The Struggle is Real…(or at least it should be?)
All varieties of suffering and disappointment are to be welcomed by anyone seeking happiness. Failure and suffering should be greeted as tough challenges to be overcome, in the same way that a climber accepts the on-coming trials of the mountain or rock they are attempting to ascend.
Not necessarily my thoughts, but generally reflective of the great philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
“To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities—I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished: I have no pity for them, because I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not—that one endures.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power
It really is no wonder that Friedrich Nietzsche is often viewed as a negative and maligned character whose outlook on life is as dreadful as the life he lived. But this view is totally skewed, and generally out of context. In spite of the dreadful life that Nietzsche had to endure, his outlook is quite positive, radically progressive, and ultimately affirming.
There’s no doubt that Nietzsche struggled throughout his entire life, a true genius who was granted professorship at the age of 24, struggled with bouts of extreme loneliness, at a young age he contracted syphilis that lead to dementia, poor eyesight, constant nausea, migraine headaches, and mental breakdowns throughout his illustrious career. He agonized through one last mental breakdown from which he never bounced back, before suffering two strokes leading to paralysis, ending up in a mental institution and finally being liberated from “life” at the age of 58.
He was officially stateless, but spent his summers in the mountain village of Sils Maria, Switzerland1. It was the only climate he could persist in without extreme agony brought on by other climates unbecoming to his weakened constitution. Regarding Sils Maria, he claimed, “I now have Europe’s best and mightiest air to breathe, its nature is akin to my own.”
While at Sils Maria, Friedrich Nietzsche continued to endure pain that most people couldn’t imagine, but in fighting through that pain he was able to compose some of the most magnificent philosophical pieces that have ever been written including Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and Beyond Good and Evil. But aside from his enormous philosophical contributions, and in spite of his debilitating pain, Friedrich Nietzsche managed to go for a hike each and every afternoon. While he experienced physical pain, there was a much deeper type of pain that he would advise we do our best to avoid.
“Difficulty is normal we shouldn’t panic or give up when we experience it, we feel pain because of the gap between who we are at the moment and the person we could ideally be.”
Friedrich Nietzsche was driven to avoid the gap between who he was and the person he could ideally be. To suffer is expected, but to give up would be tragic. And so he walked, and hiked and climbed. Often times persecuted by local schoolboys who would throw stones at him, he continued to walk, often times barefoot because he couldn’t afford socks, he continued to walk, and often times dehydrated by bouts of nausea, he continued to walk.
“Remain seated as little as possible…Put no trust in any thought that is not born in the open to the accompaniment of free bodily movement, nor in one in which even the muscles do not celebrate a feast. A sedentary life, as I have already said elsewhere, is the real sin against the Holy Spirit.”
And so Friedrich Nietzsche continued to walk!
But he didn’t just walk; he climbed (literally and metaphorically), spending much of his time on the peak of Piz Corvatsch2. Standing at 11,322 ft, and dropping right into Lake Sils, the climb is intense even for the fittest of climbers, and the struggle is real, but the view…the view makes it all worthwhile (literally and metaphorically).
Like with all “climbers” and all “climbs” our failures will always outweigh our achievements, but like Nietzsche maintained throughout his life, any worthwhile achievement is born out of struggle, hard work, and the way in which failure is met. This of course is why Nietzsche wished failure upon his friends, not so that they might suffer (suffering is inevitable), but so that they might blossom into something beautiful.
“That which does not kill me makes me stronger!”
“The secret for harvesting from existence the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment is: to live dangerously! Build your cities on the slopes of Vesuvius! Send your ships into uncharted seas!”3
1. Anne Frank is another who embraced the majesty of Sils Maria
2. If anyone wants to go for a walk with me this summer, I hope to make the summit.
3. This is one of my favorite quotes of all time, and I have to give a shout out to my dear friend for the constant reminder and invaluable life lessons!