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Marcel Proust (51) on his deathbed, by Man Ray (1922)

Being worthy of our sufferings

Facing difficulties and struggling successfully

Although Marcel Proust is considered by English critics and writers to be one of the most influential authors of the 20th century, he was a man who knew deep suffering. For example:

  • He was forced to sleep during the day (otherwise his asthma attacks would be worse) and he suffered from extreme insomnia
  • He was unable to eat more than a single meal a day (which had to be taken 8 hours before his bedtime)
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We suffer, therefore we think. And we do so because thinking helps us to put pain in context, it helps us to understand its origins, plot it’s dimensions and reconcile ourselves to its presence.

For example, Proust writes about the unexpected benefits of insomnia: A little insomnia is not without its value in making us appreciate sleep, in throwing a ray of light upon that darkness.

All lives are difficult; what makes some of them fulfilled as well is the manner in which pains have been met… The art of living lies in finding uses for our adversaries.

Or, in the similar words of Proust, perhaps the greatest claim one can make for suffering is that it opens up the possibilities for intelligent and imaginative inquiry; possibilities which may quite easily be (and most often are) overlooked or refused.

we best endure those frustrations which we have prepared ourselves for and understand, and are hurt most by those we least expected and cannot fathom.

This seems like an overwhelming task, but perhaps the first step is the one I just mentioned: recognizing that struggles are one-hundred-percent unavoidable and inevitable. Because only after this recognition can we then prepare adequately.

  • ‘I may be exiled’; I shall then regard myself as though I had been born in the place to which I’ll be sent.
  • ‘They may put me in chains.’ What then? Am I free from bonds now?
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The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, gives him ample opportunity — even under the most difficult circumstances — to add a deeper meaning to his life…

Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or to forgo the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford him. And this decides whether he is worthy of his sufferings.

“it is common to take a dog for a walk, it is less common to take a dream for a walk” || @amalacademy + @theunderstory cofounder | nature novel in progress

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