“The most loving parents and relatives commit murder with smiles on their faces. They force us to destroy the person we really are: a subtle kind of murder.”
The same sentiment was expressed by philosopher Jean Paul Sartre in a phrase that has been much repeated and misinterpreted:
“Hell is other people.”
Both quotes resonate with a truth known to all of us. We are social animals, forced everyday to have interactions with the most complex systems currently known; other human beings.
And of course, we ourselves are complicated and often self contradictory actors in the social world, both creators and destroyers of ourself and others. Those around us exert a social pressure that we in turn submit to, transmute, and exert back out. This occurs on the micro level within us, as different thoughts and drives compete for expression through the body, and also at macro levels in social situations as different people compete for dominance and control. The global culture itself is nothing but the final expression of this near infinite set of nested competitive frame works.
But in this jungle, 7 billion strong, full of tyrants, vagrants, billionaires, and prostitutes, who wins?
Who exerts influence, and crafts the environment to their liking?
Who dies still in love with the world, and with the world in love with them?
It isn’t the ruthless.
The Stalins and Hitlers of the world live desperate, paranoid, hopeless lives full of fear and hatred. They are not happy. They are loved only by the pathological. Any look into their personal lives and this truth becomes evident.
It isn’t the greedy.
The nature of greed is in wanting more. If one is greedy, one lacks. If one lives in a state of lack, they are not happy. To call a greedy person happy is to call a leaking bucket full.
But what of the individuals?
The people who, despite their pathologies, fears, traumas, and inconsistencies see in themselves a load bearing capability. They see that they could lift a great weight, and in the lifting make their own lives worth living, and their own pathologies worth enduring.
The people who perceive what is the most difficult, impactful goal they could attempt to attain, and strive towards it, social pressure be damned.
Power games crumble on contact with these sorts. Governments change and cultures evolve. The old games become silly as history looks back and thanks these individuals by way of the favorable narrative.
Hell is other people. Perhaps hell is the entire world, both internal and external.
But heaven is the higher ideal.
Heaven is the muscle by which we may lift the weight nature has assigned us.
Find your weight. Discover your difficulty.
Fight your most terrible fight, for yourself and the rest of us.
Justify your existence, and discover the world is a simple place.