I finished reading Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning on a plane ride the other day. Although I agree with his understanding of the importance of love and work in constructing meaning, I don’t agree with his view on suffering. In particular, I don’t think that we need to make sense of our suffering in order to lead a fulfilling life. A couple of years ago, I used to think that suffering was necessary to understand the value of joy, but I no longer believe that anymore. In fact, my idea of a perfect life is one without suffering. I don’t think that suffering allows us to derive any more meaning from a life absent of suffering.
I think we tell ourselves a lot of things to make ourselves feel better when we are suffering. Whatever we tell ourselves — it helps — but that doesn’t make it true. Just because I wrote 120,000 words in college trying to understand my own suffering, doesn’t make it coherent. When I reflect on those experiences — the profound sense of loneliness and lostness I felt in elementary, middle, and high school and college — I no longer feel that those experiences have shaped me to be a larger person than I would have been without those experiences. Life is finite. Youth is finite. And those years felt like wasted time.
I used to embrace the amor fati attitude Nietzsche outlined about being grateful for all of your experiences, the good and the bad, for the way they have shaped you to become the person you are. Now, I think that he was just coping. We were all reading his coping thoughts as some divine truth, but in actuality Nietzsche was just an sad incel who wanted to feel less sad. I am not grateful for my past because there is so little to be cherished. Since I have graduated college and have developed better control over my consciousness, I have actively been purging these memories from my thoughts, and I think that’s made me happier.
It is unfortunate that suffering is inevitable. Life would be a lot better if there was no suffering. Alternatively, if everything was suffering, then there is also no suffering. But precisely because we have individuality, we have suffering. If everyone turned into the primordial human soup in Neon Genesis Evangelion, then we wouldn’t have to deal with all this consciousness crap that is the source of our suffering. If identity was collective, then individual wishes would not exist. The world would be at peace.
I think it’s quite unfortunate in human physiology that we require the company of others to feel not shitty. It’s probably the only thing that is preventing me from packing up my stuff and moving to hut next to some mountain in Utah, which is exactly what I’m doing right now (and it does not live up to my expectations). I’ve been reflecting a lot lately about what makes life meaningful, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I won’t be able to find meaning in my life unless my experiences were shared with others. Considering how reluctant I am being a member of society at all, this is probably the worst curse I could have.
I don’t like people, yet I need people to feel that life is worth living. The appeal of love, similar to the appeal of drugs, is the destruction of the ego. As much as we want to contain ourselves from other people, we also want to surrender ourselves in an attempt to relinquish our identity. The unforunate thing is that love and drugs are only temporary fixes. Love wears off. Drugs wear off. Then we’re back on square one, fully aware of our individual identity and in pursuit of another moment of forgetfulness in attempt to shatter all that makes us individual.