The Beauty In Suffering: How Adversity Spurs Creativity

(MENAFN- Kashmir Observer)

Variation on Edvard Munch's Scream/ Mateja Klaric/ Medium

By Aijaz Ahmad Mir

CREATIVITY is often considered the outcome of joy, happiness, and sound physical and mental health. However, this is not always the case; creativity can be born out of suffering and misery. We have heard that suffering forces people to commit suicide, but it is also true that suffering has produced the best minds and personalities in the world throughout history since the dawn of human civilization. The great prophets, philosophers, theologians, and scientists suffered extreme suffering and pain. It was through this pain and agony that humankind received the best teachings and insights regarding morality, society, values, inventions, and discoveries. Sufferings help the sufferer to open up to new perspectives and ideas. It was through pain and suffering that some best pieces of art were produced. The idea of turning suffering into something constructive is applicable in all fields. Some of the thought-provoking philosophies emerged when a philosopher went through agony and pain. Suffering played a significant role in shaping the philosophy of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, who believed that suffering helps us in gaining wisdom and knowledge. Plato believed that suffering was the result of a lack of knowledge and ignorance about the nature of reality. However, he believed suffering acts as a catalyst for gaining knowledge and true wisdom. Socrates, the well-known philosopher and the teacher of Plato, believed that suffering was a part of life and a means for personal growth and self-discovery. Socrates believed that suffering could help a person to question their fixed beliefs and assumptions and can help in better understanding themselves and the world around them. And sufferings assist us in becoming compassionate and empathetic towards other people.

Schopenhauer also believed that suffering is inherent in humans, and it is through suffering that one can understand the true nature of reality. Schopenhauer himself suffered from different physical and emotional ailments throughout his life. He, like Gautam Buddha, also believed that suffering was the product of our desires. Friedrich Nietzsche, a German post-modernist philosopher also influenced by the philosophy of Schopenhauer, had also gone through immense physical and mental suffering. He believed suffering is integral in human lives, and it is through it that one learns to become stronger and more resilient. He said that one could not escape suffering but could confront it. Suffering leads to self-awareness and provides the opportunity to build inner strength. It was during his mental suffering that Nietzsche was able to create some masterpieces, such as“Thus Spoke to Zarathustra” and“Beyond Good and Evil”, among other writings. Similarly, other philosophers such as Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, and Martin Heidegger have suffered throughout their lives. But this suffering acts as a catalyst for their artistic expression and creativity.

Some of the western religious figures have found suffering a catalyst for change. Suffering has played a significant part in the life and theology of Saint Augustine. As a young man, he felt spiritual emptiness and experienced personal suffering, forcing him to turn to God and find solace in Christianity. Saint Augustine has two views regarding suffering; the first is that suffering is the punishment for our sins, and secondly, suffering can act as a medicine that helps us to learn humility and compassion. Thomas Aquinas, who was influenced by the teachings of Saint Augustine, believed that suffering is part of human existence and it serves several different goals. Suffering can lead us to a deeper appreciation of the valuable things in life, such as health, wealth, and relationships. Suffering can make us humble and can cultivate a feeling of gratitude in us. Thomas Aquinas also believed suffering could make us virtuous and bring us closer to God. In a nutshell, suffering assists us in increasing wisdom, faith, and virtue.

In the eastern tradition of philosophy, many philosophers suffered. Gautam Buddha suffered immensely before achieving enlightenment. He was born into a wealthy family, but he abandoned his privileges and riches and started a journey to seek the truth about suffering. Buddha believed one could end suffering through the Four Noble Truths and by following the Eightfold Path. Jalaluddin Rumi, a great Persian Sufi mystic and poet, experienced great suffering after the death of his mentor Shams Tabrizi. This suffering and loss inspired him to write some great works which explore and revolve around the themes of love, grief, and the search for meaning in life. Confucius was a great Chinese philosopher who lived during a time of great political and social unrest. He saw the collapse of Zhou Dynasty and the emergence of various opposing states. This political turmoil and social unrest motivated Confucius to write about the importance of social harmony, good governance, and ethical leadership in China. Al-Farabi, a 9th-century Muslim philosopher, also went through immense suffering. He was regarded as the famous philosophical authority after Aristotle in the Muslim world. His own personal sufferings and his experiences with illness and poverty contributed to the development of his philosophy and ideas related to the relationship between reason and revelation. Al-Ghazali was an 11th-century Muslim theologian, philosopher, and mystic. He is considered one of the important intellectual figures in Islam. He endured a unique kind of suffering and went through a“spiritual crisis,” and he felt a deep sense of dissatisfaction with his intellectual pursuits and studies. He even quit his job as a professor at Madrassa Nizammiya and lived in seclusion for four years in order to examine Islamic injunctions from the Sufi perspective. Finally, he was able to overcome his sufferings by merging himself deep into Sufism. Thus, suffering has shaped the ideas and philosophy of Al-Ghazali throughout his life.

Suffering has been a great source of inspiration for various poets throughout history. It helps them to articulate and share their emotions and experiences. It gives them a meaning to write and express themselves in a beautiful way that resonates with the people. Romantic poets such as William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge often wrote about their suffering, loneliness, depression, and alienation. It was in this state of great suffering that William Wordsworth produced a masterpiece, namely“Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood,” which explores the relationship between childhood, the natural world, mortality, and the human condition. He states that the particular association of childhood with nature has lost forever, but the subconscious memories of those associations are still a source of wisdom and knowledge. Emily Dickinson, a prolific American poet, wrote over a thousand poems. Her poems often explored the themes of grief, loss, death, and mortality. It is said that she suffered from mood swings and undiagnosed depression. Similarly, poets like Sylvia Plath, Langston Hughes, and Maya Angelou wrote about their experiences of suffering.

There were many natural scientists who experienced pain and suffering in their lives. Some of them include the great physicist Stephen Hawking, Merrie Curie, Rosalind Franklin, and Richard Feynman. Stephen Hawking went through immense suffering when he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), which made his whole body paralyzed. Despite this suffering, he communicated his precious knowledge regarding the universe, the big bang, and black holes. Marie Curie was another famous scientist who endured suffering and discrimination throughout her career. Being a woman, she faced additional bias and prejudice. She lost her husband unexpectedly in a tragic accident. Despite all these odds, she didn't give up and became the first woman to win the Nobel prize in physics and chemistry. Her contributions helped the world to understand radioactivity.

Rosalind Franklin is a well-known British scientist who is known for her immense contribution in the discovery of DNA. She also contributed and told about the structure of viruses that laid the foundations of structural virology. She, as a woman and as a Jew, faced discrimination from her colleagues. Richard Feynman was a great American physicist who suffered from abdominal cancer. Despite his struggles with cancer, he contributed immensely in the field of quantum mechanics and electrodynamics. In 1965, Feynman shared the 1965 Nobel prize in physics with Julian Schwinger and Shin'ichirō Tomonaga.

Suffering has acted as a catalyst for inventions and discoveries throughout the history of the world. The pain and suffering experienced by people motivated scientists to produce painkiller medications. The suffering and pains caused by injuries and neurological diseases led to the establishment of medical imaging. The agony and suffering caused by infectious diseases helped scientists develop the germ theory to understand the causes of diseases spread by bacteria and viruses. And the suffering caused by natural disasters drove scientists to explore space and mitigate the causes of these disasters.

Views expressed in the article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer

  • The author is pursuing his Ph.D. in Political Science from Maulana Azad National Urdu University Hyderabad Telangana

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