In The Red Hand File, punk rock legend Nick Cave, answers questions from fans. What follows is an inquiry from Peter from Hanover, Canada. What follows is Cave’s response.
My question is about how you perceive the utility of suffering. What is the value of suffering to us as individuals, and to us as a species as we go through our life carrying suffering around, like some mind-numbing, soul crushing weight?
Dear Peter: What do we do with suffering? As far as I can see, we have two choices – we either transform our suffering into something else, or we hold on to it, and eventually pass it on.
In order to transform our pain, we must acknowledge that all people suffer. By understanding that suffering is the universal unifying force, we can see people more compassionately, and this goes some way toward helping us forgive the world and ourselves. By acting compassionately we reduce the world’s net suffering, and defiantly rehabilitate the world. It is an alchemical act that transforms pain into beauty. This is good. This is beautiful.
To not transform our suffering and instead transmit our pain to others, in the form of abuse, torture, hatred, misanthropy, cynicism, blaming and victimhood, compounds the world’s suffering. Most sin is simply one person’s suffering passed on to another. This is not good. This is not beautiful.
The utility of suffering, then, is the opportunity it affords us to become better human beings. It is the engine of our redemption.