There is a cult of suffering in our culture

Man is an animal that deceives himself

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In the story of the nephew of the up master, “Second Uncle” is a disabled genius boy, a craftsman who can withstand the ups and downs of the times, a villager who takes care of the left-behind old people, and a desolate legend. The Chinese who live in endless suffering.
Such images can also be found in beloved era stories such as “Alive”, “Ordinary World” and “The World”. “Three Days Back to the Village, My Second Uncle Healed My Spiritual Internal Disorder” accurately continues the tradition of suffering narrative, and regards “never looking back” as a spiritual victory method.
What if people want to look back?
Today, I just read an old article and look at seven writers who “want to look back”——Wang Xiaobo, Dostoevsky, Hesse, Ullman, Kundera, Li Cangdong, Wei Yi Or what their characters use to face suffering. The spiritual victory method is of course useful, and the creativity of the second uncle is of course valuable. But if suffering cannot be laughed off, how should we look at it and reflect on it?


01

Wang Xiaobo:

Man is an animal that deceives himself

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Wang Xiaobo’s collection of essays, The Silent Majority, includes a commentary titled “The Reversal of Human Nature,” arguing that it is wrong to exalt suffering. Suffering is still suffering in itself, no matter how high its purpose, and it is even more absurd to impose meaning in order to justify suffering. Director Jia Zhangke also made a similar observation in the film “Jia Xiang”: “There is such a worship of ‘suffering’ in our culture, and it seems to be a capital of the right to speak… ‘suffering’ has become a kind of hegemony, and thus derives a value judgment.”

Reversal of Human Nature puts it more directly: “This kind of thinking is not only harmful, but also sick.” Perhaps we should first figure out for ourselves what suffering means to us.

I think the 1970s are our precious spiritual treasure, and I share that view with some of my peers. The youth of the 1970s were very different from today’s youth. They were more enthusiastic, purer, more disciplined, less demanding of life, and more unlucky. It is a rare opportunity to be one of these people, and these feelings are the same as others. Some people think that this experience is a sublime feeling, and I categorically reject it and think it is pathological. Let’s think like Orwell, what is one plus one equals two, the 1970s was a very painful time for most Chinese people. A lot of young people have made huge self-sacrifices that are worthless. With these things in mind, let’s talk about the sublime. As for the example of the 1970s, I think there are two kinds of sublime: one is the sublime at that time. The leaders called on us to go to the countryside to endure hardships, saying it was a kind of honor. There is another kind of sublime, the sublime of the present, which we feel ourselves to be sublime after we have endured these pains and made self-sacrifice. I think this latter sublime is easier to articulate. Freud explained masochism as follows: If a person is living in a pain that cannot be changed, he will turn to love the pain and see it as a pleasure in order to make himself better. If you promote this principle a little, you will think: man is an animal that can deceive himself. We have suffered a lot of useless suffering and wasted a lot of time, so some people want to say that this experience is noble. This kind of thinking can make him feel better, so it works somewhat. Unfortunately, it also has some bad effects: some people believe that one has to suffer useless suffering and waste time in order to achieve the sublime in this way. This kind of thinking is not only harmful, but sick.

02

Dostoevsky:

unwilling to be bound by the obligation to do only wise things

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Dostoevsky wrote about such a basement man in his novel “Notes from a Basement”. He looked out of place in the world and lived completely unlike a normal person. But he tries to argue that his “abnormality” is the very foundation of his existence, and that a society that does not allow “abnormality” (in today’s parlance, “unnecessary”) outside of rational calculations will bring true suffering.

In the basement, he asked the so-called “gentlemen”: “Have the interests of people been calculated accurately?” What is the benefit of all, no matter what the overall situation, everyone needs to protect? The Basement Man gives his answer in this passage.

You see: gentlemen, reason is a good thing, there is no dispute, but reason is only reason after all, and can only satisfy man’s rational capacity, while will is the expression of the whole life, that is, the whole life of man, which includes Reason, including all inner turmoil. And, as bad as our life is in this representation, it’s still life, not just square roots. You know, in my case, I want to live quite naturally to satisfy all my vital faculties, not just my rational faculties, which are only one-twentieth of all my vital faculties. What can reason know? Reason only knows what it already knows (some things it may never know. It’s not comforting, but why not tell it the truth?), while human nature is to mobilize everything, The whole thing is active, there are both conscious and unconscious activities, even if it is a lie, it is still active. Gentlemen, I suspect you are looking at me with great regret. You have repeatedly told me that a learned and educated person, in short, a future person, will not deliberately seek something unfavorable to him, and this is mathematics. I totally agree, it’s really math. However, I will repeat it to you a hundred times, there is only one situation, the only one, that a person will deliberately and consciously desire to do something that is even harmful to himself, stupid, even stupid , that is: in order to have the right to desire to do what is even foolish to oneself, and not to be bound by the obligation to do only what is wise. You know, this is foolishness, it is self-indulgent self-indulgence, gentlemen, and in fact, it may be the most beneficial thing for all our brothers on earth, especially in certain cases. And among them there is even the case that, even if it causes us obvious harm, and is far from the most reasonable conclusions of our rationally concerned interests, it is still more favorable than all interests Benefit. —because in any case it preserves for us what is most important and precious, which is our personality and our individuality.

