It’s hot right now. Really hot. A kind of muggy, humid, 85 degree hot that persists long into the night. Add to that a 4th story apartment, laced with carpet, and plopped in the middle of a concrete jungle? You have a recipe for an uncomfortable week.
But, as it turns out, this is a weak sort of hardship. It’s the kind of hardship that doesn’t damage you, it steels you. It reminds you to appreciate life if the worst thing going on is some uncomfortable weather.
I mean sure, I could go to a store and buy an air conditioner and turn it on. It’s not like I’m strapped for cash or anything. Sure, I would pay hundreds for that soothing flow of cold air after weeks of this heat. But to me, there is something pleasant about a little suffering. It makes me feel more alive, more human, and more connected with reality. I don’t like the idea of blocking out pleasant suffering.
Have a headache? Take a Tylenol
Sore throat? Drink some Nyquil
Little too hot? Buy an air conditioner
Sorry, but fuck you buddy.
None of these ‘solutions’ are solutions at all. They mask the issue. They hide reality. They are a big blanket you put over your face until the unpleasantness goes away. I think that’s stupid. Part of being human is having a cold twice a year, or catching the flu every October. We complain and cry about how “this year’s flu??? I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy!” But the fact is, without this suffering we wouldn’t see how great it is being healthy.
I think we build memories off this light suffering. It allows us all to remember those hot stuffy days when we didn’t have air conditioning. Or remember that one winter where we had that terrible flu and could hardly stand. We remember persevering, we remember changing our lives in small, meaningful ways in retaliation to our suffering. After my cold I exercised more, after that heat wave I learned to make great food without using the stove.
Light suffering brings with it a meaningful personal experience; but more importantly it brings us closer to a world where actual, serious suffering occurs.
When we shield ourselves from pain, no matter how convenient it is, I think we take away part of our ability to empathize with others. We move away from knowing what it’s like to suffer, knowing how it feels to be uncomfortable. When we see scenes of starving children or violent protests, and we have been so numbed to discomfort, we lose our sense of what real pain, real suffering is really like.
The modern world has brought with it many lifesaving and wonderful gifts, but for now I’ll keep using my $20, five year old table fan. And no, I won’t be purchasing an air conditioner.
But you can if you want.
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