In his book, Catching the Big Fish, David Lynch includes a chapter on the topic of suffering and states, “It’s common sense: The more the artist is suffering, the less creative he is going to be. It’s less likely that he is going to enjoy his work and less likely that he will be able to do really good work.”
Lynch goes on to state: “Right here people might bring up Vincent Van Gogh as an example of a painter who did great work in spite of – or because of – his suffering. I like to think that Van Gogh would have been more prolific and even greater if he wasn’t so restricted by the things tormenting him. I don’t think it was pain that made him so great- I think his painting brought him whatever happiness he had.”
Do you agree with Lynch and think that the experience of suffering is one that can confine and hold you back from reaching your personal goals? Or, do you think that the experience of suffering actually makes one stronger and more able to succeed?
I admit that I’ve leaned toward the Kelly Clarkson-song-lyric-approach to suffering, agreeing with her lyric, ”What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” For years, I’ve thought that Jane Fonda’s “no pain, no gain” exercise motto could be applied to much more than exercise in life.
Of late, though, I’m starting to reconsider my long-held view on the role of suffering and challenge in life. I’m beginning to wonder whether internal strength is only tested through suffering rather than strengthened by it.
What do you think? Have the challenges that you’ve faced in your life made you stronger or weaker as an individual?
Consider the individuals highlighted in the article, “16 Wildly Successful Individuals Who Overcame Huge Obstacles To Get There.” Do you think the challenges that they faced helped them to be successful, or do you think that they might have been even more successful otherwise?
Since life is full of challenges, all of us will never really know how successful or unsuccessful we might be without them, but it’s interesting to ponder how we might fare in life without suffering.
For example: Who would Nelson Mandela have been had he never faced apartheid and been wrongfully imprisoned? Who would Rosa Parks have been had she never faced racial segregation and been asked to give up her bus seat that day in Alabama? Who would Beethoven have been had he never lost his hearing?
Like Lynch, I’d like to think that Mandela, Parks, and Beethoven would have been just as great, if not greater, as individuals had they never faced those famous challenges.
Yes, I’m beginning to think that challenges don’t serve to make us stronger but, instead, like a mirror, reflect our true selves, as strong or weak as we may be.