The value of life can be found in its difficulties.
We often wonder, dream, aspire to live without a care in the world – the American Dream is typically one of financial success and independence… thank you, Horatio Alger. It is because of this that we find ourselves perplexed when those that have achieved this status still engage in self-destructive behavior or exhibit negative outlooks. Why is that? Shouldn’t they be happy? They grabbed the brass ring and have half their lives ahead of them to enjoy it. Unfortunately, empathy is not easily achieved when thinking about these poor souls.
I mean, if I had enough money, raising my son would be a snap! Private schools, nannies, and expensive camps would ensure he had the finest of everything at a minimum of real effort from myself. Our house would be large enough to never run out of room and the upkeep would happen on it’s own, care of the services we would hire. With a signature on a check, the daily struggles of life would fade.
Sweet Jiminy Glick, that would be horrible.
An interesting parallel to this would be playing a difficult video game. You play for hours on end and are simply getting tired of the struggle, but are enthralled with the characters and the storyline. A quick pop over to gamefaqs.com takes care of that. “Ctrl+~” to enter the console. “god” “giveallweapons” “giveallammo” Great! All set! The game is alive again – you’re kicking ass, taking names, and never getting a scratch on you! Forget that sliding around corners bullshit, you’re going full steam down the middle of the fuckin’ hallway with a train of enemies following, trying vainly to kill you with their feeble bullets, pulse blasts and swords. On to the next level, mehearties!
Fast-forward about an hour. Yup. Another hallway. More enemies. Click. Kill. Next. *cough* *yawn* End credits. Meh.
A few years ago as a lark, I set up a private World of Warcraft server at the campus where I work – I had played the real Blizzard game for years prior to this. My coworkers and I played on my server for a few weeks, but it was always more of a lark than anything else. Once I was the only one logged in, I started tinkering a bit. I had admin access and I had access to the MySQL backend – this essentially made me God. I gave myself the best armor, increased my stats to full-blown nutball levels, and actually made a ridiculous “one-hit-one-kill-ANYTHING” weapon I dubbed “The Sword of a Thousand Truths”, an homage to the WoW South Park episode.
Geared up, pumped up, and dressed to the nines, I went in. I wandered unhindered through areas I had only imagined whilst playing the legitimate game. The largest foes fell by my sword and I was mighty! That lasted all of half-an-hour. I logged off, shut the machine down, and it has never been resurrected since. It was interesting. It was everything I thought I wanted. It just wasn’t… fun.
So, too is life. The joy of it is in the struggles. The balancing home life with work life with being a parent with being a husband with keeping comfortable with keeping strong with improving each other with improving ourselves. It’s a hell of a battle, but it’s because of this – not in spite of this – that it’s fun. Through this struggle, we adapt, we grow, we learn, we value, and we cherish. Without the struggle, we become spoiled, bored, shiftless, lazy and lacking in character.
We expect that through the merits and rewards of our own struggles, our children will benefit and learn… but that just isn’t the case. We feel inclined to give them all the money we’ve worked for, all the privileges we’ve earned, and deny them the struggle of life that we went through, expecting them to be appreciative – but it just doesn’t work that way. Even with the best of intentions, what we denied them was the one thing they actually needed.
We will raise a group of children that does not know the pain of showing humility and subservience only to be rewarded with scorn. That sounds like a good thing, but only on the surface – for what we also deny them is the ability to show empathy to others.
We will raise a group of children that does not know the pain of losing a competitive event and be laughed at by the winners. That sounds like a good thing, but only on the surface – for what we also deny them is the value of showing compassion and humility during their triumphs over others.
So go ahead – win the lottery. Cash out your risky portfolio. Open up the console and giveallweapons. Deny yourself and your loved ones life’s struggles. Just don’t expect any feeling of reward at the end of the day.