03

Hesse:

Finding a way out of compromise in humor

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Hesse’s “Steppenwolf” was written between World War I and World War II. The capitalist way of life and the nationalist patriotism are deeply rooted in people’s hearts day by day, and a new society begins its disciplinary process again.

With the image of the Steppenwolf, who is disobedient and unable to escape, Hesse presents the suffering of living between two eras, unable to find what is real. In his dissection of Steppenwolf, he also seems to offer a direction, a third kingdom, a “fantasy and sovereign world”—humor. Can we find a way out of compromise in humor?

If we further dissect Steppenwolf’s soul, we will find that his unusually developed personality makes him a non-citizen who, because extremes turn against the self, and the personality is too strong, turns against and destroys the self. We see in him both a powerful force that propels him toward the sages, and a strong instinct that drives him down. However, due to some weakness or inertia, he could not rise up into space of complete freedom and chaos, and he remained bound by the bourgeoisie, the attractive planet that gave birth to him. This is his position in the dimension of the universe, and the constraints he is subject to. Most intellectuals, most artists belong to this type. Only the strongest of them break through the atmosphere of the bourgeoisie, the earth, and enter the space of space. In order to survive, they ultimately had to affirm the bourgeoisie, thereby beautifying it and giving it strength. For these countless people, the bourgeoisie is not enough to be their tragedy, but only a very great misfortune and misfortune in which their talents are cooked and fruitful. The few people who break free from their shackles enter the absolute state, and go to destruction in a splendid way. They are tragic figures, and such people are very few. And those who are still conditioned by the burghers’ minds – whose talents are often given great credit by the bourgeoisie – have before them a Third Realm, an illusory and sovereign world: humor. Those Steppenwolf who cannot be quiet for a moment, those who endure terrible suffering all the time, they lack the necessary impulse to develop into tragedy, lack the power to break through gravity and enter the starry sky. They feel that they belong to the absolute situation, but they have no ability to live in the absolute situation. If their spirits can become strong and flexible in the midst of suffering, then they will find a way out of compromise in humor. Humor is always a civic thing, even though real civics don’t understand it. In an atmosphere of ethereal humor, all Steppenwolf’s intricate, disjointed ideals are realized: in humor that not only affirms both saints and degenerates at the same time, bends the poles of society together, but also includes the citizens as well. to the ranks of the affirmed. It may be possible for this fanatical believer in God to take an affirmative attitude toward criminals, and conversely, he might take an affirmative attitude toward saints. Yet neither criminals nor saints, nor all others who go to extremes, can affirm the neutral and moderate middle way, that is, what is civic. Only humor accomplishes this impossibility, illuminating all spheres of life with the light of its prism, uniting them as one, and this humor is a wonderful invention of those whose mission of great deeds has been hindered, This kind of humor is perhaps the most characteristic and genius feat of human beings. We live in a world that doesn’t seem to be our world, respecting the law and being above the law, owning property and appearing to have “nothing”, giving up everything and not appearing to give up, all of these lives that are deeply rooted in people’s hearts and constantly expressed The requirement of high intelligence can only be fulfilled by humor.

04

Ullman:

I try to forget

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Compared to others on this list, Ulman is not a particularly well-known writer, but his understanding of suffering is not shallow. As a witness of the Third Reich, he went into exile in Paris when Hitler came to power, and then moved to England during the war, where he worked as a painter and a lawyer for a living, and only wrote the novel “Reunion”. Perhaps for similar reasons as the protagonist of “Reunion,” he wrote the story in English.

In the face of the cracks created by suffering, neither memory nor laughter serve their original purpose.

