January 31, 2021

On conflict and heaven.

Is a reward with no struggle still a reward? A light pondering.

On conflict and heaven.

In Norwegian we have a word that describes a warm, safe feeling. It is often used to describe a situation when you are sitting inside with a hot cup of chocolate, with a blanket wrapped around you, listening to the crackling of the fire whilst the wind is whipping the rain at your windows. “Koselig” is the word I am referring to. The closest English word would be “cosy”. It is a classic feeling for any person of the north, and especially in snowy times.

This feeling is all about peace, comfort and safety after a long day out in the weather and wind. Watching TV, playing games, anything from video-games to cards, and just indulging in whatever you desire at that moment. A spot of sex under the light of the fire would not be out of order. The whole point about cosiness is that it is truly at its best when you have strived to earn those moments of peace. That hot chocolate, and that blanket on your skin feels a million times better when it is contrasted by snow whipping your face after an hour of snow shovelling. And very interestingly: It has to be in the order of snow first, chocolate later.

On the other side of leisure; surfers. This is an activity in which people wish to challenge themselves in a crude and unforgiving environment, to do something which has no beneficial value at all. It is play, not work, in the sense that you have not managed to make life easier for yourself afterwards. You simply swim out to the waves with a piece of wood, and try to let the waves carry you back to shore while standing on your board. Apart from a rush of adrenaline, balance training and general exercise of your body’s muscles, you have not improved your situation of living. In fact, you might have worsened it. After this activity you are worn out, tired, and probably hungry.

And surfing is not the only sport. Mountain climbing, hiking, water-rafting. These activities are all about putting yourself through that arduous pain and discomfort, in order to achieve very little. You are usually left at a negative in terms of resources. However, the sense of accomplishment is absolutely astonishing. When you do in fact manage to hike up to the highest top, those minutes you spend looking at the view yields a sense of titanic triumph, and fills you up with a new vigour. The flame of life has been subjected to a barrel of gasoline, and you just feel good about being.

Here lies a conflict. Deep within the reward-systems of our bodies and minds. That cup of cosiness would not be what it is, if you did not scale that mountain, surf those waves, or shovel that snow away. On the contrary, they fulfil each other. It is only by having one, that you get to experience the other. It is not without misery, that you get to experience happiness. Success.

Which is the most compelling reason as to why I think paradise, heaven, is a contradictory idea. It says that you will experience happiness forever, and presents us with the cosy aspects. It will provide endless blankets, cuddling, affirmation and positivity. Here, there is no work needed to be done, which leaves us no feat to be claimed. There is no victory. Hence, the rewards feel empty. They lack the grace of accomplishment. The virtues of dignity in defeat, and humility in victory vanish.

You can point to a book and state that you wish to bring this with you to paradise, but you cannot do the same with happiness. Happiness is an idea which is defined by us, and if you start to manipulate it in order to fit a certain environment it is happiness no longer.

Not only an idea, but a sentimental one at that, happiness requires to be linked with misery. When you take misery out of the equation, happiness no longer makes sense. You are left with a lot of hot chocolate, and no achievement for it to mark.

This is why an ignorance towards the negative leaves the positive only at a loss. When you do not lurk about in the dark mysteries of the mind and when you do not paint your house anew, the mysteries will be left in the darkness unsolved and your house will shed its paint and rot. We need not bring about misery, pain or despair, but we must acknowledge those feelings for what they are: Worthwhile. Excellence without failure is just luck or cheating. Dignity without damage is narcissism. And cosiness without effort, is inertia.


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