General Question

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Whispering rumors, a dot, then a stain. Festering tumors both fancy and plain. To those who find humor in all they disdain, will you recite the pleasures of pain?

Asked by RealEyesRealizeRealLies (30930points) May 10th, 2009

Is there anything more satisfying than overcoming a great tragedy? I propose to you that nothing in this life is more capable of allowing us to realize our truest self, than suffering. Why then should we avoid it?

Suffering and enduring pain is nothing more than another form of challenge. Whether it be self induced, or put upon us by unseen forces, it is the challenges of life that make life worth living.

Have you not heard,
“Meaninglessness arises from too much pleasure. Meaningfulness arises from enduring tragedy”?

I know not which mind to attribute this quote to. But it has marked me as its Disciple.

Yes of course, we all enjoy a quiet stroll on easy street from time to time. Yet, a person who embraces confrontation, one who harmonizes with agony and distress, that enlightened heart which refuses to wallow in the Now of affliction, that soul is the amalgamation of quintessence and humility, discovering their eternal core from that which is most often feared.

Has anything changed who you are as a person more than enduring and overcoming pain?

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39 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I do agree that some people can come out stronger after a tragedy but it is not anything we should strive to experience…there’s nothing wrong with wanting things easy as long as it doesn’t harm anyone and even when there are pleasures, it depends on the pleasures…my kids bring me happiness and I want them to stay happy and healthy and never experience tragedy…it’s a bit cliche to think that one must suffer to find meaning…because it doesn’t have to be that meaninglessness will come from pleasure if you can learn to appreciate all you have

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Child birth itself is a painful experience that must be endured to appreciate the meaningful pleasure behind it. Child rearing is even more so.

What will a child learn of beauty if they have no ugliness to compare it with? Naturally as parents we want to protect our children from pain and suffering. Yet this is a false idealism and is quite impossible in our physical realm. To be human is to know suffering. How great will that suffering be for the child who has never learned to embrace it?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I don’t think we know what is necessary to ‘be human’ – to each their own and I know that they will experience tragedy as that is inevitable but that’s not what I said before – I said they don’t need to strive for it to find meaning and that I believe that meaning in tragedy is no more meaningful than the meaning we find in pleasure

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I’m building a case that ALL pleasure is birthed from some form of suffering. I cannot find a pleasure that is not ultimately traceable back to a pain.

A building is constructed, and with that construction comes a great deal of turmoil, molding, bending, slamming, anguish over the entire project until it has reached completion. Upon completion, the pleasure of purpose can be known. The building has a purpose, and if its construction was never suffered though, that purpose would never be realized.

noelasun's avatar

Falling in love- how is that traced back to pain?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

When I first had sex, I had pleasure and no pain

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

There is nothing more painful that the notion of Love. The heart strings are pulled, especially during the “falling” part… why do you think they say “falling” rather than “rising” in Love. The pain of being away from a lover, suffering through the complicated nuances of getting to know the other person, wondering if they feel the same. Would you call the giddy butterfly stomach pleasurable?

As a diamond is cut and a sword is put to the fire, the reshaping of two people into the essence of one entity is as tumultuous as two galaxy’s colliding.

We can only “rise” in Love after the process of “falling” has been endured and overcome. Only then will two souls truly become as one.

ru2bz46's avatar

I just posted this story on another thread this morning about a woman I met yesterday on a 6–7 mile hike. Years ago, she was training for a half-marathon as she was approaching 40 and didn’t want to waste away.

Well, one day she was driving with her husband and got t-boned by a semi truck on the freeway. Her seat belt snapped from the force, but not before it was able to break the bones underneath it. She was born with only a single lung, which was punctured. Her vehicle was flattened. The first-responders, using the jaws of life, took care of her husband first since she was obviously dead from her mangled appearance.

