Monday, August 30, 2010

Why We Enjoy the Struggle

This morning I listened to my brother while he watched a movie. He made comments like, "Awe, poor Sid," while laughing. I thought, "What is it about others' struggles that makes life beautiful for us?" I have a good friend who is reading through the Pulitzer Prize winners of literature, and she has found an interesting formula between the books. I found one thing in common with her analysis, which is that we are all drawn to struggle and tragedy. Something about the discomfort we experience vicariously from another's troubles resonates with us.

Consider carefully the formula for best actress and best actor over the years. It is when something difficult is executed so well that we are drawn into believing it, and almost without fail, it is not a depiction of a happy cheerful man or woman. It is the individual who is in conflict. Truly, the basis behind a story like Great Expectations is rather silly when you think about it, a woman so bitter that she adopts and raises a child that will take out her vengeance on man. Still, we are drawn into the struggle, the rise, the fall, and the final chance of resolution. The resolution isn't complete, and yet, we relate with it. It is rarely the happy ending that draws the pen of the news reporter. It's not that happy endings don't happen in the world, but our perceptions are skewed by those seeking to draw attention to their newsworthy masterpiece.

I remember even feeling this way as a child. I watched shows like Sesame Street and the Muppets and watched while Bert and Ernie had drama, conflict, and communication problems, or while Beeker had things blow up on him, or while Kermit and Miss Piggy had relationship problems. It was funny, entertaining, and emotionally coaching. While they were going through those troubles, how did they respond to the trial? Oscar the Grouch responded negatively, while Big Bird was sometimes sad, but reasonably positive.

Trials make us feel like we belong by going through unique challenges. They help us feel, help us remember what is important, and help us connect with God and others because we aren't meant to go through this life alone. Life seems incomplete when everything seems to be going perfectly for too long, because we become numb to the feelings and experiences of others.

In some small way, it's the struggle that makes us feel a little more alive.

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