Both my parents passed away, but I’m happy to say they didn’t die in Belsen. One day a Nazi came to my father’s operating room with a note that read: “Germans, be careful. Avoid all Jews. Anyone associated with Jews will be defiled.” My father put on in his officer uniform and his medals – including the Iron Cross 1st Class – standing proudly next to the Nazi. The Nazi became more and more embarrassed, and gradually more and more people gathered. At first they just stood in silence, but as the number grew they began to whisper and eventually erupt into a frenzy of laughter.

But their hostility was against the Nazi, and it was the Nazi who finally packed up and left. He didn’t come back and there was no one to replace him. A few days later, my father turned on the gas while my mother was sleeping; so they all died. I tried to avoid meeting new Germans after they died, and I never opened a German book, not even Holderlin. I try to forget.

Of course, I still had some encounters with a few Germans, some good people who went to prison for opposing Hitler. I made sure I figured out their past before shaking hands with them. You have to be careful before you accept a German. How can you be sure that the German you’re going to talk to doesn’t have the blood of your friends or relatives on their hands? But I have no doubts about these people. Although they fought hard, they were often mired in remorse, and I sympathize with them. But pretending to speak German even when I’m with them is a difficult thing for me.

It’s a protective mask that I put on almost (though not quite) unconsciously when I have to speak to some German. Of course I still speak the language, although with a little American accent, but I don’t like speaking it. My wounds haven’t healed yet, and remembering Germany is rubbing salt on the wounds.

One day I met a man from Württemberg and I asked him about Stuttgart.

“Three quarters were destroyed,” he said.

“How about Karl Alexander High School?”

“In ruins,” he said.

“What about Hohenfelsburg?”

“ruins.”

I started laughing nonstop.

“What are you laughing at?” he asked puzzled.

“Don’t mind me,” I said.

“But there’s nothing funny about it,” he said. “I don’t know what’s funny!”

“Never mind me,” I said again, “it’s not really funny.” What more can I say. How can I explain to him why I laugh, when I don’t understand it myself?

05

Kundera:

In the song, various values ​​have not been ravaged

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Kundera is a writer that most Chinese readers are very familiar with. The introduction of his work in the 1980s benefited from changes in the political environment. By the 1990s, his skepticism of grand concepts coincided with China’s “opposition to the sublime” and its entry into a commodity society, and Kundera became a household name. Today, we can still see our pain in the “life history” of his characters.

Kundera sees The Joke as a romance novel, but the love of its protagonist, Ludwig, is premised on a huge historical joke. Ideal-minded student Ludwick is sent to slave labor for a joke, where he falls in love with the quiet Lucy. When he met Lucy more than ten years later, he really understood that they actually shared the same mark of suffering.

An understanding of suffering allows him to separate the “mistake” from their love and give it a clean face. This is consolation for both the protagonist and the reader.

Maybe she was trying to tell me that what happened to hers (of a tainted girl) was very similar to mine, that I was missing out because we didn’t understand each other, but our two life histories were the same, the same thing. . Because they are all devastated histories. In Lucy, it was her love that was devastated and thus deprived of the basic values ​​of life; my life was also deprived of the values ​​on which it was supposed to support, values ​​that were innocuous in themselves. Yes, innocent: for the love of the skin, though destroyed in Lucy’s life, is innocent in itself; so are the songs of my hometown, the dulcimer band, and the city of my hometown that I hate , the Vochick who made me vomit when I saw his portrait, and I’m not wrong, I’ve always heard the term “comrade” as threatening, as well as “you”, and “future” and Many other words, all of which are correct to me. The fault is not in these things at all. But it is so wrong that its shadow has shrouded an entire category of the world of innocent things (and words) that is far from enough, and has ravaged them all. Lucy and I both live in a ravaged world. We don’t know how to sympathize with this world, but we are alienated from this world, which exacerbates both the world’s misfortune and our pain. Lucy, you’ve been loved so strongly and yet so badly, that’s what you’re going to tell me after all these years? Are you here to intercede for a ravaged world?

Finally, Ludvik found a temporary outlet in the music.

In the song, sorrow is not shallow, laughter is not forced, love is not ridiculous, hatred is not cowardly; in the song, people love to be one with body and mind (yes, Lucy, body and mind are one); In the song, people dance because of happiness, and abandon themselves to the waves of the Danube because of despair; only in the song, love is love, and pain is pain; in the song, all kinds of values ​​have not been ravaged. So I seem to see that in the song, there is my way out, my true color, my destination, I once abandoned it but it is still my destination (the cry from the abandoned destination is the most heart-wrenching). But I also understand that this destination does not belong to this world, (if not in this world, what kind of destination would it be?) I understand that everything we sing is just a memory, a monument, a The image that remains of something that no longer exists, I feel that the land of destination is escaping from my feet, and while playing the clarinet, I am gradually drifting to the depths of the years, the depths of the centuries, a Bottomless depths (where love is love and pain is pain). I told myself in amazement that such a fall, such a sinking, full of exploration and desire, is my only destination, and I would like to leave just like this and enjoy the pleasure of wandering.

