphere. Over 250 secondhand smoke chemicals are harmful, and living near a smoker increases your chance of cancer by 20-30% (http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Tobacco/ETS).
Is this not true of every imaginable pain? It almost seems an axiom of my life with reference to the sorrow of others. This Earth holds extraordinary physical tortures, most of which we will never experience. But there are also incredible mental and emotional destructive forces with which nearly all rational beings find themselves faced. The loss of a loved one, betrayal by a friend, a separation of love, it is all a cancer upon the heart.
And loneliness. It is one of the most horrible emotions one can experience, manifesting itself in everything you do, see, hear, feel. Loneliness is a chronic illness, yet is felt acutely so much of the time. It strikes almost all of us at one time or another, but is incased within the very being of some. I myself may be one of these people, plagued by this feeling of having no one to love me. It can drive one to anything to find an escape. I have sought comfort in the most irrational of actions. It may even drive one to suicide, in the hope of escaping to a life after this one, a life filled with joy. And if that life does not exist, then the pain is ended with one’s very existence. Even in Hell, the lonely will be relieved of their depression, consumed by the fire and brimstone of their holy house of horrors.
But this cannot compare to the worst pains I have felt. These are the pains of others, the smoke leaving their damaged bodies. Seeing the one’s I love in pain, and not really being able to do anything about it, is unbearable. What are our lives worth if we cannot save those we love most from their pain? The feeling of worthlessness is inescapable; there are no comforts, no panaceas. All one can do is let them know you are there for them, but what is the meaning in that if “being there” does not mean doing anything?
How can a problem be so distant, yet the pain so close? Tears are contagious. I have never cried so hard as when I have seen another cry. But like taking a disease, crying for someone doesn’t lessen his or her own tears. No, I can’t take the pain of others from them into myself. Sympathy is but another waste of the human race, worthless when we need it to help most.
How can I cover her eyes, blind him from the pain of the world? My hands are not opaque; their sorrowful eyes see right through the veil. My words are not deafening, my heart not absorbent enough. I can’t breathe the foul smoke for them; I cannot be their oxygen. My love will not suffice. They will see, hear, and feel every one of their pains. And I will do nothing, because my life is worthless.

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