‘What is joy without sorrow? What is success without failure? What is a win without a loss? What is health without illness? You have to experience each if you are to appreciate the other. There is always going to be suffering. It’s how you look at your suffering, how you deal with it, that will define you.’ – Mark Twain

This is one of my most favourite quotes of all time as it speaks of balance in life. This from a bloke who lived in an era defined by the morals and values of his time. Mark Twain in all honesty was Samuel Langhorne Clemens.

Mark Twain was his pen name and if you inspect that he had a certain irony as his pen name literally meant mark two.

He is known for his books with the character Tom Sawyer. Tom was the vehicle by which the accepted norms of society back then, and in modernity, were inspected, analysed, and questioned. An act of bravery back in those times if you pause to consider that in the era of those times in the late 1800’s, and an act of bravery now given the hatreds and divisions promoted in society.

Anyway, enough of the history lesson from my perspective on a writer whom I admire, and down to my inspection of this personal favourite quote of his as it relates to the modern condition and the hypocrisies contained within the modern narrative.

The quote speaks of balance in life, something that is somewhat lost in this modern world as narratives are pushed and promoted to direct the thinking of our young, and society at large, in a mostly negative direction it seems at times.

The modern narrative decries anything that came before and is subject to harsh criticism regardless of intent or perspective. In that history is erased as it is inconvenient or doesn’t fit a narrative. Hence the lack of direction that our young experience as they try to make their way in the world as they have no rock to base themselves upon. There is also no balance, as balance cannot exist when pushing a narrative.

My father said to me once that good people can do bad things but that doesn’t always make them bad people. The opposite is also true, and almost always universally ignored, particularly in current times. He was referring to me in that example in part, and humanity collectively from his experiences.

Modern suffering is ignored in large part despite the lip service paid to it. Religions and beliefs still oppress women in more than a few countries. People are persecuted for their beliefs, political, religious, or personal in many countries. People with different sexual beliefs are persecuted in many countries.

The modern narrative either embraces or ignores these things based on reasons unfathomable. How can women fight for equality and then ignore the repressions that women in other countries endure? How can it be that people are persecuted and killed for their religious beliefs and this is ignored? Perhaps it is because it is uncool to criticise certain countries.

The modern narrative in many western countries proscribes that all men are evil, violent bastards and all women are innocent when it simply isn’t so.

The truth of the matter is different.

Consider the modern narrative that Is hypocritical in application. Love is hate, tolerance is intolerance, diversity is exclusion, freedom is slavery. It all depends upon the narrative promoted and the accident of birth, and social and economic standing of the individual. The higher you ascend the ladder of success in society proscribes the intent of your actions, yet the reverse is true. The content of your character is the defining force of a person and often ignored regardless of your station in life.

Consider the modern narrative of unconscious bias, toxic masculinity, white supremacy, and gender differences. Men are considered unconditionally evil and violent in the current narrative. Does this make any sense on an individual level upon inspection?

To all those mothers you need to accept, if you embrace the modern narrative, that your child is either inherently evil or pure, simply due to genitalia. Does that reflect upon the parents more than the child?

I postulate that it simply isn’t so and is empty regards balance as this is the pendulum swung one way without thought. Segregating and labelling is not finding balance.

To be sure some, and sometimes entire segments of society have systemic biases and hatreds. Some of these are part of the belief systems of a country and not just relegated to western countries.

This also is not constrained to the colour of your skin or the genitalia you are born with. Yet the modern narrative does not hold this view and casts judgment on people based on these biological facts and nothing else more often than not. These judgments, regardless of evidence are morally bankrupt and devoid of any ethical, or moral, consideration.

Where is the balance in blanket judgements?

Mark Twain, in his quote alluded to the undeniable fact that everything is a personal journey of discovery and understanding. That the personal experiences of the individual and the paths that they travel are the litmus tests that define a person.

Mark Twain nailed it in that everything has an opposing side and in that you individually must make the choice and live with the consequences of your actions in life. The lessons learnt from that are invaluable and without doubt define you if you care to learn.

