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Chapter 07: Struggle VS Happiness

What is happiness? Is it getting what you want, achieving your goal and living passively? I suspect not, in all cases I think they are substitutes of the real deal, an easy fix like a drug. Take advertisement which plays on the idea that if you buy the product you are investing in happiness, you might be elated for a brief moment, but like a drug, it soon dissipates and you are left craving another easy fix.

I truly believe Camus is on to something with this quote:

“The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy”

Sisyphus is a Greek myth, in short, he was condemned by the Gods to push a boulder up a hill, to see it roll down again and repeat the task for all eternity. It was meant as a punishment, but Albert Camus suggested that if one is able to find happiness in the struggle rather than the goal one could be able to maintain happiness. However, trying to implement this idea has felt more like a platitude then sage advice or something only said by those who fail. But what if it is the goal one is struggling towards that is the problem and not the struggle itself? In our society, we celebrate the winner, even though they might have done very little to achieve their goal in comparison to those who lost to them. Creating a system, which gives room for cheating and lying since it is the goal that has highest value. We try to create a patch by having people police and regulate, which you would not need if we lived in a good system, since a good system, I would argue, in itself would foster honest behavior. The struggle is not valued if the goal is achieved. I would argue that the goal creates a false sense of achievement and statues, in that it is measurable. Everyone can struggle, but only one can win.

We need to be in a state of struggle, but we want to reach our goal. I believe that the state of struggle is exploration if that is the case achieving one’s goal would lead to leaving the state of exploration and therefore one would lose the purpose of existing. Furthermore, by valuing the goal one is living passively, one wants the goal without struggling for it, the easier one can obtain it the better. In contrast to living actively, where one would value the struggle because in itself the struggle helps activate you.

Not only must one reevaluate where happiness lays, from the goal to the struggle, one must also change one’s goal. First of the goal cannot be quantifiable or hold a value in and of itself. If the goal is to explore, than to simply stay in a constant state of struggle is where happiness resides. The goal is to struggle.

That is how I think one can change the world for the better, by inspiring people to adjust what they value in life. As long as money is not your god, anyone irrelevant of there belief system can adjust there priority from the goal to the struggle and exploration without changing their belief system.

It has been pointed out to me that the word struggle is a negative term, but I argue that it is not, it is only negative within our framework of thinking, which suggests that the less one struggles the better one has it, I firmly say no that is not the case. The state of struggle is where you want to be, imagine the struggle as a challenge, it is the process of solving the problem that is the point that keeps you activated, the elated feeling of completion is a bonus, but I feel it should not be the driving factor. When observing our 14-month child play, I notice that she has a goal and when she is unable to obtain that goal she gets immensely frustrated and retaliates by destroying everything. To me, that suggests that we are hardwired to be goal oriented, but does that mean we have to stay that way, can we not evolve beyond infantility?

There is a Japanese Anime called ‘One Punch Man’ original created as a webcomic by One, it is about an overpowered superhero called Saitama who beats anyone he fights with one punch. There are a couple of interesting points it brings up, most characters cannot perceive his strength because it is immeasurable, therefore he is often dismissed by those that value the quantifiable, but most importantly for this particular discussion is that he no longer needs to struggle and because of that he is unable to feel anything. In volume 15 ‘Bored as Usual’ he says “There’s nothing left for me to learn from anyone” which suggests to me that he has nothing left to explore. The Anime and manga have jet to answer how he can start feeling again, though one character, King, engages Saitama in computer games, where King always wins, but this to does not solve the problem. At one point King suggests to Saitama to take up dancing or go traveling to which Saitama says he is not interested in either. To me that suggests where the problem lies, Saitama wants to be stimulated, meaning he wants to live passively.

A story or film without struggle is considered uninteresting, it is the struggle that makes it compelling, not the success. Though we do not like seeing our hero fail, there has to be a reward at the end, however, I’m trying to argue that the reward is in the struggle itself, winning or losing is irrelevant. Creating a sequel to a successful story where the hero lived happily ever after creates a problem because the hero must return to the point of struggle, and to do that they must lose everything gained from the previous narrative. I find my self, asking the question, what is happily ever after? My answer is a constant struggle.

Imagine a hero who struggled and won, who now lives in the utmost luxury imaginable, how do we imagine there children? Entitled and without the need to acquire the skills that their parents developed. Which puts them in a vulnerable position if they lose their position of power, henceforth it becomes imperative for them to maintain the status quo. In the book ‘The Beam: Season One’ by Sean Plat and Johnny B. Truant there are two characters who have everything, they are both forced to work, though one can not be bothered because he knows it does not matter, whilst the other works for both of them. When both lose everything it is only the one who worked that is able to adapt and survive. When I was about 12 I saw a film called “The Admirable Crichton” which I vividly remember to this day, in short, it was about an English servant who becomes shipwreck along with a handful of lords and ladies, during the ordeal the skills of the servant is shown to be more valuable than the wealth of the upper class, which disrupted the status quo.

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