‘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.