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April 15, 2022 1 min read

existence-is-suffering-meme

"Existence is suffering" is the common translation of the First Noble Truth of Buddhism. This may be immediately understandable if we define suffering as a lack or the non-fulfillment of an existential need. However, Buddhism still has a metaphysical meaning if we accept the idea of rebirth and thus understand the goal of existence through breaking out of the cycle of rebirths.

The meme, in any case, replicates a rather vulgar, perhaps even anti-natalist position. Even independent of the possibility of rebirth, the answer to the meaning of one's existence, namely to suffer, alone seems to be an indirect satisfaction. Even such an answer, is after all an answer, which we can humorously, and thus in its actual scope weakened, transfer also to small inconveniences.

It thus triggers the underlying question of whether it is better to be born or not born. From Greek mythology comes the wisdom of Silenus, a companion of Dionysus, who gives the following answer to the question of what is best for man: What is best of all is utterly beyond your reach: not to be born, not to be, to be nothing. But the second best for you is - to die soon."

Completely unironically and with a positive connotation, Camus, on the other hand, in his essay "The Myth of Sisyphus" (also a reference to Greek mythology), comes to the well-known conclusion: "The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy." So ultimately it is up to us how we deal with this fact.


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