Hardship — Or the lack of it.
It seems like almost everyone has a hardship story. Some lose their parents at an early age, prompting a spurt of growth to fill the void left behind, and others have recovered from debilitating diseases. Many haven’t had a formal education, and even more navigate poverty to emerge with full bellies and the strongest of minds. Refugees and immigrants with nothing to their name except the clothes on their back form the backbone of the wealthiest of nations. Children, are forced to suddenly grow up and rescue their families from tough situations. The memory of suffering defines and fortifies these remarkable individuals who have emerged ever resilient in the face of the most daunting odds.
But what if you have never suffered? Hunger is an irritant or the deliberate byproduct of the latest fad diet, easily resolved at the swipe of a card. Your family is strong, drama does not find its way into your conversations. Disease is kept at bay through medicine. Money is a certainty and education, more of a irritant than a luxury. There is no great legacy to live up to, domineering parent to impress, or generational responsibility. Shielded from every kind of trauma, life is but a series of boxes to be ticked — job, career, marriage, children, inevitable success followed by a joyful retirement and a peaceful death.
“A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.” — Seneca
If all is comfort, what is indeed to be done? Decadence, pleasure and indulgence drift inward. Muscles atrophy. The journey is replaced with a trip. The fight is only to be witnessed. Action is for games. The arena gets smaller and contemporaries become the competitors. The raging torrent of childhood dies down into a gentle stream, incapable of eroding the softest of stone. Civilisations themselves commence their death once they have grown to their pinnacle.
How does one climb at the peak of a plateau? Without greed, what’s the need?
Purpose is the shield against inaction. The struggle is against safety. The quest begins when obstacles are erected, boundaries drawn. There is hardship enough in knowing that the plateau is barren and needs cultivation. Identify a bad to find the good. Trauma is to be found in the knowledge of unfulfilled potential. Even the strongest fortress needs repair, improvement if it is not to be breached by new technology. Conversations can be made richer; loneliness, alleviated. A hand outstretched in friendship is an effort well made. Diseases need curing and comfort if enjoyed, must also be shared.
Life seems to be nothing but an endless series of peaks and valleys, there is ever more to climb. I am not old, but I can imagine that in the last moments, there can be no greater joy than having lived life right.