The past few days I’ve found myself pondering on how much misery and suffering there is in this world. When I look at it from the perspective of us as individuals, it all seems so pointless. We watch our loved ones die, we see young children afflicted with cancer, and people starving in third world countries. Does pain and suffering serve any real purpose?
I seem to have come to some realizations about these issues rather recently. When I began to view pain and suffering collectively, I started to see that they are some of the most powerful driving forces in human evolution. Without them, we wouldn’t develop and grow.
Take sickness and disease. How pointless! People come down with fevers, cancers, and flus. We have malaria, AIDs, and diabetes. What good are these things?
Think about how powerful your suffering is, and how much it influences your thought. We hate sickness. We hate disease. We hate hunger and starvation. Naturally we want to do everything we can to prevent these things, but how do we gain the power to prevent these tragedies? In a way, this suffering nature inflicts on us is forcing us to learn about what we are and where we exist in the cosmos. We have to learn about our environment, how plants grow, how the ecosystem works, how our body digests food, how our immune system works, and so forth. Pain forces us to learn and grow into a more powerful and intelligent species.
There’s nothing in the laws of nature which says we must suffer. We mainly suffer because we’re stupid. Why do we suffer from disease? We don’t know how our bodies work and therefore we can’t fix them. Why do we starve? We don’t know how to grow crops or control our environment. Why do we have poverty? We don’t know how to efficiently manage our resources and get things from point A to point B in the best way possible. We don’t know how to organize ourselves or work together effectively. Pain is driving us to evolve.
Also, as the world seems to progress, it’s demanding more and more from us. It’s getting harder to keep up with everything going on in the world. We are subjected to a new sort of self-inflicted stress. Then again, there are a few bright sides to this. I often daydream about living in an advanced society, where everyone is intelligent and working on interesting things. I dream of flying cars, intelligent robots, and an inter-planetary civilization with advanced technology. I dream of viewing the news and hearing meaningful discourse from the television and the internet. A world free of poverty and disease. A world free of superstition, where people are building beautiful structures and researching the secrets of the cosmos. A world where it’s a joy to be alive and where I can be proud of my species and what we’ve accomplished. In some ways I am proud to be a human, but there’s also a lot I’m ashamed of. So much potential is wasted.
How are we ever going to build space-ships and go explore the cosmos when all our discourse and interest is in superstition, ghosts, and astrology? Or look at your television. The networks produce shows about a bunch of hillbillies repoing cars, alien abduction conspiracies, and “reality” shows. How are we going to manipulate the weather or construct new energy sources to get us off coal and oil when we have such a terrible education system and such an empty culture? How are we going to build the human body 2.0, free of disease and with an upgraded mind if we’re wanting to remove basic alegbra as a high school requirement because our kids are not able to study, and are too busy playing Call of Duty?
I see a lot of pain and suffering in this world and it seems to me the universe is calling out to us saying, “Get smarter! Learn how your body works! Learn how the ecosystem works! Control your world and explore the universe!” Until we follow the call, that pain and suffering will not go away, and that’s not entirely a bad thing, though I’m not saying it’s a good thing either. We’ll endure pain for a while, but it’s refining us into something better.
There’s a greater world calling for us, but we have to heed the call. The desire to be free of pain and suffering is a huge impetus for us to learn about ourselves and the cosmos. They can be defeated, but how soon is up to us. The pain, death, and suffering is telling us we’re doing things wrong and need to step up.