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Monday, April 7, 2014

David Brooks, "What Suffering Does": Sorry, I'm Not in Search of a Halo

"To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering."

- Friedrich Nietzsche

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "What Suffering Does" (, David Brooks would have us know that as regards suffering, "some people are clearly ennobled by it." Brooks goes on to explain:

"People in this circumstance often have the sense that they are swept up in some larger providence. Abraham Lincoln suffered through the pain of conducting a civil war, and he came out of that with the Second Inaugural. He emerged with this sense that there were deep currents of agony and redemption sweeping not just through him but through the nation as a whole, and that he was just an instrument for transcendent tasks.

. . . .

The right response to this sort of pain is not pleasure. It’s holiness."

Well, there is no doubt in my mind that suffering changes the wiring of our brains and can make us more adept at handling future suffering - our own and that of others. On the other hand, notwithstanding the fact that all of us are destined to suffer by reason of physical pain, deprivation and a host of other causative factors, the overwhelming majority of us do not become Abraham Lincolns.

Me? I am not in search of a halo. I am not expecting to be remembered by posterity. I treat my PTSD with chocolate ice cream, thank you, and the exuberance of Arnold, our 160-pound Turkish shepherd, who lavishes kisses on me upon my return from any trip lasting more than ten minutes.

Sure, pain has made me that much smarter, but often I would prefer to be dumb and happy.

You see, it's not going to end well. But in the words of the Beatles, whom I barely suffer, "I get by with a little help from my friends."

Find meaning in suffering as suggested by Nietzsche? Good luck. For me, it's enough to stay the course.


  1. "I am not in search of a halo"
    I like it when the overfed, overprivileged and overprimitives tell others: "Suffering is good for you."
    I always despised Brooks. Now, I just despise the entire Der Neue Stuermer, including this political hack and extreme opportunist Krugman (a personal disappointment).

  2. Brooks has spent the last 20 years promoting social/economic policies and wars which have imposed huge and horrific suffering on millions. It's self-serving chutzpah at its best for him to tell us that suffering is good for us.