"We follow this figure into contradiction, into a confession that wounds are desired and despised; that they grant power and come at a price; that suffering yields virtue and selfishness; that victimhood is a mix of situation and agency; that pain is the object of representation and also its product; that culture transcribes genuine suffering while naturalizing its symptoms." -Leslie Jamieson
Briefly, I've mentioned Leslie Jamieson's The Empathy Exams in past posts. Perhaps the most unyielding book, let alone nonfiction collection I've ever read, Jamieson's work has been weighing heavily on my mind as of late.
And I'd like to tell you why.
In the above passage, there's this notion suggested that being a wounded spirit, hurt, or otherwise upset, is a desirable state, a fleeting and recurring phantom that we both seek to destroy and embrace. Initially, this is a hard concept to attach to. I don't think anyone wants to immediately acknowledge that suffering is something they look for. Rather, we want the world to be void of it, completely harmonious. Suffering? Why would we seek out pain?
What is suggested by this? That we wish to see hurt in the world? Do we believe that others deserve pain? Is it an attachment to justice? A twisted notion that suffering exists because it is necessary to punish? Is that even a twisted notion?
Jamieson outlines a few possibilities throughout her collection of essays. Throughout, she explores what it means to hurt, to empathize with said hurt, and what it is to desire those same, similar feelings.
But I'm not convinced that we necessitate suffering. I think, perhaps, we crave it.
Suffering is melodrama. It's an excuse. An exercise. A choice?
No, suffering is not a choice.
But, to extent, I think we reach to suffer because we're bored. We want to experience more in our lives than we currently are. We seek to destroy ourselves because we love the idea of our own saboteur more than we love ourselves. And through seeking this suffering, we gain attention.
I don't think to suffer is to seek attention. That's not what I'm trying to say.
But I suppose that's a small part of it.
Is it clear that I am working through my feelings on this idea as I write this? It should be.
To suffer is, perhaps, to be human. And maybe that's a majority of it?
As this conversation (with myself, ha!) continues, I'd like to close this part with a quote.
"When bad things happened to other people, I imagined them happening to me. I didn't know if this was empathy or theft."