The Meaning of Suffering: How Adversity Can Enrich Our Lives

Oft do we perceive the present condition immutable, and existence progressing in accustomed fashion on the morrow. Yet unforeseen vicissitudes shall inevitably disrupt familiar routines, wherein life’s trajectory unexpectedly diverges from its prescribed course.

“Heav’n bodes surprises,” as unforeseeable eventuality defines celestial dynamics, whilst “man knows fortune’s varying visage,” life’s numinous essence harboring vicissitude. None ought presume privileged exemption from adversity, for humanity universally endures varying gradations of travail. Thus regardless of inclination towards edification through suffering, necessity promises ample material, precluding worry o’er dearth of opportune occasions. Worldly fortune proves fickle whilst happiness mediocre. Those intoxicated by prosperiety’s fleeting visitation doubtlessly fall short comprehending affliction’s capacity to cultivate profundity.

Existence passes chiefly engaged externally amid trivial daily routine, work, intercourse and diversion, scarce allotting introspection upon self or life’s signification. Yet adversity interrupts longstanding order, compelling withdrawal from externalia and return to inner truth. This juncture permits edification through meditative rumination, engendering novel outlook upon existence. One acquainted with vicissitude yet preserving affection for life doubtlessly accumulated manifold treasure refined through anguish.

Travail exists inflicting irremediable mortal blow to all other values, imbuing suffering sole significance as means of endurance amid hopelessness. Herein lies suffering’s sole plausible meaning, as Frank espoused: “Dignified persistence in face of hardship constitutes truly inward virtue, bespeaking humankind’s inalienable spiritual freedom thro’ all eras.” Inevitable death confronting, demise’s dignified acceptance remains life’s crowning spiritual achievement.

Amid societal tragedy, ideals, convictions, justice and nobility sustain hope. Superiority of spirit comforts, enabling smiles ‘midst persecution, generous demise. We perform heroic roles regardless confused spectators, righteousness inverted, performing for absolved, equitable unseen ‘Audience’ – be it History, Divinity or Conscience.

Yet what recourse faces natural calamity? No stage, but boundless empty vault. Not heroes, but living, dying beings. No human ideal assuages birth, age, sickness, death’s anguish, nor justice ‘midst disaster natural and manmade. What solace ancient sufferers devastated by deluge, Vesuvius’ victims engulfed? Earthquake, tsunami, accident, contagion, incurable plague…Nature’s malevolent forces annihilate ourselves or loved ones. We confront a soulless opponent, precluding comfort of spirit’s preeminence, but sense life’s humility intensified. No saving God, for this scourge stems from divinity. Anger finds no object, injustice no redress. Resistance proves impotent and doomed.

Yet need we not succumb. Humdrum tragedy perhaps our authentic tragedy, unheroic fortitude our truest mettle. ‘Midst inconsolable despair gritting teeth and persevering, standing solitary spectators, witnesses, expectations, succor absent – persisting solely to deny succumbing. Herein lies humankind’s highest, final dignity facing Nature (=God).

Great suffering’s survivors warrant proving bliss and woe originate shared fount. Not vanquished by travail bespeaks honor, not disgrace.

Let poesy’s beautification and affected gestures depicting suffering be recognized artificial, whilst ordinary travail’s desperation grasped immense.

Tell not: “Travail ennobles soul. Tragedy elevates.” In silence how many sensitivities blunted, heroes frustrated by suffering and tragedy! Theatrical flourishes but obscure life’s muteness.

Intractable sorrow lies in details, where philosophy provides no balm for bleeding wounds demanding sole endurance. Detachment inspired by religion and philosophy may separate from yet preclude destruction by agony.

Theorem 1: Man must suffer intolerably. Theorem 2: Therefore no intolerable suffering exists.

Pessimism’s wisdom dilutes quotidian hardship through ultimate nothingness, purifies worldly woe. Pain and bliss but illusions – a blow to one yet solace another.

Habit, fatigue, forgetfulness, life’s minutiae… Numerous humble saviors rescue from suffering. Not philosophy or faith but instinct preserves mankind amidst annihilating disaster. Comforts of religion and cosmology but self-encouragement of survival instinct.

Existence muddles on ’til terminus looms. Damocles’ sword hangs yet pain feels not. Sever yet live, and scar and agony fade, forgot. Survival instinct and its generated trivialities prove irresistible diversions from suffering, allowing recuperation from dolor’s trough.

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