Thoughts on Loneliness and Suffering


There is a big trend that sees suffering in general and loneliness in particular as a virtue. And that could not be further away from the truth. Suffering and loneliness can strengthen your character, that’s for sure, but they won’t necessarily. Some people turn into complete tyrants in the face of pain. Also, a too extended loneliness will lead to bitterness and then to being resentful. And that’s not a great experience. Time alone is needed, especially when you are young. Being by yourself will add to figuring things out.  What doesn’t work is pure loneliness. While you need to be able to be your own friend, you also need other people in your life. Otherwise, you are just a spectator to life and not an actor.

Therefore it can be argued that we need to stop romanticizing and glorifying loneliness and suffering in general. There is nothing uplifting about suffering. Suffering can strengthen you, but it can also break you down, so what we can draw from this is that suffering reveals your character more than it builds it. Of course, this does not mean that we should give in to a hedonistic way of life and to value pleasure as the norm or absolute aspiration, what we should do is place a price on vulnerability.

And vulnerability does not mean cheesy opening up moments or being vulgar and exhibitionistic. Vulnerability means being open about the way you experience things. We can’t be roses and perfume all the time, but that does not mean that we can’t be centered. Now, that’s easier said than done.

Your true self is not what you appear to others to be or who you’re trying to convince yourself you are. Your true self is many times who you are when you wear a mask of anonymity. For example, we are often presented with this idea that say some dude is acting all sexually obsessed and extreme in the online world, but in fact he’s just a geek hiding behind a computer. The way we should see this narrative is the other way around: he is the sexual extremist who cannot express himself in social life because of different complexes, and personal or economic factors. That’s why many people shy away from being in touch with their own self: they’re truly afraid of what they might find. Seeing this situation in this light teaches us two important lessons. One, that today, digital and online realities are in a way more relevant and real than what we traditionally consider material reality and two, that the mask is more real than the quotidian person.

Keeping a balance between being open to yourself and being egotistic is not easy either. Nobody said things should be easy and that’s why it’s important not to glorify suffering anymore.

It is very important to distinguish between suffering as such and purposeful suffering. Of course it is good and strengthening to suffer for a goal, to fight dragons and to push yourself and your limits. These are the things that ennoble one. Purposeless suffering is bad, there is nothing to admire about it, it does not enrich the soul. I don’t think there is any Holocaust survivor who says the experience was in any way ennobling. Blow up a kindergarten and you have enriched the lives of those parents? No. We often see in politics how people who have experienced suffering are presented to have moral superiority or authority, but in politics the people who are most emotionally involved in something should not make policy in any way based on their personal story.

I recently listened to a speech and the speaker he was making a great argument saying that we shouldn’t research evil, as it is everywhere, but we should research goodness.

The field of human experience is very vast and things are not all in black and white. These are general ideas, which flex and can be modified in different circumstances, as the take part in the complex system that is life.


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