Thursday, July 09, 2009

Suffering and Happiness (Quote of the Moment)

"Suffering is unnecessary. It doesn't make you a better artist; it only makes you a hungry one. However, to me the acquisition of the craft of writing was worth any amount of suffering. To have meaningful work is a tremendous happiness." - Rita Mae Brown

(I got hold of a used copy of the book where the Hook quote below originally appeared: The Courage of Conviction. I've only started dabbling in it, but it looks like an interesting collection. The line above is from Rita Mae Brown's contribution.)


  1. Quote:

    "Suffering is unnecessary."

    The above quote does not in any way capture the true significance and value of suffering. In fact I would argue that suffering is very necessary in most if not all circumstances which call for giving birth to suffering.

    I primarily view suffering as a great good and without it man would be much the worse off by its absence. I only ask that you not assume I am implying all the things that may cause suffering are also good.

    Among all creatures, man alone is capable of suffering in the most varied ways. Suffering acts in accordance with the universal law of the universe,cause and effect. This is not to say that man should not attempt to relieve suffering whenever it is done in accordance with the good of man.

  2. I believe that suffering is responsible for driving man toward one of two different outcomes, happiness or unhappiness. Whichever one it leads to is probably the result of the character of that person.

    Matthew I don't know if you will understand this but if it was not for the reality of human suffering in this fallen world or what Gabriel Marcel called the broken world, mankind would be the worst off for it. I would even go so far as saying where suffering continually decreases, evil increases.

    Our greatest nightmare would suddenly be upon us if man was to suddenly be able to live forever.
    Human Suffering has the greatest power of tuning mans mind not to any relative truth but to the authentic truth of his being.

  3. The quote's a bit out of context. Her point is that one needn't seek out suffering (or starvation) to be a good artist. On the next page, and as the rest of the part I quoted reveals, she doesn't deny that getting through suffering is part of life.

    Nevertheless, I don't know that a lack of suffering is the problem. True, people who don't have to work hard, or lack the incentive to do so, may become lazy and unserious. (My own view is that that's a bigger problem than a lack of suffering: the lack of seriousness, or what Niel Postman called the phenomenon of "amusing ourselves to death." I've got to go check my Facebook page now...)

  4. Maybe "incentive" is the wrong word. The best things in life often don't "pay" (in the ordinary sense).

  5. Suffering was the main impetus for the revolution of consciousness in the men and women like Buddha, Augustine, Paul, the prodigal son, Peter and Mary Madalyn.

    Suffering can work in two different directions, toward mans detriment or toward his betterment.

    Absent a complete revolution within the mind of mankind, the total elimination of suffering would only bring about unthinkable evil.

  6. Matthew, this excerpt speaks to happiness in a very personal way.

    By D. T. SUZUKI

    Zen in its essence is the art of seeing into the nature of one's own being, and it points the way from bondage to freedom. By making us drink right from the fountain of life, it liberates us from all the yokes under which we finite beings are usually suffering in this world. We can say that Zen liberates all the energies properly and naturally stored in each of us, which are in ordinary circumstances cramped and distorted so that they find no adequate channel for activity.

    This body of ours is something like an electric battery in which a mysterious power latently lies. When this power is not properly brought into operation, it either ... withers away or is warped and expresses itself abnormally. It is the object of Zen, therefore, to save us from going crazy or being crippled. This is what I mean by freedom, giving free play to all the creative and benevolent impulses inherently lying in our hearts. Generally, we are blind to this fact, that we are in possession of all the necessary faculties that will make us happy and loving towards one another. All the struggles that we see around us come from this ignorance. Zen, therefore, wants us to open a "third eye," as Bud­dhists call it, to the hitherto undreamed-of region shut away from us through our own ignorance. When the cloud of ignorance disappears, the infinity of the heavens is manifested, where we see for the first time into the nature of our own being. We now know the signification of life, we know that it is not blind striving, nor is it a mere display of brutal forces, but that while we know not definitely what the ultimate purport of life is, there is something in it that makes us feel infinitely blessed in the living of it and remain quite contented
    with it in all its evolution, without raising questions or entertaining pessimistic doubts.