Today we ask that you examine your beliefs around pain and suffering.
What do you believe about pain and suffering?
Generally, no one likes to suffer.
Or rather, most people consciously believe they dislike suffering, and want to avoid it.
But unconsciously, something else is going on.
In truth, many people are taught from a very early age that suffering is a sign of virtue. Certainly this has been a central theme in much religion. The suffering, tortured martyr is guaranteed a place in Heaven.
Even if you are a fully secular person who was not raised in a religious environment, these beliefs are so deeply ingrained in many cultures that it is impossible not to absorb them.
Centuries ago, people demonstrated their virtue before God by flogging themselves.
Nowadays people demonstrate virtue by working themselves into exhaustion, and illness.
Many people have a bias against people who appear to be “lucky,” to “have all the luck,” and who have not suffered enough, in their estimation.
It is believed that suffering leads to great art. The myth of the tortured artist remains prevalent in your world.
Pain, suffering, exhaustion — these are considered signs of virtue. You know you are a good person if you are overworked and in pain.
“No pain, no gain” goes the saying.
This is utter madness.
So just look today at ways in which you believe that pain and suffering are virtuous.
Even if you are someone who dislikes suffering, as most people do — do you have ideas that suffering ennobles people? That it is good for one’s character? That there is a shallowness about people who haven’t suffered enough in life?
You may think religion is nonsense, and yet be a self-flagellating martyr.
You may think religion is nonsense, and yet believe that victims are more noble than “lucky people.”
So just investigate these beliefs.
Can you imagine a world in which people did not believe these things?
Do you believe that such a place would be less moral than your world?
Imagine a world in which people actively cultivated states of joy and well-being, and taught their children to do the same.
Do you think there would be widespread violence in a world like that?
This does not mean, suppress negative emotion or pretend to be happy. But states of joy can be cultivated, the same way physical health can be cultivated.
Such worlds do exist.
Your children are not born with the belief that suffering is virtuous.
It is something that must be taught.
And if it is something that must be taught, perhaps it isn’t true. Humans, over history, have been taught a great many things that are not true.