She spent about a year in the hospital, and when she went home, it was in a wheelchair. She could not walk for seven years. Once she was able to take her first steps, she started living her life again. She would be able to walk from her car to the electric grocery carts to do her shopping, but no more.

Then she saw a sign on a building advertising “Therapuetic Yoga” and she gave it a try. The deep stretches and slow movements and the feeling afterward got her hooked. From there, she tried a new yoga style every six to twelve months to get the benefits from each depending on her need. Today, about eight years from her new first step, she does Bikram Hot Yoga, mostly. She walked a little slower on the downhill part of the hike than the rest of us, but she was one of the first to make it back up to the vehicles.

She is a much stronger person today than she ever was back then. She has a very positive outlook on life and takes nothing for granted anymore. She lives every day as if it could be her last.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


Have you not noticed that the ultimate cry of pleasure and pain are almost identical? Emotions come full circle upon these stanchions. The cry of pleasurable ecstasy is virtually indistinguishable from a cry of suffering.

BTW… Happy Mothers Day! How’s that baby?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


I can only hope that I would be as strong a she in her suffering. Not only did it provide her a vehicle to find strength, but in this case, her story can provide it to others as well.

TaoSan's avatar

There is no coming to consciousness without pain.

Carl Gustav Jung

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


I tend to agree.

Yet, without turning an about face on this subject, I’m trying to reconcile this notion with my current back problems. Where is the enlightenment in my back pain?

Ah… there it is. My back pain has enlightened me to a new and more appropriate posture for any given task at hand. The pain is communicating pure essence of meaning directly to me. It says, “straighten up before it’s too late”.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies thanks! all the babies are good
I’ve had both pleasure and pain and my cries have been different
my baby’s cries are different to from suffering to pleausure

Jack79's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies lurve just because of that great name (and the question is witty too).

YARNLADY's avatar

Emotional pain can have both beneficial and devastating effects. The suicide rate in the country is at an all time high. I doubt most people would believe that is a good thing. The number of people committing mass murder is also way up, and I am sure no one considers that a good thing. These are both due to an excess of pain in people’s life.

I, for one, do not believe that enotional pain is a necessary ingredient for a fulfilling life.

ratboy's avatar

Yes there is. It is watching someone else enduring great tragedy.

rooeytoo's avatar

Well I personally hope I am past the pain part and there is only pleasure left.

And if I had my choice I would have avoided a lot of the pain, I truly don’t think I needed it to be aware of the good.

But how can I be sure???

wundayatta's avatar

I don’t believe you can avoid pain and tragedy. Life brings it to you in one way or another. “Poor little rich kid” is not really a joke. Still, if pain teaches us, that doesn’t mean you have to seek it out.

Some seek pain in a controlled way. We call this education or taking on challenges. Others hide from pain as best they can, and spend their lives trying to find sheltered, safe places.

However, I don’t make much of this kind of philosophizing. I don’t know if it really helps us in any concrete way. It’s more like entertainment than anything else. Maybe it helps people feel better about things that hurt.

Life brings us pain. We overcome it or we don’t. We learn what we learn. Eventually, we die.

YARNLADY's avatar

@daloon Basically, I agree with you about this kind of philosophizing. Some people can’t help analyzing life and commenting on it, especially poets. The only value I can see in it is to rejoice in sharing common ground with each other.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@daloon @YARNLADY
I’m glad you are entertained. Believe it or not there are some who do see great value in discussing matters of human suffering and enlightenment. In fact, it’s been a pretty hot topic since the dawn of humanity.

Our society has set upon a course of pleasure worship. Considering the twisted current state of affairs, I question that as a proper method for attaining awareness.

My children will be taught to embrace their downfalls… and to fully expect the well deserved strength which can come from doing that. I never once suggested to “seek out” suffering… only that it should not always be avoided, nor should we be consumed with despair when it is upon us.

What harm can befall the man who understands the benefit of it?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Daloon suggested that this type of “philosophizing” was little more than entertaining. You said you “basically agreed” with him/her.

