A huge thank you to everybody who took part in the SMSJ competition. The essays were incredibly moving and inspiring. It was so difficult to choose the final 10.
Certificates to the 10 finalists who have been passed through to the national competition go to:
Please don’t be disheartened if you weren’t in the final 10 this time! We hope to read all of your entries again next year and hopefully read the work of lots of new philosophers too!
Congratulations to Keira W who is our PGHS winner!
When asked why Keira decided to take part in the essay, she replied that she wanted to use lockdown to explore new hobbies and expand her essay writing skills. Keira expressed an interest in philosophy and wishes to take it as an A-level for college. Keira recognised that this was a great opportunity to start exploring topics and debates that are of a philosophical nature.
You can read Keira’s fantastic essay below.
Name: Keira W
School: Penwortham Girls’ High School YR10
Essay Title: Is suffering a necessary part of the human condition?
Human suffering happens every day, everywhere around the world, through various ways and different degrees. It is all around us, yet we do not always see it. Just because we don’t see it, it does not mean that it doesn’t exist.
On the occasions we do recognise the suffering, a common question we tend to ask ourselves is, “why do we suffer? What is the meaning behind it?”. There are no easy answers to these questions because there will always be a different meaning or perception to a singular person suffering or feeling pain.
The definition of suffering itself is ‘to undergo or feel pain’. People will decide whether they are suffering or not based on events in their life. For example, striving to be able to save enough money to purchase the newest phone only for a newer version to be released not long after. Another example is when you fall in love to then find out your love is not reciprocated.
These two situations are opposites, one is heart break while the other is a materialistic loss but result in suffering.
When you have your first heartbreak, you are most likely going to be the lowest you have ever been, and it’s going to feel like your entire world is crumbling all around you. However, feeling this pain will help you grow, and you will learn from it.
There is a meaning behind every emotion you ever feel; “the root to suffering is attachment”- Buddha. So, getting attached to that phone or attached to the one you love.
To suffer, you must feel pain, and to feel pain you must go through life. In life you’re always going to have moments when you lack motivation to do anything, but this is just life. There will only ever be one person who can get you out of this state of mind, and that’s yourself. Others can help or you can find methods to assist but ultimately you are the one responsible in controlling or stopping your own sufferings.
It is difficult for another to truly understand the full force and impact of your sufferings, they can empathise but never fully understand as we are each uniquely individual with varying pain thresholds and coping mechanisms.
Suffering is part of the human condition, yet it’s the doorway to your personal growth and expansion. It’s an inevitable part of life. Suffering is part of existence, and even the most picture-perfect life on the outside often has a deep core of pain in the past which you know nothing about as an outside observer.
Suffering is not “necessary” to the human condition, but it is “inevitable.” We lose grandparents. Eventually parents pass away. We get jobs and lose jobs. We meet the perfect someone, then lose that someone. We become ill or live with some form of disability. Suffering is an inevitable part of life and will have a knock-on effect to others, such as if a child is born without sight, their suffering will cause additional suffering to the parents, siblings and spread out to other members of the family or close friends.
I see two different types of suffering; one is not necessary and could even be argued to be avoidable. The other is part of the physical experience and the awakening in spirit in which you grow and learn from. Life is hard to explain. “A fire burns down a forest, a new one grows in its place. Ten years later, that forest is healthier than the forest that did not burn down”. So, suffering could be the path to growth as those that do not suffer do not grow in that way.
Everything good in life is considered good because we compare it to the pain and suffering of the opposite. Without hate we wouldn’t understand love. Without grief of death, new life or existence wouldn’t be appreciated as much. Without sadness, we would not learn to embrace happiness and joy, like bringing a new home to your children or simple joy to be found in the smiles of a baby. Suffering is a given in life – you cannot avoid it.
The human condition causes all human made suffering and natural suffering is made worse by the human condition. It is inherent to life in general.
It’s not about necessity. Life is about ups and downs, it cannot be only ups or only downs, we have happy moments and sad moments where we suffer but, the most important thing is that in these sad moments you learn and empower yourself to better your resilience and coping mechanisms to handle your suffering more effectively.
I do not believe that we become successful or happy without suffering, you ask me why? I say that’s life. You cannot escape suffering. There is not a human being who has never suffered; we all do. Therefore, human suffering is not a necessary part of the human condition, but rather is an inevitable part.