Why Life Is Utter Hell
Because Nothing Tastes Quite Like the Cold Hard Truth
"One does not become enlightened
by imagining figures of light,
but by making the darkness conscious."
- C. G. Jung
...or is life utter hell?
We're looking for answers.
And in this quest for real answers - and not phony, bull-soaked hype - we often find ourselves confronted by a few basic questions (is life good, or bad?) on a personal level (is life fun, or is life utter hell?)
Our job is to follow these questions wherever they lead us.
And sometimes they lead us headfirst into a wood-chipper of reality.
But - although life may be full of hard, cold, brutal, unforgiving facts - well, that won't keep us from doing our job.
Warning: This article is not for the faint of heart.
If you aren't prone to at least the occasional mild flirtation with anxiety or depression, then, well, you might be experience a taste of that after reading this. Sorry. (We tried to warn you. Or, we're trying now.) But maybe our efforts to help with anxiety/depression here might help with that. Maybe? Hopefully?
Or, if you already do flirt with it, even before reading this, well, maybe just go ahead and click over there now.
Because what follows won't win us any awards for "Best Motivational Speech Of All Time."
But hey, at least you'll know you aren't alone. (Even if, ultimately, we really all are alone, ultimately.)
(That said, if you'd like us to speak for your high school/college graduation ceremony, let us know.)
OK. Here goes.
Life is definitely not a bowl of cherries.
You come into the world screaming. You're welcomed with a slap, weighed like a head of cabbage, and stuffed into a box.
"Birth is suffering;
Decay is suffering;
Death is suffering;
Sorrow, Lamentation, Pain, Grief and Despair are suffering;
not to get what one desires is suffering;
The Five Aggregates of Existence
- The Buddha
Pessimists are often attacked and criticized by optimists for being too pessimistic. Yet optimists are, for some reason, surprised that this strategy rarely changes the opinions of the pessimists.
We spend our lives struggling to survive. It's our most urgent task; it's what we typically care about above everything else. And we're destined to fail.
After we're gone, the fact of the matter is that world will get along just fine without us, and the vast majority of the world won't even notice, much less care, that we're gone.
must have been some kind of a mistake."
- Arthur Schopenhauer
"That human life must be some kind of mistake
is sufficiently proved by the simple observation
that man is a compound of needs which are hard to satisfy;
- that their satisfaction achieves nothing
but a painless condition
in which he is only given over to boredom . . ."
- Arthur Schopenhauer
"The Good Guys," based on all available evidence, definitely do not always win.
Often, it's actually pretty darn fuzzy figuring out who the good guys even are.
"Painkillers," in the long run, sometimes make things more painful.
"Antidepressants" can make us more depressed.
Kids often scream a lot when they're born. There are reasons why they scream. (Here's a potential one: because life is hell.)
"Many men do not know
what to do with themselves:
they reel from purpose to purpose,
spend half a day driving to a ball game,
scramble for seats, freeze while they watch,
scramble for their cars before the game is over to beat the worst rush,
and reach home late at night,
having spent another day off
to which they had looked forward to during the week."
- Walter Kaufman
"There are definitely things justifying pessimism."
- D.T. Suzuki
Parents, definitely, do not know everything.
We search all our lives for a measure of comfort, peace, and relief from the whole "life is hell" thing. If we find a little comfort, we want a little more. If we get a little more, we want it to last. If it lasts, it gets boring. Return to step one, and repeat.
A person can get a fleet of theology degrees from Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Duke, and dozens of other places, and still not be able to give a satisfactory answer to a child asking why God invented poison ivy or mosquitoes.
"It is possible to live only as long as life intoxicates us;
once we are sober we cannot help seeing
that it is all a delusion,
a stupid delusion!"
- Leo Tolstoy
Many people are well-meaning, good-intentioned, doing-the-best-they-can, jerks.
Trying can be the first step on the road to failure.
We are destined to spend our entire lives under a variety of compulsions: we must eat, sleep, drink, eliminate wastes properly, find an appropriate mate . . . if we fail to respond to these compulsions properly, we are rewarded with more pain.
Even, in its own ways, for the rich, the powerful, the talented, the beautiful . . . life is still hard.
As the saying goes, "the one thing we should learn from experience is that we do not learn from experience." Thus far, it does not seem to be the case the wisdom is cumulative; each generation, in general, makes about the same mistakes as the generations before it.
"Perhaps the only true dignity of man
is his capacity to despise himself."
- George Santayana
All happy feelings, fade away. So do the unhappy ones.
"Life is a hospital
in which every patient is possessed by the desire of changing his bed.
One would prefer to suffer near the fire,
and another is certain he would get well
if he were by the window."
- Charles Baudelaire
Reruns, remakes, and remakes of reruns.
"Life is a constant oscillation
between the sharp horns of a dilemma."
- H. L. Mencken
We look out into nature, and see an incessant churning about of animals and plants trying desperately to keep alive. All of them will fail, too.
"Life swings like a pendulum
backward and forward
between pain and boredom."
- Arthur Schopenhauer
Old Yeller, and Bambie's mom.
"All of life is a struggle.
It's a struggle just to get out of bed in the morning.
You're fighting gravity all day long."
- Richard Rose
We are, for the most part, either conscious of our misery, or unconscious of our misery.
Pollyanna was wrong.
"Life is like an onion:
you peel off layer after layer
and then you find there is nothing in it."
- James Gibbons Huneker
Even "Spiritual Giants" don't often get along with each other.
