Life is brutal. There is of course the “You get what you expect in life” aphorism or the one about how “You can see your life through different lenses; either a positive outlook or a negative one, and in each case you will be right”. None of that changes the fact that life is brutal. It is impersonal. It does not care about your status in society. Neither does it matter whether you are the kindest soul or the vilest person on the planet. It will dish out its brutality in unequal measure. At least that’s how it seems.
You have bills to pay. The kids haven’t had a decent meal in a while. Your landlord wants to evict you. You’ve just been laid off. Your department is no longer needed and therefore they won’t require your services anymore. You’ve just found out your spouse has been cheating on you with your best friend. The doctor has just announced that your only child has a terminal illness. A reckless driver just totalled your car and now you are paralysed from the waist down. That vacation of a lifetime took you to an area where you contracted a flesh-eating bug. That pimple on your face is actually a cancerous tumour. It’s brutality everywhere. That is life.
It all sounds bleak. Perhaps it is true when they say you should focus on the positive things that life has to offer. As one song says, “Count your blessings name them one by one”. Apparently, when you count your blessings, your outlook changes and you realize that things are not as bad as they appear. Is that supposed to be comforting? How will you solve your current problems? Who will help you when everyone around you is going through their own personal hell? Why do bad things happen to good people?
That is the nature of life. Sometimes the pressures of life can weigh you down and there doesn’t seem to be any respite in the near future. Your friends have turned their back on you and your family doesn’t seem to love you anymore. You are all alone. You are broke and all your creditors want a piece from you. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. People say you are useless; foolish even. The world would be better off without you.
Surely, what’s the point of living? Might as well escape the brutality, right?
If you’ve read the book Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr. Viktor Frankl (if not, I would definitely recommend it), you realize that life will do with you as it pleases. It will tear you down to your bare bones till all you can see is the real you. You will question your purpose on this earth when all the pressures of life weigh you down. You are here for a reason but what is it? Were you just put here to suffer?
Most of the kindest people on earth are those who have suffered deeply in their hearts and minds. The only thing that separates those who make it through this life is willpower. Yes, you are suffering. But you are not the only one. You are not alone. There are many other people going through the same struggle. There are millions more whose struggles you would not wish to bear. We are bound to one another through our lives; through our shared pain. We are all in this together.
That’s why you are always urged to smile at people and be kind whenever possible “because you do not know what struggles they may be going through”. It is just a small way of saying, “Despite the pain you are feeling, I appreciate that we are in this together”. It’s a shared kinship.
Life is not that bleak. It is true you need to teach yourself to look at life with new eyes. There is so much beauty around us that goes unnoticed. When is the last time you took a second to stare at the moon? When is the last time you closed your umbrella and just raised your head to the sky and embraced the rain? When’s the last time you tried to share a joke with the quiet person in the room? When is the last time you just smiled at a random stranger as you passed and they smiled back at you?
Like in other things in life, it is the little things that matter. How did you make a million? I just decided to change my product from green to blue. How did you win that football match? I just tweaked the tactics a little and we took control of the game. What do you love about her? There’s this little noise she makes when she laughs. What do you like about him? There’s this little look he gets when he sees me.
It’s the little things that matter!
Look around you and find whatever it is that makes you happy; even for a moment. The pain will always be there but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be interspersed with moments of sheer joy. Perhaps it’s even a good idea to start living your bucket list right now. There are so many people who are trying to complete their bucket lists quickly because they’ve been told they have a terminal disease.
Maybe taking the attitude that we don’t have long to live can spur us to great heights. We can love deeply; live without fear; speak kind words to one another; share our meals with those who don’t have the means; give a stranger our parking space; be patient with one another; appreciate our earthly possessions more; go to all our kids’ ballgames; sing passionately; and even sleep peacefully. Life would be an expression of love.
Life brings suffering but Love is effusive. Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “To live is to suffer; to survive is to find some form of meaning in the suffering”. We can choose to see the world with new eyes. We can accept the reality of the world and still do the things that will bring joy to our lives. We can love our lives in spite of the inherent flaws. Only then can we connect with others in the eternal bond that binds us together: Life.