Life is hard as f*ck.
We come into this world naked and screaming.
We are impacted by the shortcomings of our parents at an early age, we face emotional hardships as we try to adapt to society, and then we are forced to become productive and competent adults—in spite of our severe limitations and our desperate need for love.
Anyone who denies the sheer weight of the human condition, the profound spiritual struggle of being alive and awake, is either unimaginably naive or simply crazy.
It is no wonder why kids shoot up schools. They are taking out their anger on the structure of reality itself for failing them so deeply. When someone commits suicide, what they are implicitly saying is that life would be better off if it never had been. When someone commits mass murder, they are not only making this statement, but are going on to say that life is so intrinsically brutal and unfair that the only proper response is to be brutal and unfair back by killing the innocent.
It’s way easier to assume that life is made of suffering and struggle than of happiness and joy—that’s a tough pill to swallow.
So, it becomes our responsibility to dig through the pain and the chaos of being human, and find something beautiful and worth living for on the other end. If we can’t find something meaningful enough to make the suffering worth enduring, moseying through our lives with shrugged shoulders and tattered egos, we are contributing in our own small way to the greater human tragedy.
What can we do? How can we avoid tragedy and pave the way for the more beautiful parts of life to flourish?
We can play our f*cking hands.
We didn’t choose the cards we were dealt, but they were dealt nonetheless. And the answer to the problem of human suffering is to live a meaningful life.
This means picking up our load, carrying our burden, and taking responsibility for our lives. We didn’t fully choose the situation we are dealing with in life, whether we are in the midst of a divorce or are unhappy with our career path, nor did we even choose to be alive in the first place.
Yet, here we are.
The only way we can change our situation for the better is to take responsibility for every detail of our lives, every piece in the puzzle of our own existence.
I’ll give my own example: I’ve had a severe chronic illness for the better part of the past six years. What I have could be considered a form of chronic fatigue syndrome, but that is really just a blanket term that doesn’t say much about this condition itself.
What is really happening in my body is that my fundamental energy resources are being drained by a deep-rooted virus, affecting virtually every function of my system. This means that I have a foundational energetic deficiency; my body is incapable of creating healthy energy. This disrupts the processes of my muscular, circulatory, immune, nervous, and endocrine systems, making this all immensely difficult to contend with as a 24-year-old man.
I didn’t choose this.
I have done everything in my power to recover from this. It’s a struggle every day, and it may never improve. I may live my whole life with a disability.
As difficult as that is to accept, I know that it is my burden, my challenge in life, my deck of cards, and it is my responsibility to find meaning in life and dig deeply into the fabric of my own soul to find that meaning.
I don’t know if I will have the will to live in a month, a year, or in 10 years, but I am doing everything in my day-to-day life to sustain meaning and pursue happiness. It all feels worth it for now—it’s just about growing and learning through this process so that this feeling remains over time.
That’s my struggle. That’s my battle. Those are the cards I have been dealt. Every day that I can suspend my bitterness and resentment toward this reality is a win for all of humanity. If I can endure my suffering and continue to strive for love and happiness, it means life is worth living. That’s how I look at it, anyway.
When we see something horrible in the news, we’ll usually send our thoughts and prayers and subscribe to a political belief. That’s fine, but we could take it a step further. Let’s actually take responsibility for the tragic parts of the human experience, and live every day as though it matters. Who knows, maybe it does matter.
When we see a school shooting, instead of seeing the perpetrator as a deranged psychopath who has no resemblance to us, let’s try to realize that “we are them.” That capacity for evil and bloodshed exists within ourselves, because that person is human and so are we. Let’s do our part, not just to prevent specific tragedies through gun control or screening tactics (we need those things too), but to face the human tragedy as a whole, to recognize the darker side of human nature and do the internal work to prevent ourselves from acting upon or projecting those dark impulses.
If we believe that life is a tragedy, that nothing is meaningful, and that suffering has no purpose, we should take a good look in the mirror.
We are contributing to tragedy. We are spreading this shadowy ethos.
We are not “playing our hand” and living a meaningful life, and that affects everyone we come into contact with.
My answer is to look within, to recognize the darkness that lies in our souls, and do everything in our power to prevent that darkness from spreading by living a benevolent and dignified life.
Don’t let our own suffering rear its ugly head toward the consciousness of the collective. Choose the good. Choose a life of spirit. Choose to optimize our own potential.
We didn’t choose the cards we were dealt, but they were dealt nonetheless. Play your hand—because it matters.
Author: Samuel Kronen
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy & Social Editor: Nicole Cameron