In the book I just finished reading, the trillionaire hero was using his resources to find vaccines for the common cold as well as coronaviruses that exist now and will exist in the future. He’s also trying to revamp the medical establishment so everyone has equal access to care. And, to top it off, he’s on his way to discovering cheap, renewable energy. All in the hopes of ushering in a golden age of peace and plenty for all.
Not surprisingly, a whole lot of people want him dead, not just those you’d expect like those invested in energy businesses and medical businesses, but politicians and even humanitarians who want only to save the human race. As one such fictional humanitarian said: “People need hardship. They need something to struggle against. Someone to hate and feel superior to. Without these things, they lose their identity and sense of purpose. And they can’t handle it. Without a real enemy, they start turning on each other.”
That made me stop and think. Is it true? Do we need hardship? Struggles? Someone to hate and feel superior to? Are we really so petty that such things define us?
Hardships do change us, and perhaps even make us grow (and grow up), but would we wallow in purposelessness if we don’t experience adversity? I think about my life now, with no great hardships and hopefully, none on the horizon. It sure seems to be a good thing and is exactly the way I like it. I realize grief changed me, but before Jeff died and I became somehow different, I was just fine. If he hadn’t died and I hadn’t endured all those years of grief, I wouldn’t be the person I am today, but I’m not sure it would matter, because I only became this person so I could survive the trauma of his death, my loss, the pain, and my altered circumstances. Either way, I’d still be me with the same core values and a belief in kindness at almost all costs.
Without any trauma in my life, the only real challenge is to find something to write about every day to post on this blog. Other than that, I don’t feel as if my life lacks purpose. To be honest, I don’t think if we all were living in a trauma-less time, anyone would feel as if their life lacked purpose. As humans, we are fully capable of creating our own purpose and meaning. Besides, if we need something to struggle against, we don’t need other people; there is always our baser self which provides plenty of challenge and scope for improvement.
I do think if humans as a species always had an easy time of it, we’d probably still be living in a pre-stone-age society because it was the challenges of daily life that forced people to come up with ever more sophisticated tools. How that particular theory brings us to the age of computers, I don’t know, because there is nothing in our lives — except for our sheer numbers — that require such a mind-boggling tool. Nor does the age of computers in itself bring meaning to our lives. In fact, we bring meaning to computers, as we find novel ways of using the tools. The truth is, tools don’t bring meaning, and tools don’t bring happiness. Societies that manage to live as they always have for thousands of years are as happy or happier than we are. They don’t know — or care — about the “advantages” that a civilized life full of hardships, tools, and people to hate can bring.
I could be wrong in my assessment, but I truly do not see how a golden age could bring about a lack of purpose, with people turning on each other for no reason other than a need to have someone to look down on.
Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.