Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher and literary genius, wrote about one of his fictional characters in a cafe agonising about the state of life.
In this fictional setting, he despairs at the many people who, by his age, have already contributed meaningfully to humanity and served their due diligence through means such as the invention of the phone, bus, universal theories, various modern conveniences and literary progress. With a sense of failure, he asks himself: “And what are you doing?” He realised that it was impossible for him to compete with his contemporaries in making life easier. Searching for his mission in life, he finally comes up with an idea:
“You must, with the same humanitarian enthusiasm as your peers, undertake to make life for others harder rather than easier. For when everything is combined to be easier, there remains only one last danger. For when there is only one want left, people will want difficulty. Out of love for mankind, and out of despair at my embarrassing situation, seeing that I had accomplished nothing and was unable to make everything easier than it already been made, I shall conceive it my mission to create difficulties everywhere.”
Though initially absurd, Kierkegaard isn’t off tangent, especially when you consider he was at least a few centuries behind us. At our fingertips, everything buzzes with modern convenience, digital accessibility and raw information, and yet, you would think that we would be correspondingly happier and more fulfilled. Though we all live like feudal lords (they had no TV or any computational devices), personal contentment appears to have eluded us.
And there in lies the issue. Can you chart your way to a nebula within the galaxy if you did not have specific co-ordinates? Can you pursue happiness if you never understood what it meant?
Most people function single-mindedly, often uncritically and unassumingly. We talk about friendship as if we fully understood it, espouse our beliefs with a fervent ardour, and lead lives of certainty as if the universe itself is mechanically stable when it isn’t.
What does love mean, and are all types of relationships valid for love? How far should a friendship go and what does a friend even mean? Are funerals nothing but symbolic rituals of the past? Are your beliefs logically sound, and if they are, how do they compare with the rest of the world?
In a way, finding fulfilment is to be intellectually honest with yourself: To ask questions that lead to answers, then more questions; to live with the understanding that not all questions have answers, and that we shouldn’t settle haphazardly for convenient answers.
Sure life is more complex, progressively difficult and frustrating, but surely you can agree that it is as close as it gets to developing your humanity.
So, have you thought about (HYTA) making life harder for yourself and those around you?