Today, I want to push back against the narrative that life is wretched, despicable, or terrible.
A Life (Not) Worth Living
From the president in office to the looming nuclear war and the struggling economy to the threat of riots, we live in an imperfect world that presents dangers and challenges. Because of the struggles present in day-to-day living and in macro politics, it is easy to see life as terrible, horrible, and sometimes meaningless.
Things are worsening in many ways. Race relations are the worse they’ve been in twenty years, the economy is still struggling after the recession, collectivist and tribal identity politics infest political discourse, foreign relations aren’t the best, and so forth. Additionally, there is a multitude of personal problems each individual has whether it’s addiction to pornography, unemployment struggles, and much more.
So, the world is pretty terrible. Why should we have any hope? Well for starters, we are not unique. We don’t have the plague to contend with or the uncertainty and instability that was the Second World War. The economy has been worse, and individuals have battled situations entirely outside of their control. It’s one thing to struggle to find a job; it’s another to live in a society that legally says you can’t hold a job, own property, or even worse, that you are property.
What has always bothered me about the notion that life is wretched is that it comes from a place of comfort. Our culture believes that life is miserable because various challenges have shaken our usually carefree and straightforward worldview.
Financial difficulties? Life is controlled by money hungry corporations, and there’s nothing I can do to manage my own finances.
Abusive people? Life is full of terrible human beings, and I have no choice of whether I associate with them or whether I chose to become one.
Low self-esteem? I’ll always feel crappy, and there are no behaviors I can change or mindsets I can adjust that would help improve my overall quality of life.
It is. Life is beautiful, and each of us should be grateful for it. When faced with difficulties, whether in society or in our individual lives, we have to remember that things have always been worse.
But more importantly, we must remember that we have the capacity to make life better. People were slaves; individuals had no freedom or rights, easily curable diseases destroyed countless lives, and so on. We face none of those obstacles in the civilized West which grants us immensely more control over the course of our personal lives.
Why do people have this view?
People believe life is wretched because it justifies our vices and the worse within us. Self-improvement is challenging and arduous. It’s much easier to convince ourselves that life is a waste so we will avoid the hard work of becoming better people and achieving our life goals. Simply put, if life is wretched why invest time, energy, and effort in improving it?
Thus cynical nihilism serves our vices as well as our laziness: if life is always inconvenient, as the cynic says, then it is meaningless to attempt to make it better.
Additionally, people believe life is wretched because it makes power grabs easier. When individuals give up on improving their lives and the lives of others, they will seek the powerful and influential to do the heavy lifting.
People often conclude that life is wretched and that they can’t do anything about it. As individuals, we do have the power to influence improvement in our lives and others. However, if we buy the false argument that individuals can’t make the world a better place, then we’ll look towards the collective to improve the world for us.
This means power grabs and handing over the sovereignty of our lives to those in charge. Instead of helping the poor directly, we simply give money, influence, and power to the government. Then, when the poor have not been assisted, we conclude that life is terrible and there’s nothing we can do. When those stuffed with power show that they are corrupt, we act surprised and further assume that life is miserable.
From laziness to vice, viewing life as wretched only serves the weakest elements of our souls, while giving us the excuse we need to sit back and do nothing to improve ourselves or the world.
We control the narrative
I’m an individualist because I believe in the radical notion that the only aspect of life we can control is our actions. Because of this, I think it’s crucial to approach everything, from homelessness to how to learn a skill, from the perspective of what we as individuals can do, not what others can do for us.
Therefore, my conclusion is simple: life is not wretched because we can make it better. Through better choices, firm goals, an understanding of the key virtues, a beautiful community, emotional control, and respect for the sovereignty of others, we can live better, more fulfilling lives.
Because of this, I believe the best way of resolving life as wretched is to focus inward, not outward. I cannot do anything about race relations, foreign policy, gender issues, identify politics, communism, etc. on a larger scale. However, can I treat people fairly and with respect regardless of their race or gender? Can I be a better person for the people in my neighborhood? Can I be a better tourist while in other countries? Can I do more to be generous and humble? Of course I can, and through my small actions, I may effectively change minds.
We have the power to make our individual lives better. Dwelling on the flaws and problems of society won’t get us anywhere. We have to put our energy towards that which we can control so we can see clear and obvious improvements in our daily lives.
Per ardua ad astra.
- Have you ever viewed life as terrible? If so, why?
- When you’ve felt your worst, what have you done to escape that feeling?
- Have you ever been cynical? Why? Did you accomplish anything important while in your cynical mindset?
Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
*Image credit to Unsplash.