Our suffering defines us. Our suffering is ours alone to deal with. Such is the way of the world.

So many people today only imagine suffering as they have never truly experienced it and instead borrow the suffering of others to validate themselves. They punch holes in the air and scream in the wind as they follow a cause that simply doesn’t impact on their comfortable lives as they tell themselves that they have made a difference when they in reality have done little of any importance.

Life is what you make it despite the struggles you encounter. It is how you deal with those struggles and what you learn from struggle that matters.

17 thoughts on “Twainsplaining

  1. It’s akin with the goals you set to achieve in life are not of themselves the true learning experience, but rather the road(s) you took to reach those goals… thereby reaching the goals (or not) is only secondary.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nicely put Doug.
      Twain also said, ‘I have never let schooling interfere with my education’.
      You pretty much said the same thing so you reside, in your thinking with Twain. I like that there are many out in the world who are able to think critically and then present it. The shame is the amount of people who do not think critically, but that is humanity historically so.
      I’m looking forward to reading your essays when you post some. Right now all I saw on your site was ‘coming soon’.


      1. Critical thinking is, as you alluded to, is as varied as the human race itself. Everyone claims to have it, but chose to exhibit it with appropriate bias. 🙂

        Oh.. actually…. if you wanna see a site.. my present “contribution” is . Nice of you to give it a whirl.


  2. There is so much in your post to “like.” I do enjoy dissecting old sayings and Mark Twain has some really thought-provoking ones. The suggestion that it is not the suffering itself, but how you look at and deal with suffering that defines you, is important. Worthy of re-posting, if I may? (will link back here as the initiator).
    I assumed you would be in Australia from your blog title, but there’s another assumption and label proved incorrect!
    I notice the imbalances in the media and how the modern narrative decries and criticises anything that came before neglecting to filter it with the lenses of the time in which it occurred. Holding individuals personally responsible for sensibilities from a different era seems logically flawed. Surely intent is the most important consideration?
    Then there was this:

    “They punch holes in the air and scream in the wind as they follow a cause that simply doesn’t impact on their comfortable lives as they tell themselves that they have made a difference when they in reality have done little of any importance.”
    Is this how some sitting in a privileged end of the world reconcile a moral dilemma or inner turmoil and frustrations? Is it beneficial? Sometimes so, sometimes not. How can someone (or some nation) not involved fully comprehend and judge what is happening in another part of society/the world, without some bias?


    1. Thank you for such a considered comment.
      I am actually an Aussie.
      By all means repost this essay as all my essays are designed to provoke thought and debate.
      This is one of my favourite Twain quotes as I have had significant adversity, hardship, and health problems in my life yet learnt that my story is nothing compared to others. That without balance then there is just a biased, one-sided view in life. From this I found peace.


      1. I am pleased to come across your blog. Fellow Aussie here!
        I am sorry to hear that you life has been dotted with ill health and adversity but glad you found peace. Yet I wonder if it is those experiences which has assisted in you accruing so much wisdom in your posts!
        I totally agree about balance and bias!


      2. I reckon it helped as did being somewhat eclectic and never accepting something because it was considered to be correct and instead questioned it.
        Inspecting history and reading broadly on many subjects builds knowledge and perspective.
        Particularly as we are now living through one of the turbulent times in history.


      3. I am intrigued about your thinking we are living in turbulent times. Is it more turbulent today or do we hear more about it? Politically, there seems more unrest in the West and I do absolutely agree that we need to read widely to get that balanced perspective we are seeking. It is getting more difficult to source differing perspectives and I find that frustrating. The various media channels have more power to direct, sway or incite public opinion, yet the average person seems unaware of the implications of that. Where do you source your news?


      4. I follow many news outlets around the world and listen to both the left and right, so as to speak, to weigh up the content of a subject.
        I listen (actually listen and not just wait to speak) to a variety of people to get their views on things, normal people not so called voices.
        I visit this thing called a library as books hold history of the time. Also dedicated web searches are good for finding information if you hold a balanced view and don’t go with just what makes you feel comfortable.
        I watch documentaries from past to present and observe the differences contained.
        I monitor the global stock and financial markets just for laughs as that is a good barometer of things to come.
        At the end of it all I arrive at my own conclusions be they right or wrong.