“Sharing common ground” is the only value you put to it. Do you really believe that? I do not share the common ground of the woman that ru2bz46 noted earlier, but her story is one that can help many people… including myself.

wundayatta's avatar

My point is that the philosophizing doesn’t matter. Life is gonna kick you in the butt no matter what you do. We have no choice but to deal with it. If we choose, we can take all these kicks as an opportunity to learn. We can also choose to complain. In either case, we can’t stop the kicking. If we learn, though, we might make it a little less painful.

To me, it’s an issue of practicality, not philosophy. Don’t get me wrong, though. I’ve philosophized as much as the next person. I’ve just found that reality tends to get in the way of philosophy. I still enjoy it, and that’s why I think of it as entertainment. I don’t think I would be any worse off if I didn’t do it. However, I enjoy trying to figure things out, so that’s what I do, as best I can. An important lesson that I’ve learned is the one I’m describing here: as the movie says (or I think it’s a movie), “reality bites!”

YARNLADY's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies It’s interesting to me that I see different meanings in saying “It’s more like entertainment” (which is not the part I agreed with, by the way) than saying “I am entertained”, but you seem to be saying they are the same thing.

lazydaisy's avatar

would we know pleasure without pain? I think so. Would we appreciate it as much? Maybe.

I think pleasure is one of those things we take for granted

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

How can we know a thing without another thing to compare it against?

YARNLADY's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies I’ve been giving this some thought, and I wonder if watching it in ‘nature’ would be the same. We can see the struggle for survival all around us in both the plant and animal world. Couldn’t we learn by observation, like we learned to fly?

lazydaisy's avatar


We know about plenty of things we don’t personally experience and can compare.

ru2bz46's avatar

Having many older siblings, I learned a LOT from watching them and the mistakes they made and the resulting pain. I didn’t have to experience many things firsthand to grow from them.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@YARNLADY @lazydaisy @ru2bz46

Those are all very good points. Thanks for helping me work this out. Your thoughts on the matter help me “see what sticks” with my writing. So…

It is always preferred to learn from observation. Especially observing the suffering of others… including nature and the animal kingdom. But I don’t equate learning with enlightenment. Learning is becoming aware of something. Enlightenment is coming into union with the essence of something.

I did not mean to suggest that the suffering necessarily had to be our own, but instead that suffering and pain can lead us to the path of enlightenment more efficiently than any other mechanism. It does not matter how the pain is experienced, as long as it is truly experienced, personally or vicariously through observing it somewhere else.

It is first a test of our empathy. Can I truly experience the suffering of another, becoming one with the essence of that suffering? I learn of the starving children around the world, made aware of it through the television. I learn they are suffering, yet I do not know their suffering. I am simply made aware of it. That awareness provides a framework to justify my actions within my own community.

I have justification for my thoughts and actions. But justification is a sad stepchild of justice. There is no justice to be found here for the one who suffers. There is only a small stanchion of justification that I will claim as a personal truth. A personal truth is actually a personal deception. Foolish of me to believe that I know something when I haven’t truly experienced it. Awareness has only validated my opinions. But awareness has not provided true enlightenment. It has not affected my core being. A massive amount of empathy must be present, and that can only take us so far.

Awareness is not equal to enlightenment.

My child walks toward the hot oven door. “Don’t touch that”! I tell him it is hot and he will get burned. He has observed my warning and is aware of the situation, yet he touches the door anyway (almost as if the awareness caused him to). As his hand meets the door, his smile races to frown. He turns his face to me and screams. He has become enlightened.

Of course I tried to stop him (with much more than warnings), but I could not get there in time. None of my warnings, and none of his awareness, could have enlightened him to the degree of experiential knowing. How did this lead to pleasure? Beyond the immediate Daddy cuddling and the tasty cookies behind the hot door, my son was affected to the core of his innermost being. He has touched the fire and NOW truly knows exactly where he stands in comparison to it. The old self has died, and a new self has developed through a most uncomfortable experience of enlightenment. He became one with the essence of fire. One with the essence of suffering and pain.

