In one of his discourses, Osho narrates an anecdote about Ramana Maharishi. A man approached Maharishi and asked him: “If God is benevolent, just, loving and all-powerful, then why is there so much pain and misery everywhere in the world? Why doesn’t God stop bad people from committing crimes? Why doesn’t he protect good people from misfortune and evil?” Maharishi had a short and sweet answer: “To thicken the plot.”
I find it amusing, and not entirely implausible that the Creator may have deliberately introduced pain, misery, and darkness. Because, if there was only happiness, pleasure and light, life will not be liveable. It will become too boring.
A good fiction writer knows this. He/she knows that in order to grip the reader, a story must comprise pain, sadness, and misery. The active ingredient of a story, in the words of Jerry Cleaver, is “conflict”. In his book Immediate Fiction, Cleaver highlights the importance of conflicts in stories. No story will grip you if everything simply goes right in it.
Just as conflict is a necessary evil in fiction, so also it is in real life. Conflicts thicken the plot in the story of our life. Because happiness derives its meaning from sadness, pleasure from pain and light from darkness. Lao Tzu says in Tao Te Ching:
“Being and non-being create each other
Difficult and easy support each other
Long and short define each other
High and low depend on each other
Before and after follow each other”
So, opposites exist to complete each other. Once we acknowledge this, we can learn to appreciate life’s peaks as well as valleys. While we’re going through a difficult time, we would know deep inside that this is happening for a reason. When we’re sad, we learn to value happiness. When we’re miserable, we learn to value peace of mind.
When we face rough patches, we might do well to think about the most exciting novel we have read and remind ourselves: “The thicker the life’s plot, the more exciting it is and the more lessons we learn.”
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