In praise of misery

I was about to post a video I “grabbed” from an episode of the fantastic Fox series, “The Killing.” The scene takes place during a mayoral race. Darren Richmond, councilman and dashing idealist, is shot by an assassin and is paralyzed from the waist down. Subsequent scenes detail the slowly dawning awareness of his permanent paralysis while laying in the hospital bed. It is a lot to handle for a man who once “had it all.” During a television interview, a reporter asks him how he felt when he learned of his paralysis. When he didn’t answer promptly, the reporter does what all good reporters do. Persists shamelessly. Finally, in the course of a prolonged answer, he utters a trite soundbite that seems particularly at home during an American political contest. Youtube threatened to ruin my reputation if I persisted in posting the video, so I’m doing my best to narrate the events. Richmond paraphrased something he heard third hand from a campaign manager’s father who lost a leg in an industrial accident, “Bad luck either destroys you, or it makes you the man you really are.”

Yeah, yeah, it’s sappy. It’s the kind of empty-headed whorish nicety which strums on our heartstrings, but it is a noble wisdom, if you really accept its idea instead of condescendingly judging its sophomoric qualities.

I wonder, in man’s march to misery, if we have only two choices: wallowing in self-pity or brimming with strength. We alone make the choice and we alone live with that choice.

And there will be misery. Count on it. I don’t care how pampered and spoiled you were thanks to your over-protective parents, there will be the day you are all alone and no one will watch out for you. You are on your own, bud. What did your parents teach you? Did they teach you to survive, did they bestow on you a heart of stone? Will you fend off the bad luck, the misery, the misfortune? Will you battle with it or submit weakly and turn into a whimpering piece of crap? Did they teach you to embrace the darkness or hide in the light? Or will you hold your chest up and persevere in the face of agony? Will you jump off a building or will you bellow defiantly at the dying of the light?

I say we should welcome misery, and in fact, crave it. We should embrace its persistent approach and thank it for making us stronger, harder. Misery and ill fortune are gifts that callous our soul. They are the gifts that sprinkle our character with fresh water and make us grow. A life of continual pleasure, comfort, joy and optimistic serenity only serves to help us wither into insignificant dried up seeds of folly.

When our story is eternally etched in stone, what will have mattered? Our suffering, or our tomfoolery? There is sanctity in suffering and pain. I believe that in our modern technological age of excess and luxury and absolute sedation, we must seek hardship. Without this, we are shells of existence, we are shells of souls calling themselves human, but all we have to show for it are empty smiles and volumes of meaningless hot air. As each generation enjoys a growing sense of comfort and insulation from hardship, our collective culture begins to mimic our dead soul, our one-dimensional character, which is nothing but an inoffensive plastic facade that offends no one but appeals to all in the most palatable non-essence possible.

We groom our children to live a life of bland circumspection and we dissolve their spine with the acidic solution of our overbearing suspicions and sheltering paranoia’s. We cushion the misery, and thus never having learned to embrace it, seek escape in innocuous mundane predictable repetitions. We have progressed so far. Safety is now our motto, danger, the unspoken. As if we have a say in the matter. It’s a soothing masquerade to think so. We grasp for control by dictatorially shaping the world of the smallest and youngest. And we only teach them helplessness and vulnerability.