Monday, 13 February 2017

Is suffering incompatible with a higher purpose?

If it's considered that suffering is incompatible with some higher purpose to our existence, then what would the world have to be like so that it is compatible with some higher purpose? Perhaps if no one ever experienced any pain; not just physical but mental pain too? And no one ever experienced misery, least of all depression? Indeed, that our lives are in a constant state of maximum happiness?

And what would such happiness consist in? Pleasures? Or the feeling like you had as a child when you woke up on a Christmas day morning? Or if you were in a permanent state of a certain type of intellectual satisfaction?

Obviously that's silly. But perhaps people mean there's too much suffering -- not that we shouldn't have any suffering at all. But how do we work out how much suffering would be compatible with some higher purpose?

I think arguably suffering, pain, anguish, despair, loss of a loved one etc, could conceivably be held to be compatible with some higher purpose. For much of history, mankind lived a life full of dangers with the constant threat of death, and suffering, and loss. Close brushes with death from predators with the consequent comradeship and camaraderie when others save your life, and you theirs. The collective outpouring of emotions, the bitter and sweet taste of life in the raw.

In the modern west we are cosseted from all the harsh elements of life. I'll probably die an old man rather than get eaten by a predator. But perhaps, safe and rich as we are, the modern western way of life loses something. It loses the sheer rapture of being alive. If we never experience any dangers, then the sheer thrill of having overcome dangers is also lacking.

So it's not clear to me that suffering is necessarily incompatible with some higher purpose. The problem here is we don't know what the purpose of life is! Hence I think it's impossible to answer such a question.

Maybe it is, but until we know what the purpose of life is, why we are here, how can we say what the nature of our lives should be like?


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