We don’t choose to be born. Thrown into the world by the choice of parents, as soon one comes to the age of awareness, we realize that it is a world which makes little sense; not for humanity in general and even less so for the individual. Life soon reveals itself to be a living towards death. The only meagre point that can be made for our individual being is that we pass on genes and mortality to our children in order to maintain the species. But the question as to why there is life to begin with and why there is a drive to perpetuate it, there would seem to be no adequate answer. The only thing we are acutely aware of is that we have to live and survive. This instinct is ingrained in nature. It has been the driving force of cultures from their earliest times. The search to understand our purpose is both the greatest stimulant to life, as well as the main cause of existential suffering. It is the engine of philosophy and science, the motive for the creation of art, the breeding ground for religion and the reason for the use of drugs and the urge to find solace in sex. The struggle for survival is especially problematic because we have to deal with numberless perils and difficulties, while we don’t know where to go and what the meaning of it all is. From Aristotle to Schopenhauer, philosophy had taught us that the prudent man would strive for freedom from pain and not for pleasure. He would direct his aim not to what is pleasant and agreeable, but to the avoidance, as far as possible, of life’s countless evils. Nietzsche however indicated that fulfilment can’t be attained by avoiding pain, but only by recognizing the role of suffering as an essential and inevitable step on the way to reaching anything good. In order to suffer the hardships of life, it would help to realize that pleasure and displeasure are intrinsically linked together, so that if we want to have much of one, we must have as much of the other. Only by endurance of whatever we cannot avoid, will we reach fulfilment and enjoy life.
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