Suffer Not

There is a problem involved with suffering, which is not to say that suffering is problematic. Though, of course, it is. One cannot enjoy suffering. Suffering is not pain, something which it is at least fairly commonly understood that some people enjoy, in a sense. And I don’t care to make a full analysis of what suffering is. Suffer me to say only that it is the apprehension of our misery, and not the misery itself. Which is why it cannot be enjoyed: if the state is one of enjoyment, it simply lacks this apprehension.

Suffering is not good. I offer little belief to those who will cite it as character-forming, or some sort of necessary trial. Which is not to say that it cannot be. However it seems odd to me to laud the overcoming of adversity while standing on the (many more) broken bodies of those adversity has not offered the same outcome. Suffering does, however, seem to be necessary, in the weak sense that it seems built into the very foundations of life. And if one encountered someone seemingly incapable of suffering, of apprehending any misery, would this seem a virtue, or some glassy lack which left us shivering?

And so we can succumb to the common sense of nihilism. We suffer, and we will suffer. It is necessary, and short of some drastic shift in the architecture of our world and life, it will continue. Furthermore, we continue to have whispering in the background those who like to see people break in the trial. They have an audience, such is our inurement to suffering. Some – perhaps most, in some sense – religions enshrine this. After all, what is the promise of some otherworldly continuation than the utter abandonment and negative judgement of the constitution of this world? And philosophers have done likewise, offering their consolations.

But the problem with suffering is not that it is inevitable, and, let’s face it, bleeding unbearable. The problem of suffering is that it doesn’t mean anything. It isn’t for anything. It might, as just said, form character, but it doesn’t typically, doesn’t have to, and even where it does that isn’t what it is for. So perhaps the greatest Problem of Suffering is what we do to frame the meaning of suffering or, better, to create it (as we’re not going to find any). Most of us accept suffering if it is for something. But I’ll stand up and say that a better answer is required than any given so far. With no afterworlds, or otherworlds, and no particular desire to laugh at the broken on whatever random occasion I happen not to be one of them, there is not a great deal of worthwhile human thought to filter through.

This task can make one miserable, and apprehensive.


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