On Suffering

I have an injury to my psoas (one of the muscles joining the spine to the leg via the pelvis) that I sustained when training for a strongman competition in 2015. It comes and goes. Some days it flares up and triggers anxiety attacks (maybe it’s a hernia? Maybe it’s hip cancer?) then some days I realise I’ve forgotten about it.

Many clever people through time, from Viktor Frankl to Alain de Botton, have posited that ‘Happiness’ is a futile pursuit. Indeed, de Botton postulates that true happiness is impossible to sustain for more than 15 minutes, before our human neuroses pick it apart and destroy it.

Rather, it is said, we should learn to embrace the inevitable suffering that comes with being a human life form. Essentially, the meaning of life isn’t to pursue some nebulous, fantastical Instagram-post ideal, but rather to learn how to suffer well and find meaning in it. Given that sadness and bad times cannot possibly be avoided, and happiness cannot possibly be achieved permanently, what choice do we have?

Something I’m practicing is ‘sitting with’ anxiety, and ‘sitting with’ pain, rather than continually trying to flee from it. The aim is to avoid the external grasping for some resolution that only results in more pain, disappointment, disillusionment – the feeling that everyone else is having a better time than you.

Then, the actual good times, the 15 minutes where you are actually happy, can be enjoyed for what they are – part of life’s rich tapestry.

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