I’ve often wondered, as have many, if the purpose of life is to be happy. Our society touts happiness like a religion. Books, blogs and seminars on the subject abound. But when we think about, look back upon, our lives, is happiness all we remember? The short answer is no. And why? Because it is through our pain and suffering that we often grow, and perhaps heal.
David Brooks wrote an Op-Ed piece for the New York Times last Tuesday on happiness and suffering. The gist of which, in my opinion, is the following: Happiness is happiness, it’s easy, and lovely but it doesn’t push the limits of who we are. It doesn’t make us look at ourselves with new eyes because we manage to live through what we weren’t sure we could.
What pushes us to know the parts of ourselves yet untested? What are our capabilities and limitations? David Brooks writes: “Suffering drags you deeper into yourself…The agony involved in, say, composing a great piece of music or the grief of having lost a loved one smashed through what they thought was the bottom floor of their personality, revealing an area below, and then it smashes through that floor revealing another area.”
Makes happiness sound a bit vapid, yes? The way I see it is; pain is the prod that makes us into the people we can be, and happiness is the respite we receive for that hard work.