Is suffering necessary for a happy life?
Updated: Jul 4, 2020
Life is suffering, this post acknowledges that, but the suffering is there to contrast all the beauty and goodness of life.
You can't always be happy, if you were always happy, you could never be truly happy.
This short story deals with this. Is a life without suffering actually worthwhile? If we are always happy and the meaning of life is apparent to everyone without work or thought, are we truly happy?
If success is easy to attain and everyone generally is successful, what even is success anymore?
The following shortstory, which I stumbled across on this great channel called Pursuit of Wonder, describes this perfectly and I needed to share it.
So sit back and relax, get ready for an existential crisis with a bit of hope thrown in there at the end.
A man takes one last sip of whiskey. He gets in his car and drives to his favorite place, Glenwood Canyon.
He arrives, parks his car, takes out a flashlight and a car registration from the glove box and then unscrews his license plate.
He throws his registration and license plate into the river as he walks to a particular spot, he and his wife would always spend time at when she was still alive.
It's one of the highest points of the canyon and it has an incredible view of the valley beneath it.
He has come to commit suicide.
The man stands at the edge of the canyon thinking one last time about his life.
He looks out at the massive beautiful landscape, the night sky sprinkled with stars.
Seamlessly converging with the stone of the canyons edge as it drips down into the river beneath.
He feels a combination of wonder and pain. As he's admiring the landscape, a woman's voice behind him yells:
Startled, the man almost falls, but then catches himself. He turns around to find a woman appearing out of the forest. She wears a long dress and has long silvery straight hair. She's old, but sort of pretty.
It's late and dark and the man wonders why she's here by herself.
She approaches the man and says hello. Kind of confused and thrown off, the man says hello back.
"What are you doing here so late by yourself?" the man asks in kind of a snarky way.
The woman responds with the same question. "What are you doing here so late by yourself?"
Again thrown off, the man says:
"I don't know. I guess I just needed to clear my head. This is my favorite spot."
"You're awfully close to the edge of that cliff," replies the woman, "are you going to jump?"
"No, like I said, I'm just here to clear my head. I've had a long couple of days," says the man.
"Okay, well have a good night," says the woman.
She begins to walk away. This confuses the man.
He had quickly constructed a fantasy in his head, that this woman was some deity type who appeared through fate to save him; to convince him not to jump; to change his mind about life.
As the woman walks away, the man calls out: "Hey wait! You never said why you're here".
The woman turns around:
"You never said why you're here," replies the woman.
"Yes, I did, I just told you," the man says with a nervous guilty laugh.
The woman gets really close to the man, quickly moving from where she was, right up into the man's face.
"Why you're really here," she whispers.
The man thrown off yet again stutters. "I'm clearing my fucking head, okay!? Why don't you believe me?"
The woman turns around and begins to walk away again.
As she begins to walk further away, the man panics at the thought of the
woman leaving without trying to save him.
He yells out: "Okay, fine. I'm here to jump."
The woman turns around.
"Pardon?" she asks. "I'm here to kill myself. This life is awful and I'm ready to die. Okay? There you go."
The woman comes back to where the man is standing. "What's so awful about it?" she asks.
"What's not so awful about it?" replies the man, "It's filled with ugliness and sadness.
There's tragedy, there's conflict, there's heartbreak. It's endlessly difficult for no reason, success is hard. There's no obvious meaning to anything.
Even just the little things: The traffic, the cold weather, the Mondays, the way the grocery stores are lit, and the god-awful cashiers, that always look at you like they'd be better off if you weren't alive."
"Well, what life would you not want to jump from?" asked the woman. "A life without all that obviously" - says the man.
"A life filled with only beauty, happiness, love and peace. A life that's easy and fun all the time.
One where there's apparent meaning to stuff and we actually know what's going on and why we're here and what the point is.
One with no heartbreak, no tragedy. No conflict. No hardship. No mean grocery store cashiers, no traffic. No Monday's, no pain."
"Everything would be perfect and I would never want to leave that life", says the man.
The man and the woman stare at each other for a second.
It feels like a few.
"So who are you you? You have to tell me why you're here now," the man agitatedly asks again.
The woman moves closer to him.
"I'm who you hoped I was."
Confused the man backpedals a little bit, completely forgetting where he's standing.
"What do you mean?" asks the man. The woman leans in to answer and pushes the man softly on his chest.
He falls backwards off the cliff.
The man awakes in his bedroom, it's a normal Tuesday morning.
He thinks about how horrible the nightmare was, which he just had.
But like most dreams, he quickly forgets and moves on.
He gets out of bed and gets ready. He gets dressed, eats breakfast and leaves his house.
The sky is bright pink and purple with a sunny glow that illuminates the whole world.
The grass is richly green and smells like the first spring to ever take place in the universe. The birds harmonized together perfectly. Every person is smiling cheek to cheek as if their faces are pinned in such a position.
The man is entirely happy.
He has no sense of sadness. Everything is beautiful with no sight of ugliness. The world has no conflict.
Everyone loves each other equally. There's no heartbreak, no hardship. No bad days. No traffic, No mean grocery store cashiers.
Life is easy and smooth and fun.
The meaning of life and the nature of reality is clear and everyone knows exactly what's going on.
It's completely and entirely perfect.
A year or so goes by. The man is at home.
He takes one last sip of water. He gets in his car and drives to Glandwyn Canyon
It's not too far from where he lives.
He parks his car, takes out a flashlight and the car registration from the glove box and then unscrews his license plate.
He throws his registration and license plate into the river as he walks to a spot.
That's one of the highest points of the canyon. He has come to commit suicide
He stands at the edge of the canyon thinking about his life one last time.
He looks out at the massive beautiful landscape the night sky sprinkled with stars.
Seamlessly converging with the stone of the canyons edge as it drips down into the river beneath. He feels nothing.
He's about to jump when a woman's voice from behind him yells: "Hey!"
Startled, the man almost falls, but catches himself. He turns around to find a woman appearing out of the forest.
This woman's presence is not interesting or perplexing to the man. She approaches the man and says hello and asks him what he's doing.
"I'm going to jump," says the man. "Why?" asks the woman.
"It's a waste being alive, isn't it? There's nothing to do.
Everything is easy and boring.
I want to feel but there's nothing to feel," answers the man
"Well, what life would you not want to jump from?" asks the woman.
"A life that's interesting and exciting and actually has feeling obviously," replies the man.
"Well, what makes a life that way?" asks the woman.
"I don't know, one where some stuff is beautiful, but not everything.
Or perhaps everything is beautiful, but at least you don't always notice it, so you can actually appreciate it when you do.
A life where you're happy some of the time, but not all the time, and some of the time you actually feel really sad, so you can tell the difference.
One where everyone doesn't love each other and some people aren't really that nice at all.
So you can actually feel special about certain people.
When where bad stuff happens once in a while one where things are actually kind of hard.
And finding success and meaning requires some thought, effort, and creativity, so it actually feels important when you find it.
One where nothing is ever perfect, but some stuff can get really close if you try hard enough.
I never want to leave that life.
Doesn't it sound wonderful?" asks the man. "Yes," says the woman, "it does."
The man turns around to look at the landscape over the cliff and tries to imagine a life like that.
The woman leans in and pushes him softly on the back.
He falls forward off the cliff.
"Hope you see at this time." The woman says to herself.
Thank you for taking the time to read my post.
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Now good luck for your life, and never forget: Suffering is necessary for happiness,