In his book, “In Sunlight and in Shadow”, Mark Helprin discusses the need for something to struggle against for life to have purpose, to have meaning and to have value. His main character Harry , refuses to remove himself from conflict, either immediate or in the larger scale of life, feeling that the struggle is needed to grow. It is needed to find happiness if it causes turmoil and distress for the time being.
This feels reminiscent of The Matrix. Agent Smith tells Morpheus that the original matrix made everything perfect but the humans rejected it. We needed suffering to make our lives make sense. That created a purpose and acceptance that the fake reality was real. It’s like humans need something bad to enjoy the good.
There are days that I agree with this and days when I don’t. then there are the days I live in blatant denial that there is any struggle anywhere near me and my life. Then there is the factor of how much of my struggle is First World Trouble: I had to throw out a bag of spinach because it spoiled before I could eat it all.
I agree that some struggle, some conflict is necessary for us to grow, to be our best. To achieve more. Without it, we float at whatever level of convenience I have recently found. And I want to be sharp. I want to grow. I am ready to face some difficulty to do so. SOME. Not much, but some. A few of my recent posts have explored this theme a bit, both my awareness of the need and my general ambivalence toward approaching it.
This is the concept of muscles needing stress to grow. As we exercise them, they get stronger but that only happens through stressing them a little to catalyze that growth. Struggle, as uncomfortable as it may be, can bring good.
Someplace in my heart, in the depths of my mind, I know that I need to embrace the struggle, perhaps even pursue it to make my life better. But my couch is comfortable. And inertia is powerful.
My daughters had a teacher that pushed engaging the struggle, that being the point where true learning happens. I like to learn. I truly do. I even enjoy the challenge a new subject offers. But challenge feels less threatening than struggle. Maybe that is just one of the oddities of the swamp of my mind, but the words mean significantly different things to me. Point is, I don’t know if I like learning enough to truly struggle for it.
But I hate stagnating too.
Todd Henry, author of Die Empty discusses that our definition of passion may be askew. We often think of passion as that which brings us joy or excitement. But the truer definition of passion leans toward suffering. A passion therefore would be something we are willing to suffer for. Or, perhaps, to struggle for. In In Sunlight and in Shadow that something is life and living. For me it occasionally is. I used to think that I would struggle for my art, my writing but lately I find it a struggle to want to struggle for that. But I do want to want to.
Just deciding whether to struggle feels like too much of a struggle some days.