"Life is a God-damned, stinking, treacherous game
and nine hundred and ninety-nine men out of a thousand are bastards."
- Theodore Dreiser
Most things we want, we will not get. Most of the time, if we do get them, we will not be satisfied with them for long.
Most goals and dreams we have, we probably won't realize. But, even if we do realize the goals and dreams we have, we'll probably discover that it were the wrong goal or dream to start with. So, we starting working on another one.
". . . take high abstracted man alone; and he seems a wonder, a grandeur and a woe.
But from the same point, take mankind in the mass,
and for the most part,
they seem a mob of unnecessary duplicates . . ."
- Herman Melville
Seat belts, sometimes, kill people.
We slave away, working very hard for our entire lives. Why, and good does it do? Normally, we have no idea why, we just do.
"We hear that all of creation is 'for the glory of God,'
and we cannot help but ponder
the quality of glory that must be rendered
from the reduction of millions of beautiful beings
into soul-less, senseless fertilizer."
- Richard Rose
Doctors, sometimes, make people sick.
Just take a glance at the news. That's all you need to do.
"In the great game of human life
one begins by being a dupe
and ends by being a rogue."
Nature has constructed things in the following manner: with predictable consistency, nature, by design, makes arguably the most innocent, gentle, and perceptive beings on the planet (little children) completely naive, powerless, inarticulate, and utterly dependent on what are often ignorant, obsessed, half-sane, power-hungry beings who gave birth to them.
"There are moments
when I teeter on the edge of belief that nature cares.
The occasion may be mundane. I may be raking leaves of a gray fall day,
drinking a glass of wine with my wife, Suzie, on our deck at sunset,
waiting with my son and daughter at the end of the driveway
for the morning school bus to arrive.
Gratitude wells up in me as a kind of yearning, as strong as hunger or sexual desire.
I want to thank someone, something, for all that I have . . .
. . . (Yet) A God who deserves thanks
for my good fortune, I had to remind myself,
also deserves blame for the misery of countless others.
Thanking this God for all I have would be obscene.
I would be saying, in effect, "Thank you, God,
for not screwing me
like you've screwed all those other poor bastards."
- John Horgan
Those individuals who think that life, under normal conditions, is utter hell, often become targets of those who don't think the same. Thus, those individuals are routinely criticized, insulted, mocked, misunderstood, ganged up upon, set up to be humiliated, and called names. This typically is not successful in changing their opinion,
"If a man could understand
all the horror of the lives of ordinary people
who are turning round in a circle of insignificant interests and insignificant aims,
if he could understand what they are losing,
he would understand that there can be only one thing that is serious for him -
to escape from the general law, to be free.
What can be serious for a man in prison who is condemned to death?
Only one thing: how to save himself, how to escape: nothing else is serious."
- G. I. Gurdjieff
Just read a few history books.
Or you don't even have to go to history books. Just the news headlines.
Everything in the universe is eating everything else.
And if the people behind The Secret are right, we're also to blame for all this madness. (Luckily on this point, they aren't.)
The horror! "
- Joseph Conrad, The Heart of Darkness
and Marlon Brando, Apocalypse Now
Death is an inevitable certainty.
Lots of people say that death isn't the end. But what do they know?
Those who commit suicide hope that dying will solve the problem. It might not. It might even make things worse.
". . . But the time came when I stopped growing;
I felt that I was not growing but drying up.
My muscles were growing weaker, my teeth were falling out,
and I saw not only that this law explained nothing to me . . . "
- Leo Tolstoy
OK! Great! Thanks for That! I feel awesome! So, what now?
First of all, if you'd like us to come give this pep talk at your local high school graduation, neighborhood Tupperware party, Girl Scout Troop Meeting, etc, contact us here.
Secondly, if the above gives you a little rub of anxiety or depression or angst or something like that, that probably means you're alive, conscious, at least fairly healthy and sane, and aware of the situation we're all in, which is a good thing. That said, being anxious and depressed isn't always as fun as it's cracked up to be in the commercials, and we're working on tackling that here.
Third, seriously: you aren't alone in all this. Yes, we might be all ultimately alone, ultimately...but that said, another human being wrote and compiled the above, and a bunch of other human beings have also read and are reading it and probably will read it in the future. (At least until the heat death of the universe, or a little before.) So at least in that sense, you aren't totally alone. (Even if we all are, ultimately.)
Well, we see the above as a "problem."
A lot of problems, maybe.
But if you look at them all as a group, you could probably gather them all under one big heading:
"The human condition."
- or something like that.
We're here in the human condition. And at least sometimes, it can really suck.
That's something we can probably all agree on.
Different folks describe this condition in different ways.
You could say that we're in a "fallen state," for example.
Or, as Buddha put it rather bluntly, "life is suffering."
Or maybe we're living in The Matrix.
Whatever you call it or however you explain it (and you can explain it in lots of different ways,) it all comes down to one thing: suffering.
And that's another problem.
We suffer. Life is difficult. And full of pain.
So this raises other questions.
If suffering is inevitable in this "condition" or "state" or "Matrix" or whatever the heck we're in...then, why are we here?
And what are we supposed to do about it? In other words, how are we supposed to act?
And what should we do if we want real happiness? Does it even exist? What about a more advanced kind of happiness - as in, "antifragile happiness"?
Those are pretty good questions.
We're exploring those too.
We'll get back with what we find - we're able to make any progress and find anything worthwhile along these lines, we'll plan on gathering it and bringing it back here, for you.
So, hang in there. And stay tuned.