06

Li Changdong:

I also have a star in my heart,

No force in the world can take it away

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“Lucheon has a lot of shit” is Lee Chang-dong’s last collection of short stories published before he became a director, about the fate of the underclass in the context of South Korea’s democratization movement. “Sky Lantern” is the only story in it with a female as the protagonist, and it is also the most direct and cruel story. But from beginning to end, in the face of man-made suffering, the protagonist Shin Hye did not succumb to any kind of lie that would make her life better. She refused to answer questions she could not answer.

“Is the salt bitter or sweet?”

I looked at the warm sunlight coming in through the window in front of me, and was very flustered.

“Answer quickly, little boy. Is the salt bitter or sweet?”

The urging voice is still gentle and elegant. My feet were numb, the sun was shining through the glass windows behind them, and I felt like I was going blind.

“Bitter… bitter.”

After a while, I reluctantly replied. The moment I said that, I knew I was wrong.

“Oh, you girl! How can salt be bitter? It’s salty!” cried the mother, standing by the door.

“You hurry up and say it again, salt is salty, hurry up!”

However, for some reason, I just couldn’t open my mouth. Mother’s face knitted together in despair.

“What are you doing? Hurry up and say it! Teacher, salt is not bitter, but salty. You do as you say!”

“Okay. The interview is over, please take the child out.”

Under the sun, the young and elegant voice said so. The mother did not give up.

“Teachers, please ask another question! I will definitely answer it now. My daughter has not had a father since she was a child. It’s really pitiful, let’s give it another chance!”

“It’s over, Auntie. Please take the child out.”

“You silly girl! Hurry up and answer! What does salt taste like?”

However, I can’t say anything. I don’t know what’s wrong, but I can’t open my mouth, and my whole body is as motionless as a stone. Unfamiliar faces in the harsh sunlight, the suffocating silence, the wrinkled face of my mother—after a long time, the horrific memory of that time is still as solid as a fossil, and it cannot be erased. Nearly two decades have passed since that moment, and I know I still can’t get rid of that question. At the moment, I am also faced with a question that is absolutely unanswerable.

You are asking me now: who are you? Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer to this question. However, it is an obvious fact that you are now forcing me to be something that is not me.

Later, Shin-hye was tortured as a student in the sports circle, and after she came out of the police station, she seemed to have “lived to the point where she could answer these questions,” as the poet Rilke put it. Her answer is still not about external value judgments, but about the position of a star.

Shinhui raised his head and looked at the star for a long time. She had never felt starlight so close. When I encountered such terrifying things in the police station, when I was with Jin Guangpei, and at this moment, the earth was moving along its own orbit, and the star in the universe was alone guarding its own. Location, sparkling.

In the next instant, Xin Hui felt a chill like a topping of cold water, something in her body broke through the chaos and woke up. That star hangs in the sky, and I stand here. No one or anything can take that star’s place. I also have a star in my heart that no force in the world can take away from it. “Yes, this is my life.” Shin Hye’s heart was full of desire to live. The star suddenly flew in front of her eyes, fragmented. Before I knew it, tears began to flow inexplicably.

07

Wei Yi:

A feeling for suffering is a feeling for reality

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“The Burden and the Grace” is compiled from the manuscripts and speech records of the French philosopher Weil. During his short life, Weil had little time to rest, and continued to participate in labor and social movements until his death in a London sanatorium due to malnutrition, leaving behind many notebooks recording theological and political thoughts.

Wei Yi has been a thinker and practitioner of suffering all her life. She believes that suffering is inevitable. After single, artificial suffering, there is real, complex suffering, and perhaps the latter helps us preserve our own purity.

Our lives are impossible, ridiculous. Everything we desire contradicts its associated conditions and consequences, every conclusion we draw contains in fact an opposite opinion, and all our feelings are mingled with its opposite. Because we are paradoxes, both creatures and gods, yet far different from gods.

Only contradiction proves that we are not omnipotent. Contradiction is our suffering, and the feeling of suffering is the feeling of reality. Because suffering is not something we create. it is real. Therefore, it should be cherished. Everything else is imaginary.

Edit: Vegetable Market


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