Suffering and Happiness

The one feature that sets life on Earth apart from a paradise is suffering. It poses a problem for humanity and calls for a solution. This problem relates to human desires, the satisfaction of which is often difficult and uncertain, if not impossible, and always transient, in need of renewal; it is doomed to end sooner or later in death.

One extreme way of solving this problem is to kill these desires by detaching oneself from their objects, while providing the body with minimum care, or to simply kill oneself. This detachment consists in regarding these objects as illusory or vain. It proceeds from a defeatism or a mysticism. In cases where life offers possibilities of fulfillment in the accomplishment of pleasurable activities and honorable duties, this detachment is premature or suspicious. Like suicide in such cases, it may indicate a morbid disposition, marked by laziness and cowardliness.

The opposite of this extreme way is the foundation of modern civilization. It implies a stubborn attachment to the objects of one's desires, such as good health, pleasure, mutual love, and success. It also implies a stubborn effort to satisfy these desires.

Now, this effort cannot be effective without a knowledge of the world, humanity included, or the workings thereof. It generates and ultimately meets the need for science, in the broadest sense of the word, and technology, which is the art of making the laws of nature serve human interests.

Furthermore, it produces a feeling of dignity, notwithstanding the errors and the failures that are indicative of fallibility. This feeling belongs to people who go to great lengths to achieve their earthly purpose - in a word, people who abide by this principle: Strive to thrive. It is unique to a courageous life, ever struggling against difficulties and changing, never boring. In comparison, a life of peaceful idleness or an afterlife of restful bliss (by definition as desireless, effortless, painless, and changeless as a mineral) is deadly: a consummate tedium.

Had our ancestors collectively preferred to renounce worldly happiness rather than to pursue it, because this pursuit is inseparable from suffering, humanity would be ancient history preserved in dirt. It would be a fossil for no one to see - no one except various critters that, unlike humans, would not have lost their will to live for good or ill and could be dubbed, for that reason, superior animals.

This advocacy of a courageous life, however, ought to be qualified. In the unlikely event that one should be utterly incapacitated by an illness or an injury and overwhelmed with distress, without the slightest prospect of future recovery and contentment, the renunciation of one's goals and perhaps even of one's existence would be a reasonable option. It indeed appears that a stubborn attachment to the objects of one's desires and a stubborn effort to satisfy these desires would be painfully useless and hence more foolish than brave if this satisfaction is not in any way possible.

Similarly, there are times when the bravest warriors have to admit defeat and rely on their honor to peacefully leave this world through their bleeding wounds. Supposing their final exit is excruciatingly prolonged, a fellow warrior may be right to expedite it at their request, since a sure but lingering and agonizing death seems terribly absurd.

Bio: Laurent Grenier's writing career spans over twenty years. During this time he has broadened and deepened his worldview, by dint of much reflection and study, and in the end has crafted "A Reason for Living," his best work to date.

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