Suffering is an inevitable part of life. We all live in this big labyrinth of suffering. Th only way out of the labyrinth is death. ” To live is to suffer, to survive to find meaning in the suffering. Few peopl e actually commit suicide to liberate themselves form suffering. Most people find meaning or purpo se for their life so that they have the motivation to live on. Some think that suffering make them wis er, some think that suffering is a test of faith, there will be rewards for them in the after life if they c an endure the suffering on earth. Some people couldn’t understand but keep going on with their life for their loved ones. Some people keep themselves busy to dodge from the question.
My view on this question is that suffering does not make life any more or any less meaningful. Beca use as an atheist, I believe that there is no God, the Universe does not have a divine plan for us. Tha t the existence of life is just purely a miraculous accident. When we die, we stop existing. The time we spend on Earth will not amount to anything in an afterlife in another dimension. Therefore, life i s inherently meaningless, with or without pain and suffering. Human are powerless in the face of m eaninglessness .
The only way we can deal with life is to embrace the fact that there is no intrinsic va lue in life. We can only create our own meanings. One can create meaning of life with or without su ffering. But since suffering is an inseparable part of our life, it more or less give us insights on mean ing of life. Dr. Bernard Rieux can best exemplifies my point of view. When the plague got out of control and O ran was placed under quarantine, it didn’t stop the doctor form battling the plague, fighting the war t hat was doomed to fail. At this point, many would wonder what is meaning of of the doctor’s action s when they are all in vain.
The answer can be found in a dialogue he shared with Tarrou. Tarrou asked the doctor why he was so committed to fighting the plague if he does not believe in G od. The doctor replied that whether or not God exist is irrelevant and he didn’t have the time to thin k about what waits him in the future and what will come out of his actions. The only thing he knew that there were sick people suffering and they needed to be cured. Even though he admitted that his struggles against death would only be temporary victories and that the plague was what he referred as an”endless struggle”, he said that this was not the reason to give up struggle.
From the dialogue, we can see the doctor was aware of the intrinsic meaninglessness of his life, bec ause he said he wouldn’t waste time to think about the existence of God and what his action will lea d to him. If he deemed his life has inherent meaning, he should have thought about the above questi ons. Thought he considered that his life is inherently meaningless, the plague gave me the meaning. The meaning lies in the other people. The doctor was fully aware that his attempts at lifting people out of misery is an impossible task as more and more people became infected and die. And there were no effective cure.
Basically, his sitti ng around and doing nothing or wearing himself off to save the patients might just possibly lead to s ame outcome. However, the doctor did not stop his work in face of his powerlessness to alter the situation. Becaus e under this situation, he was left with only two choices, ignore it or act on it. There was no third op tion. The doctor chose the later one because he couldn’t bear to see people suffer and doing nothing about it. It’s meaningless to battle the unwindable battle against the plague. It was not defeating the plague that gave meaning to the doctor. It was the people gave him meaning.
It was his compassion for others that keep him going in times of suffering. From the case of Dr. Rieux and his battle against the plague, we can see similarities in the real worl d. The plague is like the amoral universe, and Dr. Rieux represents all the human beings. We are po werless in face of the meaningless of life, just as Dr. Rieux was powerless in face of the plague. But we do have a choice, we can create meanings for ourselves just as Dr. Rieux has learnt from sufferin g and found meanings in helping people. Winston Smith from 1974 1984 somewhat share some similarities with Dr.
Rieux in terms of action upon the unchangeable, though he was not such a noble and heroic person as Dr. Rieux. In his case, the unchangeable was the Big Brother. Winston Smith lived in a state where every moves, every wo rds ands every thoughts he made were monitored by the Party. In the instance of living in an extrem e state where even having disloyal thought against the party is in violation of law. The meaning of li fe for Smith was not to start a revolution and topple the party, and change the system entirely. Thou gh Smith had thought about it and desired it to happen. Deep down he believed that it was impossibl e to achieve the goal and sooner or later he would be arrested by the Party.
Nevertheless, he set out t o challenge the limits of the Party. He kept a diary which has” Down with the Big Brother” written o n it over and over again. He had an forbidden affair with Julia. Also he joined the Brotherhood whic h he believe is the enemy of the Party. I think the meaning for Smith did not lie in being the hero. What was important for him was to stay as human as possible. Through the rebellious acts against the Party in his own ways, he got to keep his spirit and his human side. That was the meaning he could find for himself.
Despite the fact that he was completely compromised at last when he was brought into Room 101, where he was tortured to an extreme degree and indoctrinated to cure his “insaneness”. He was com pletely broke and dehumanised. His passionate hatred towards the Big Brother turned into absolute l oyalty and love. He should not be blamed for betraying Julia and not upholding what he believed in the first place in such extreme conditions. After all, he did try to rebel against the Big Brother even t hough deep down he knew he couldn’t do anything to overthrow the Big Brother. Dr.
Rieux and Winston Smith resolved the question of meaning through their rebellious acts against the plague and the Big Brother. There are people who find suffering itself reveals the meaning of lif e. Father Paneloux is a good example to illustrate this point of view. In his first sermon addressing t he plague. He said that the plague was a punishment by God. That it was the result of the sin of all c itizens. He criticised the people for not attending church and repenting for their sins. Therefore the p lague was reminder of God’s power and the Oran residents should start to change their habits and st art to fear God again.
Unlike Dr. Rieux, who is an atheist, Father Paneloux based his life and work on his christian faith. F rom a Christian point of view, everything happens on earth has purpose and fit into the grand plan o f God. Therefore, it was his job to make sense of the suffering of the plague so that he and the peopl e listening to him will be able to endure and continue to believe in God. From his interpretation of s uffering, the meaning of life for Father Panels was more easily understood than Dr. Rieux and Winst on Smith. The meaning of life was really simple, that is to serve and honour God in his will.
Though he changes his view on suffering drastically after witnessing the death of an innocent child. He did not view suffering as a punishment anymore. He said that the reason why a innocent child sh ould suffer was not something that human would necessarily understand no matter how hard they tri ed. They just had to keep in mind that it was God’s will. One must keep his faith and God and find t he good in bad situation. In spite of a changing tone, the meaning for Father Paneloux remained the same- to serve God.
To conclude, life itself is inherently meaningless. Not even religion can provide an universal answer to the meaning of life. There are no answers for that and never will be. Suffering does not make one’ s life meaningful. But through suffering one might find meanings in life and live a meaningful life. Wu Ngai Ching, Ivy 20189319 Grade: 21/25 ? 19/25 (due to 2-day late submission) Comments: ?Ivy – In terms of the main thesis of the essay, you’ve done a good job delineating your own atheist view on the meaning of life and drew 3 examples from the 2 works to discuss what m ight be the meaning of life for them.
Your argumentation is quite right and your analysis of e ach of their reaciton and thoughts on this difficult question is right on. ?However, you simply “narrated” through the whole essay without really giving detailed or c oncrete evidences from the book. I wish you could provide some passages or quotes from se veral particular moments in the book to clearly illustrate your point. This is one of the ways t o demonstrate that you’ve actually done the reading, and that is also what we’ve been doing in class – making your point across by providing specific passages/instances in the book as c oncrete evidence. So please remember to do so for your final paper!
Courtney from Study Moose
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