Currently he uses heat as a tool for his personal pleasure.

It was still suffering (not the mistakes) that allowed you to “grow”. Yes, it was not your suffering, but it was suffering nonetheless. If the mistakes had not held consequences, and those consequences had not been suffered through, then you would not have learned anything from them. Alas, though you learned from another, you do not share the enlightenment of that other. You can learn from their enlightenment, but you only learn. They are enlightened.

Observing nature is always encouraged. We both know the knowledge that can produce. But two different observers will author two different sets of data about those observations. There is no unified enlightenment until we both are in the air experiencing flight together, or both heading towards the fatal crash together.

Our suffering through the crash together has unified us with the painful essence of flight. Those who observe the aftermath can empathize with us, and use it as a catalyst to endure their own suffering through what went wrong, and suffering through the processes of making sure it does not happen again.

We have learned about “plenty of things”, but that is not the same as “knowing” the thing. We cannot know a thing until we have personally experienced that very thing itself. Upon that experience, we always relate and compare it to something else, starting with ourselves. That thing would not even exist to us unless we had a framework of existence to place it within. This dimension is limited to certain mechanistic processes.

lazydaisy's avatar


I have been pondering this all day. Surprised?

I came up with essentially what you stated above. Sympathy vs. empathy and the true learning experience you get through natural consequences.

So, I’ll add my new analogy to the mix.

A baby cries due to some form of discomfort, not always pain per se. A sympathetic care giver recognizes the cry as a need and comforts the child. In this I can see the pleasure/pain ritual as instinct existant from the moment of birth. It then begs a couple of questions, in my mind.

What happens to the child who has his needs met to the degree that he never has to cry; and what happens to the child who cries and does not have their needs met?

ru2bz46's avatar

@lazydaisy I feel sorry for both of those children.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


Yes I think you understand where I’m coming from. Sympathy vs empathy is right on target and the natural consequences of experience is quite profound, as if “living is the lesson”, not the teacher, but the actual lesson. So who is the teacher?

I really could go on and on with that premise… “living is the lesson”, because it is the one and only notion which stands against my other belief that the “medium is never the message”.. ever, never ever. But I keep coming to that wall of conflict. The resolve is presented when put into the context of “meaning of life” and my strangling thoughts about that, that being, we are the meaning. We don’t need to look for any meaning beyond ourselves.

The needless child who never cries will ultimately feel needless, and will never know how to express (cry out) that predicament.

The needy child with unanswered cry will eventually conclude that crying does not help, so the crying stops, questioning the validity of the previous need… as you say “some form of discomfort, not always pain”. Strength comes from this, but possibly at the expense of lacking sympathy/empathy for others who cry out to him in the future.

Where is the middle ground?

That comes from the one who answers/neglects the cry. Many times parents answer the cry because of their own discomfort in hearing it, rather than to relieve the suffering of another. Others hover, reliving their own lives vicariously through the child, extinguishing self expression of the youngster, with the eye of judgment constantly upon them.

Living may be the lesson, but acknowledging the role of the teacher may be crucial to the end result.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

“You are my values”

Nothing has been as lasting as broken belief
No disappointment has wreaked a havoc such as these last twelve months

Your words that first took me forward at such speed
I have choked on them, systematically destroyed each picture in my head, or so it feels

Did I do these things in rebellion or selfishness?
I don’t know but they are done now and there’s not much of me left you’d admire

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


What a beautiful thing to say. You should consider writing that down somewhere.

Perhaps those words are true, you’re not to be admired.
But when this day is through, it’s me you have inspired.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies: those words have been written down for some time but I felt them relevant to share here. Thank you.

NomoreY_A's avatar

You’re a poet, and don’t know it.

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