Last week, we looked at how the idea that we can eliminate all suffering puts us at risk of trying to take people’s freedom away.

Another piece of it is that there is no light without darkness. Pain and suffering have value. We learn from them. We are motivated by them. They are the consequences to our choices and actions. Even if it were possible to eliminate them, what would we be left with? A candy-floss, superficial daydream of a world?

Is it hard to watch someone going through rough times? Of course. Does that necessarily mean we should always rescue them; make it go away? I don’t think so.

Consider this: Do you know any children who are never allowed to feel pain, who are caught before they can fall, who are given everything they want to prevent their becoming upset, who almost never experience the consequences of their own actions? Darkness2

They’re not much fun to be around, are they?

Even when people do want to be helped, that doesn’t always make it the right thing to do. The big risk here is twofold:

  1. we risk creating a culture of dependency, where people don’t know how to help themselves.
  2. we risk robbing people of challenging experiences that will benefit them in the long run

That’s why, as a society, it’s important that we grow up on this one. We need to invest our resources into reducing pain and suffering where it’s going to deliver the greatest return, and where it doesn’t rob anyone of their inherent right to be their own worst enemy. We need to get used to living with a certain amount of healthy darkness, as opposed to fooling ourselves into thinking that a universe of sweetness and light is our ultimate goal.

Is it always easy to tell the difference between healthy darkness and darkness that should be eliminated? No. Is it worth asking the question before taking action? Every time.