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Life Arts    H4'ed 7/4/09

The Categorical Value of Suffering

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Originally posted:

Buddhists think that life is suffering and that this suffering is meaningless. But there is a categorical value to suffering-that is to say, we can give suffering a categorical value.

Suffering in every instance serves the purpose of teaching that suffering is bad and that power is good and in motivating life in a general movement toward power and away from suffering.

In the movie Fight Club, Tyler Durden gave the main character a chemical burn on his hand. The main character tried to escape the pain through remembering what he learned in guided meditation, and Tyler replied, "Don't deal with it the way those dead people do. This is the greatest moment of your life, and you're off missing it somewhere." Why is this the greatest moment of his life? Because nothing makes one more aware of the importance of power than being in terrible pain and not being able to do anything about it.

Even Buddhists seek out power-the power to snuff out life. Their conclusion that life should be snuffed out and their justification for seeking this can only be coherent, they could only have reached this conclusion in the first place, if the above assertion (suffering in every instance...) is true.

Their conclusions, however, rely on the idea that this trend towards power cannot succeed in overcoming suffering, except through annihilation. This is a metaphysical assumption I neither see evidence for nor am willing to accept without evidence. And even if this were the case, what better way could I live, ceteris paribus, than seeking to affirm my will, regardless of the result?

In any case, power is required to achieve this or any goal and is thus the categorical value. Rather than assume that life is meaningless or futile one should seek out power that would put one in a position to know what the case is and act accordingly.

Buddhists say "pain is inevitable, suffering is optional." I say "suffering is inevitable." We may both be right in our own ways. They mean that there will always be pain but you can reach a place in your mind so that you don't suffer from the pain. Rather, you just experience it. What they neglect, however, is that both trying to end pain and trying to end suffering are attempts at exerting one's power, and that both a pain free state and a suffering free state are based upon conditions that are achieved. You have the ability to go to a place of bliss in your mind, but this is not unconditional happiness, in the strictest sense, since it is dependent upon you being able to go to this place in your mind. Theoretically, someone could do something to your brain to prevent you from being able to do this. So it comes back to power. You can either try to move things physically, in which case you may achieve a state without pain, or you can try to move things mentally, in which case you may achieve a state without suffering. But there will always exist beings who have not conditioned themselves into this mindset of not minding pain just as there will always exist beings who are in states of pain, and thus suffering will always exist. On the same line, you as an individual might be able to overcome suffering, but you might also be able to overcome pain.

If you desire something and you cannot obtain it, you may experience suffering. There are two ways to solve this problem. Either obtain the object of your desire, or stop desiring it. Why would you want the latter?

If you identify with the message of this article, please email it to people, tell your friends, even print out copies to pass around. Together we can raise awareness. Thank you.
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Ben Dench graduated valedictorian of his class from The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in the Spring Semester of 2007 with a B.A. in philosophy (his graduation speech, which received high praise, is available on YouTube). He is currently (more...)
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