I feel like all I write about on this blog is my struggles. So i’m thinking I will write on the topic of struggle itself, and surrender.
So what, exactly, is struggle? The Merriam Webster defines it as:
Definition of struggle
intransitive verb 1: to make strenuous or violent efforts in the face of difficulties or opposition; 2: to proceed with difficulty or with great effort.
We also need to consider that with struggle comes suffering, which is the state of mind and being produced by struggle.
“Existence is suffering” is the common translation of the First Noble Truth of Buddhism. Most religions agree with this in great extent, many attributing it to the acts/sins of the sufferer. Also is the concept of redemptive suffering, which runs rampant in the judeo-christian religions. This concept that the Gods sit around and judge all of the deeds of the living and rain down punishment on their subjects has been used for thousands of years, initially by theocracies, to enforce social norms and to govern the populace.
So what the fuck are you supposed to do about it?
- Buddhists: Walk the Eightfold Path.
- Hindus: accept suffering as a just consequence and as an opportunity for spiritual progress. Stop hurting people/beings.
- Jews: Pay your penance. Learn.
- Christians: human suffering, when accepted and offered up in union with the Passion of Jesus, can remit the just punishment for sins and allow to grow in the love of God, others and oneself.
- Islam: Endure suffering with hope and faith, not resist or ask why, accept it as Allah’s will and submit to it as a test of faith
- Stoics: Be indifferent to it.
- Hedonists: Avoid it.
- Utilitarians: Seek the greater good.
- Nietsche: Suck it up and deal, there is greater reward.
- Schopenhauer: Take refuge in the the arts, philosophy, loss of the will to live, and tolerance toward ‘fellow-sufferers’.
My philosophy, informed likely by a little bit of pop psy? I do believe life is struggle. The course of human history seems to bear this out. We struggle with other people, views, politics, races and for finite resources in what we have decided is a zero-sum game. But I also believe that the larger struggle is the struggle we each have within ourselves. We struggle to find our meaning, worth, and with the poor messages and ores we have learned in largely broken societies focused on materialism and unrealistic ideals. We struggle with the big questions of religion and ethics (or at least, we should!) I believe that life is largely struggle with periods of rest. I think pretty much you just do the best you can until you die and we get to know what is next.
Is suffering required? I won’t get into the theories on this, but I honestly don’t know the answer. I do believe that there are people who have learned to struggle, but have learned to lean into the suffering and not to resist against it. They have learned to endure much better than I. I think that I am NOWHERE NEAR this level of zen. I am a fighter by nature, and I cause myself a lot of unnecessary suffering. I have had some experiences where I have asked myself, “do I really need to resist this? Could I just set this down for a while and let it be?” Occasionally, the load does slip off for a few minutes. The struggle hasn’t stopped, but my resistance to it has. These moments are fleeting, but they keep me thinking.
Honestly tho? Call me Atlas.