- Michel de Montaigne
* * *
There is little to do but suffer it: fools, arrogance, physical calamity, heartache, economic collapse, ad infinitum. If you live you suffer, but that truly is the good news for us fucked fuckers.
It is the fear of suffering that fucks us, not the suffering itself because the suffering is simply the common condition of being human. Follow. In your life you desire happiness or peace or whatever thing you tilt toward and you imagine such a thing enters your life as a reward for the way you conduct yourself. But you and I both know waiting for external events to mature to our liking, to come under our control will only breed anxiety and fear. For locating one's happiness or peace or whatever thing you tilt toward outside of your own thoughts and deeds is a pig fuck, a cluster fuck and a guarantor of fear dictating your thoughts and deeds.
Now imagine the obverse. Your circumstances are whatever they may be, yet you retain the freedom and responsibility to choose how you respond to those circumstances. The externals remain as ever they were: fools, arrogance, physical calamity, heartache, economic collapse, ad infinitum. The suffering never ceases, but the fear of it is gone, subsumed into your character, your faith and fidelity to withstand any headwind for as long as needs be, as long as you can, as long as you must. Living such, the fools, the arrogance, the physical calamity, the heartache, the economic collapse, ad infinitum become objects of your compassion, your forgiveness, your patience, your will to remain free.
* * *
Over half a century ago Kurt Vonnegut sat in a Humanities 101 class at the University of Chicago. The room was filled with other GI's taking advantage of the righteous opportunity of the GI Bill and was asked by his professor, what is it that an artist does? The young men, so recently removed from the unique suffering of war, raised their hands and said what you and I would say: they paint, they write, they sculpt, they dance, they compose and play music. The teacher, a genius in Vonnegut's opinion, said, yes, those are the ways artists express themselves. But what an artist truly does is say, I can do nothing about the chaos that surrounds me, but I can reduce to perfect order this block of stone, this canvas, this eight and a half by eleven inch piece of paper.
If it is true (and it is true) for blocks of stone, expanses of canvas, pieces of eight and a half by eleven inch paper how can it not be so for you, for your life? You are the artist of your life. Now start acting like it.
* * *
In Man's Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl reminds us that our lives are imbued with meaning when we create, when we love, but he takes the seemingly radical step of saying there is a third way: suffering. Not needlessly, not falsely, but if external circumstance overwhelms those avenues of expression you can still fill your life with meaning by suffering the circumstance. By suffering he and I mean bearing it, withstanding it and the ability to bear and withstand it is a direct product of abandoning your fear of suffering.
But most of what we are asked to suffer is common: fools, arrogance, physical calamity, heartache, economic collapse - not the entire collapse of society as Frankl and millions of others have. No, we are lucky in that most of our suffering is pedestrian. So stop fearing it. It only fucks you. You have to live in spite of life's inequities, in defiance of them, in joyful defiance.
Now is not forever.
Live without fear.
The suffering will take care of itself.
* * *