        We most certainly are living through a turbulent time, but the turbulence has built over time and not just happened overnight.
        Mostly people just ignore things until they cannot. Modern media simply inflames and confuses things as they are about the story and not the truth if that makes any sense.

        I followed the economic instability of the EU and found that it is a sort of house of cards. Some countries were selling off their gold reserves to finance their debts and yet no-one seemed to notice this. That was back in 2017/18.

        Now think on how not just ours, but global economies have been propped up by governments creating and injecting cash to keep alive a thing that should have fallen in the last 18 months.
        What would have happened if they had not done so and where would we be now?
        Is that good or bad?
        Reading my essay, ‘Antipodean Angst’ provides some insights and I have a few chapters yet to post as it is wordy and I wrote that in 2019/20. First as several stand alone essays, for me and no-one else, then polished it in 2020 to make it into one big essay.

        I suggest reading John Glubb’s essay, ‘Fate of Empires’ and then read Yuri Bezmenov’s ‘Love Letter to America’ to provide some insight. Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War’ is more cumbersome to read and understand.
        Also inspect the politics of the Treaty of Versailles to see how things get set up for the future mistakes made by leaders pursuing an immediate goal. Geez they could have avoided the Vietnam war way back then but simply did not.


      5. People, nations and Governments make mistakes. Decisions are based at that moment in time on self-interest, pressures from lobbyists, greed and ignorance.
        The facts and predictions around climate change were known when I was a Uni student in the early 80’s yet nothing was done and very few politicians listened.
        Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
        I do hapoen to visit my library both thr internet and physical version, regularly but libraries do not always keep with the times so we need more sources and reading those with opposing views is important.


      6. If I may ask, what exactly are you searching for when seeking a “source”? Credibility? Truth? Honesty? All of the above? That’s pretty much what we seek in average one-on-one relationships, is it not? Some humans fit the bill, some do not. Such is the natural diversity of mankind. So to presume that an institution run by humans.. say, a news network… is going to somehow be more “perfect” than humans themselves, might be a tad unrealistic.
        Yet while humans are diverse by nature we are fairly predictable in behaviors. For example… the biggest reason I do not believe in conspiracy theories is that humans invariably cannot keep a secret.. and far less so if there are a group of many humans conspiring in some way toward some ideological outcome. People simply love to share what they know.. and more so if it’s a secret. In the political world people “in the know” can be a whistleblower or simply divulge a blurb or two for a price… or the price of fame. Maybe a book deal. Hence there is no “star chamber” secret handshake organizations calling the shots. That’s Hollywood. Now.. that’s not to say people don’t conspire for criminal gain. That’s a different goal entirely. But I think you get the idea. Anyway.. finding a source not as complex as you might perceive if you think along human terms. It helps to not search for “absolute truth” but more a “workable truth”.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Exactly. But a balance between what your own lifetime conditioning has given you in determining a moral correctness within yourself, and a physical approximation in a correctness of what’s being told to you. Essentially.. it’s all about… “What makes sense to you?” Following the “rule of reasonableness”.


      8. Yes – I agree that a news network is no more perfect than any person. But I have noticed a decline in quality. Whether that is because media is concentrated in fewer hands, governments with certain agendas, or that journos are scared off from stating certain things or asking certain questions due to the litigious nature of modern society or all/some other reason I cannot say. I have also yet to find a conspiracy theory that has been proven. I agree about human nature and secrets Doug! The temptation to share is strong. I like the term workable truth!


      9. I can’t answer for Aussie networks (although I can very easily with Murdoch and FOX)… but it’s important to be able to separate the opinion from talking heads from the news being reported at the same time. If the breaking news is the Prime Minister was caught picking his nose after 3pm on a Tuesday… I’m not sure there’s a lot of value in talking heads debating if there’s significance in which hand he was using, or the fact it was a Tuesday and not a Friday. Sometimes it’s just as it was reported.. he picked is nose. So what. No further drama required.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: