The savage nodded, frowning. “You got rid of them. Yes, that’s just like you. Getting rid of everything unpleasant instead of learning to put up with it. Whether ’tis better in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them…But you don’t do either. Neither suffer nor oppose. You just abolish the slings and arrows. It’s too easy.”
“What you need,” the Savage went on, “is something with tears for a change. Nothing costs enough here.”
–Brave New World
Is suffering essential?
Does the human condition require suffering in order to fulfill its supremacy?
On an individual level, we seek to minimize suffering; we seek to refute it, avoid it, or at the very least, calm our fears, and sooth our experiences on which suffering rides. On an individual level, suffering is the most noxious, repulsive, intolerable state of reality. This abhorrence of suffering plays itself out on the collective level, as well. Cultural institutions, dogmatic rituals, unabashed hedonism, everything we indulge in self-consciously, is structured with the strictest demand that it will either rid us of suffering or deflect it violently enough that we will not have to deal with its gray pall’s shadow upon our existence.
Is suffering essential?
Does suffering make us “better,” and if so, must suffering be mandatory? How would we apportion suffering in order so our race benefits by the trying rigors of spiritual and physical pain and discomfort, if it were within our control?
Suffering is so nefarious and inescapable that we wait in silent apprehension as suffering makes it calculated, pernicious rounds. We wait for it to pass before exhaling.
As individuals, we seek to rid our life of suffering. As cultures, we create systematic processes and accomplishments to coalesce with the sole intention being to rid the human race of suffering. And we have been successful. Relatively.
Suffering as it exists now, in the early part of the 21st Century, is decidedly less than it was one- or two-thousand years ago. Progress of the scientific and social sort does lend itself to calming the ruckus of suffering. Still, we suffer, but not so severely as our ancestors; conversely, our progeny will probably suffer less than us as technology and science progress and become more coldly efficient at purging suffering from our shoulders.
But, again…are we becoming better or worse for not suffering as much? As science overcomes the many tendrils of suffering, do we become weak and complacent and does our quality as sentient beings diminish? Or does the excision of suffering from the human race make us better; does it reflect an improvement in our existence which we’ve attained through trial and error over the eons. Are we living the culmination of refinement of this “non-suffering” existence. In ridding ourselves of suffering, are we free to become saints and masters? Are we the auspicious expression of progress, and thus, concomitantly, better for not suffering? Does our innate repulsion to ward off suffering help make us good people. Is there no virtue in pain?
Suffering is so subjective, so privately experienced and non-transferable as a collective concept, that I don’t feel the argument of suffering’s worth matters much, anyhow.
We all experience our own suffering in such uniquely individual manners that suffering lacks a standard experiential and substantive denotation, which, for all intents and purposes, renders it a groundless concept.
Hence, progress, human progress, is the summation of all the unique manners that humans experience and seek to thwart their own private definitions and experiences of suffering. Our drive to attack suffering is fueled by the disembodied abstract conception of suffering that can never bring succor to true individual suffering.