( Nine minute read)
At some point, most people will ask this question.
It’s one of the “big questions” about life that truly matter, influencing our fundamental approach to life.
Pain-beauty relationship is a paradox and not a contradiction. The concepts of pain and suffering therefore share negative emotion as a common ground.
When pain intensifies and generalizes over time, it becomes suffering.
The question is as old as humanity, and since the beginning of time philosophers have tried to answer it, however unsuccessfully.
Simply put, because it seems to be beyond the human capacity to grasp.
We’ll always feel pain and hurt, frustration and loss in life, but pain and suffering are necessary for a beautiful world because complacent pleasure is not satisfying.
” For Roald Hoffmann, beauty is found in moments of tension: “Beauty…is to be found, precarious, at some tense edge where…order and chaos contend.”
Even a less abstract examination of beauty and of our perceptions of beauty is impossible without discussing pain. Beautification, for example, is too frequently painful or unpleasant to ignore the possibility that pain and beauty are related.
The inherent ugliness or worth of pain must be established.
A discussion of the effect pain has on the afflicted, on the perceiver of suffering, and on society helps to resolve the philosophical and practical questions about pain’s inherent beauty or ugliness, to discern the relationship between aesthetics and suffering, and to weigh the significant consequences of both.
C.S. Lewis, a 20th century Christian writer, recognizes that pain is an “unmasked, unmistakable evil; every man knows that something is wrong when he is being hurt. ” Nevertheless, he also makes a convincing argument that pain is a lesser evil: “Of all evils, pain only is sterilised or disinfected evil. Intellectual evil…may recur because the cause of the first error…continues to operate…Pain…may of course recur…but pain has no tendency, in its own right, to proliferate.
When it is over, it is over, and the natural sequence is joy. ” Anyone in chronic pain may scoff at Lewis’ flippant dismissal of pain as transient, but his point that pain does not have the tendency to cause more pain sets suffering apart from other evil, which does tend to perpetuate itself.
Pain is unique because although we strive to get rid of it, suffering is capable of something benign or even good: pain forces change in order to cope with it and results in spiritual, physical, and emotional strength. In pain, people are torn from whatever life they have constructed for themselves and from whatever complacency mars their appreciation for life and the gifts that they have.
The “raw” experience of life that may have been smothered by comfort is inflamed.
I’m not going to get into religious answers to the above question other than to say if there were a loving God, why would this Source of Life allow so much suffering and pain?
I would also like to emphasize that I don’t want to deal in these paragraphs with truisms, such as the pain and suffering inflicted by some people on other people. They are well known. The lunacy of such groups as the Nazis, the Ku-Klux-Klan, ISIS, the Red Khmers, obviously was the cause of so much pain experienced by millions of peoples.
We should accept that we obviously are part of the problem and that the problems will not be eradicated, because after thousands of years we still did not grab the opportunity offered by Lady Fate to live humbly and trust in her teachings.
It is impossible to keep our peace of mind while understanding how tragic life is.
It seems to be impossible to find a rational answer to this question for a perfect world – but a world could not be perfect if it would have suffered.
However, take into account that we are living in an imperfect world, and, worse than that, seemingly under a high degree of control of dark forces dealing with suffering is impossible without empathy, feeling deep in our hearts the pain of our friends, neighbours, family.
So suffering in yourself is a starting point for the possibility of true compassion when you realize that someone other that yourself can also suffer. Without pain and suffering people would go out of control.
I don’t think a beautiful experience is possible whenever one person inflicts pain on another person.
In order to have a better understanding of pain and suffering, we need to remind ourselves that we are living in an imperfect world, inhabited with imperfect people, who can take imperfect decisions, which can affect the lives of the others.
In other words, in an imperfect world like ours, suffering has an educational and also a prophylactic role.
Without having suffered any pain, you would have no depth.
If you suffered enough pain from the loss, you’ll have the motivation and fire to transform yourself.
Not only that, but how would empathy or compassion for the suffering of other humans, animals or even nature arise without having suffered yourself?
Pain can result in beauty, by transforming people into stronger individuals, but we strive to eliminate most of the suffering in the world. The more pain and conflict we eliminate from our own personal experience, the more potential beauty that could result from suffering is lost.
We become more and more unable to relate to the sufferers of pain because we lose their aesthetic perspective.
When things don’t go the way our ego wants, we suffer in some way. You cannot get rid of ego so don’t bother trying. Without ego, you wouldn’t even be able to function on a basic level in the world. It seems to be beyond your control.
The mind is basically a problem solving machine. It’s designed to try to codify and understand the parts that make up the whole.
You’d have no access to the vertical axis – the now moment. You would be 100% stuck on the horizontal surface level of life chasing after happiness and trying to avoid pain.
Indeed the lack of success is probably due to the fact that we do not know everything about (our) life. We do not know all the details, all the actors, all the reasons, all the plans… But we can guess a few things about the sources of pain and suffering. Mainly by the glimpse, we can glean from the manly legends and novels of humanity the inherent goodness that is Life that is “hiding” behind the noise of the mind is revealed.
The question why pain and suffering exist, from an ancient point of view, can come only from an emasculated society: by bravely enduring it. Unfortunately, it is easier to speak about suffering than about bearing it. “No pain, No gain”.
Self-inflicting pain can create a kind of localized and transient cultural beauty, yet to inflict pain on others is not beautiful.
We are doomed to inflict all the pain that our ancestors produced, and what they would teach us, because of their experience, to avoid.
In this life, we are not better than others, and it is an honourable attitude to face it aware of the potential of its pains and sufferings.
Living in an imperfect world, we put our trust in a future perfect world, where there will be no pain and suffering.
The impact of an era of “a pill for every pain” is already taking shape.
Equally true, however, that a world that is finished, ended, would have no traits of suspense and crisis, and would offer no opportunity for resolution. Where everything is complete, there is no fulfilment. Humans begin life endowed only with impulses as motor sources of activity.
It is possible and necessary to embrace suffering in our personal lives and find beauty and dignity by doing so, while also working to relieve the suffering of others .“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”
There are no fixed ends or moral rules that could be adequate in a world of constant change and plural and conflicting values. The value of acts can be reduced to the quantity of pleasure and pain they produce.
Moral insights come from the demands of others, not from any individual’s isolated reflections.
There is no joy unmixed with sorrow in this world for people who care about others.” “Sorrowful yet always rejoicing.” Life is not simple. There is pleasure and there is pain. There is sweetness and there is suffering. There is joy and there is misery. There is life and health, and there is disease and death.
Every society must devise means for the satisfaction of basic human needs for food, shelter, clothing, and affiliation, for coping with interpersonal conflict within the group and treatment of outsiders, for dealing with critical events such as birth, coming of age, and death. We lack a complete conception of our end until we have a complete grasp of the course of action that will take us there.
The challenge of every true seeker of beauty is to be accepting of their own pain, but uncomfortable with the pain of others.
It should be a pain all to see (never mind tolerating), the suffering of Famines, an outstretched hand on the street, a foodbank, a boat full of immigrants, a child with a cleft palate, the suffering of inequality that robs the future of so many.
In a world of mere flux, change would not be cumulative; it would not move toward a close. Stability and rest would have no being.
Life and the search for beauty are constant battles to find the right balance between two worlds is what Dewey describes:
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