Trouble in Paradise
Ask yourself this question: if you could choose to live a life of ultimate pleasure and zero pain, would you? The choice may seem quite obvious, yet the same question was posed by Robert Nozick who sought to refute this common belief that pleasure minus pain is the transcendent human desire. From a logistical perspective, the query seems black and white. Pleasure is good while pain is bad, so when we increase the good and eliminate the bad, surely all that’s left is good. But Nozick had different ideas, stating that there’s more to be valued in the human experience than just comfort. A common example is truth. Sometimes hearing the truth can be painful, so in this ultimate-pleasure world, you’d live in blissful ignorance as people don’t tell you anything hurtful despite its validity. Abstract ideas like truth, understanding, and reality complicate this equation a little more. From this standpoint, it can be asserted that pure pleasure isn’t all good, and neither is the complete abstinence of pain. But where does this lead us; is it impossible to find endless pleasure in our lives even in a pleasure-only world? The answer to this becomes a little less black and white and a little more grey,
As seen from this example, our initial glances and fundamental reasoning can be wrong. We tend to forget the nuance that lies in seemingly simplistic choices. Take online school as a case study. When we break down how much time we should be saving with virtual as opposed to in-person school, you would think we have unlimited time. Accounting for transportation time, less homework, shorter classes, and even reduced school days per week, we should be living in a timeless utopia, right? I think we can all get behind the fact that this isn’t the case. Somehow, it doesn’t add up and the days can pass us within the blink of our eye.
The main culprit I believe for this missing-time phenomenon is a lack of urgency. For instance, many times during the school day I would try to get my homework out of the way during random breaks like study hall or free periods. But now that I know I’ll have time after school, it’s difficult to have that same motivation to get things done. We’ve been given all the freedom and volition in the world to decide what we want to do with our time, yet freedom comes with the cost of responsibility. Without proper maintenance, I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels they can be stuck in a rut of unproductivity. The hard truth is that without deadlines we’ll never get anything done. As much as they can be stressful and daunting, they’re essential to keeping us in check. We can’t keep saying we’ll do this later because we know it can’t wait till that later. While I’m not advocating for you to work yourself to exhaustion, I believe there’s great value in pushing yourself to your limits and reaching your fullest potential. Contentment is fine in moderation, but doing what’s uncomfortable can teach us so much more.
Shine Bright Like a Diamond
You may have heard the common expression, “Pressure makes diamonds.” This refers to the process in which underground Carbon undergoes so much pressure from the Earth’s crust that it crystallizes into a diamond. A team of scientists recently discovered that there are 1.85 billion, billion tonnes of Carbon just below our feet. If you need a visual representation of how much that is, that’s about 4,078,547,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (just over four octillion) pounds. Yet, we are somehow running out of diamonds. What this means is that the needed pressure to create diamonds is so immense that only a small percentage of that Carbon ever gets to that point. A similar rule is true when we apply it to ourselves.
When our backs are against the wall and we’re feeling the pressure, we can transform into things beyond our imagination. I think we can all relate to those nights where we stay up, cramming for a test, or completing a project that’s due the next morning. It simply can’t be pushed back any further, and as a result, our stress kicks in and we become more productive than ever. The harsh reality is that great changes don’t happen magically, we have to seek them out. However, we shouldn’t feel discouraged because of that but excited by all the opportunities we have to better ourselves. The further you push yourself the farther you go, and that should be enough of a motivation to wake up excited every day. It’s then that we can live with intention and channel our motivation, acting with purpose as we take in every second of what each day has to offer.
Living the Dream
Very rarely do the dreams we aspire for come easy because if they were easy, they would be reality and not dreams. If you stop to notice any dream that you desire, I’m sure that a period of hard work to get there is embedded within it. If you have dreams of playing professional sports or becoming a famous musician, those are serious time commitments that require a high level of effort. The reason we have such lofty goals is that we know that the satisfaction from our accomplishments has value as well. As much as we might think we do, we don’t want everything in life given to us on a silver platter. The best things in life are worked for, and that’s built into the very fabric of our dreams.
While I encourage everyone to take a step outside their comfort zone, I do want to quickly say that burnout still exists. As Carbon makes diamonds, diamonds are also meant to be treasured and appreciated. Your mental health is something that you definitely have to prioritize, and an unhealthy workload can be detrimental. Just as a life of only pleasure isn’t optimal, neither is one of only pain. Somewhere in the middle, you’ll find your balance, just as Nozick intended.