Many of the wisest men have regarded pain and suffering as objections to life itself. Socrates, for example, railed against life, and he urged his followers to practice death. Many religious leaders promise to the faithful an eternal afterlife free from pain – rendering this earthly existence as an evil that must be endured. But Nietzsche is different. “I do not point to the evil and pain of existence with the finger of reproach, but rather entertain the hope that life may one day become more evil and more full of suffering than it has ever been.” In this video we will explain why Nietzsche valued suffering and why he desired more of it.
Nietzsche claims that man is composed of two parts – a creative part and a part that is created – in other words, mind and body. According to him, the body is meant to suffer, and the mind is meant to fashion something beautiful out of the suffering of the body. “In man creature and creator are united: in man there is material, fragment, excess, clay, dirt, nonsense, chaos; but there is also the creator, the sculptor, the hardness of the hammer, the divinity of the spectator, and the seventh day – do you understand this contrast? The body must be fashioned, bruised, forged, stretched, roasted, and refined – it is meant to suffer.”
An athlete, such as a bodybuilder, is the epitome of this idea. A bodybuilder subjects his body to the pain and suffering of training in order to create a physique that is aesthetically pleasing. The weightlifting adage, “No pain, no gain,” is an echo of Nietzsche’s ideas.
Nietzsche sharply criticizes those people who wish to abolish suffering. According to him, suffering is the only thing that bestows value upon the world. Without pain and misery, life would be absurd and worthless. “You want, if possible – and there is no more insane “if possible” – to abolish suffering. And we? It really seems that we would rather have it higher and worse than ever. Well-being as you understand it – that is no goal, that seems to us an end, a state that soon makes man ridiculous and contemptible – that makes his destruction desirable. The discipline of suffering, of great suffering – do you not know that only this discipline has created all enhancements of man so far?”
To Nietzsche, suffering provides the only test by which a person’s worth can be determined. In other words, the person who can endure the greatest suffering is the greatest of men. “To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities – I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished: I have no pity for them, because I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not – that one endures.”
Finally, Nietzsche asserts that pain is sacred, and that mankind ought to revere pain as religious followers revere their gods. He explains that the ancient Greeks were the first and perhaps only people to realize this. “For the Greeks the sexual symbol was the venerable symbol par excellence, the real profundity in the whole of ancient piety. Every single element in the act of procreation, of pregnancy, and of birth aroused the highest and most solemn feelings. In the doctrine of the mysteries, pain is pronounced holy; the pangs of the woman giving birth hallow all pain; all becoming and growing – all that guarantees a future – involves pain.”
To conclude, many philosophers, theologians, and people in general regard suffering as something undesirable and as something to be abolished. Nietzsche, on the other hand, asserts that life without pain is meaningless. Pain is the source of all value in the world; it is the test of one’s true worth; and it is as sacred as the gods.