By: Shahriar H.
Life is horrifyingly beautiful, is it not? It bestows gifts, but shows no mercy. It rewards the resourceful, and punishes the weak. Just like my parents, Tough Love (with less love and more tough). Every individual has their own story to struggle with, and is molded by it. It makes them who they are, gives them their ambition, their personality, their secrets, their identity. A large part of this is how an individual responds to pain and pleasure. Everything from periods of hardship to simple discomfort, times of happiness and the small things in life. There are three benchmark philosophies regarding this, and none of them are the ‘correct’ one; thus, I encourage you to adopt one, according to your own story.
Are you a Stoic?
‘Stoicism is the endurance of pain without the display of feelings and without complaint. All men, in their ability to bear hardship, are equal; the individual’s self-control, exercise of will, fortitude and logical thought is emphasized’. The Stoic believes that “virtue is sufficient for happiness”, devoid of all other destructive emotion (rage, envy, grief, etc). He embraces and accepts his life in the world for what it is, and makes the best of only what he is able to do, while leaving all else be.
As attractive and powerful the idea of a stoic seems, it is nearly impossible to be a hardcore-stoic, due to human nature. It does not seem very pleasing to be one either; he seems rather cold-hearted and static. Although, one must realize that certain people simply evolve this way to survive. Stoicism can definitely get one through life, it does not touch upon many of the wonderful things in it. However, if you plan to be Stoic, a word of caution: do not misplace these ideals; there are certain hardships that no one is obliged to go through.
Are you an Epicurean?
‘Epicureanism lets go of and exchanges pain for pleasure, making it the paramount concern in one’s life. At the same time, one must be logical of their indulgence in pleasure, for too much could result in pain’. The Epicurean finds all the fun he can in every single day, ignoring everything that could have a negative effect on him.
Again, as tempting and easy being an Epicurean seems, it comes with its own problems. If one ignores all hardships and negativity, they are putting themselves in a state of bliss by ignorance, which is far from the world they live in. One cannot evolve by being wholly epicurean. Although such ways of thought can definitely get you through life, I feel as though it does not let oneself experience the true nature of life. This is where I feel that Buddhism marks a balance.
Are you a Monk?
I highly doubt you are. And I’m not telling you to become one, but learn from one. The kind of Monk I’m talking about is a Buddhist. Buddhism finds a “Middle Way”, one that endures necessary hardships, letting go of pains that do one no good, while experiencing all other emotions such that one can learn from them.
This is in the middle of two extremes that are Stoicism and Epicureanism, alike a number line. The path is ‘perfect’, but as we are human, perfection is far from reach. Much like comparing a circle to an infinitely-sided regular polygon; as much as it may seem like a circle, we know it isn’t. Whether you walk the middle way, or lean on it, you will slip from it, but as long as it is in sight, you are heading in the right direction.
In conclusion, the Stoic endures all pain with no emotion, the Epicurean trades pain for pleasure ignoring all negativity, and the Monk endures the necessary hardships but gives up unnecessary ones, while acknowledging the terrifying grace of life.