I first learned these in a philosophy class, and answered the question "Is Buddhism a Philosophy or a Religion" here.
As I read through the "Noble Truths" I was sad - What is missing from these "truths?"
As a Christian, the answer leaps out at me - grace.
The short version is "life's a bitch, and then you die."
The first noble truth: Life is suffering.
There's physical suffering, we all know what that is. There's mental suffering, whether it's a job you don't like, an argument with a neighbor, grief, or simple unhappiness.
Even when you have joy and happiness, it just leads to more suffering; a break from suffering, at best.
Suffering is a fact of life. There are four unavoidable physical sufferings; birth, old age, sickness and death. There are also three forms of mental suffering; separation from the people we love; contact with people we dislike and frustration of desires. Happiness is real and comes in many ways, but happiness does not last forever and does not stop suffering. Buddhists believe that the way to end suffering is to first accept the fact that suffering is actually a fact of life.
The book of Ecclesiastes affirms (sort of) this thought, although in a more balanced way.
The second noble truth: the Cause of Suffering
First - craving. Whether you crave health, food, a new car - if you want something that you don't have, that's "suffering."
And craving is rooted in ignorance - the inability to see the truth about "things"
What is ignorance? Real ignorance is not just being uneducated, or not knowing many things. Buddhists see ignorance as the inability to see the truth about things, to see things as they really are. This ability to see the truth is not a question of either eyesight or education. Buddhists believe that there are many truths about the world that people are ignorant of, because of the limits of their understanding.
The Buddha said that overcoming craving and ignorance leads to true happiness and Enlightenment.
I'm going to leave this topic here...and visit the other two "truths" in a couple of days...