“Set over or against something that is at the other end or side of an intervening line or space” is how Merriam-Webster defines the word “opposite.”
Opposites contradict. Good can never be bad, right can’t be wrong, black contrasts white, and so on. With nothing much to do on a semester break, I tried to transcend its binary definition and found a truth about human life: Contradicting life traits, like suffering and peace, bind to complete and define life itself.
COVID-19 only furthered our wish to delete life’s need for conflict and struggle, sometimes awakening our inner skeptics to question God’s existence. He could have erased our problems. If He’d only want what’s best for us, he could’ve ended all the evil and wrong in a snap. If I can do that instantly, I’d do it.
To be sure, I took a daydream.
One day, I wake up feeling perfect. All bad is gone. The friction of getting up with stress is gone. All faces wear a smile. Poverty, career course dilemmas, basically everything terrible, gone. Even crime rates drop zero. People of extreme power are regulated; the distribution of wealth is even. Everyone is given an equal opportunity at life.
From there, you could only find problems in crossword puzzles, Math textbooks, or novel plots. However, they won’t be as bothersome since everything is flawless, erasing all life’s negative parts.
Fast forward a hundred years. People became angels. Being more responsible, we eluded climate change. Humans now collectively lead a life-sustaining path. The motive for dispute is fun, like having trivial skirmishes to laugh about in the “no negative” paradise. People maximized every possible good deed.
Now I began to see how imbalance deprived humanity of emotion.
A child stumbles on a book and finds a story about how one man overcame despair through hope. Inheriting only goodness and bliss, how will the child feel for the protagonist? Without sorrow, shame, pain, and grief, one is ignorant of hope. Without knowing pain nor suffering, stories would be oblivious, and the juices that once make us feel alive will not be as life-giving. It was an unexpected blow to my fantasy.
It must be unfair to say that “bad” is necessary for us to appreciate life, but achieving satisfaction without knowing what it’s like on the opposite end is the same as feeling nothing new at all, and it will hardly be satisfying.
Like powerful stories, life too requires conflict. Even with worldly disputes gone in a “pain knowing” world, eventually, there will be nothing left to strive for, and nothing will differ us from the dead.
The obliteration of the bad leaves life dull. In losing dissatisfaction, no one might feel lost anymore. Yet consequently, it fades the need to express satisfaction. The new all-good system will kill the value of fulfillment.
Without the bad, we cannot identify nor signify the good. If the world is without pain, life will make an endless monotony of laughter and joy, never truly understanding how those genuinely feel. The substance of human emotion will die. Without the challenges and struggles, even the smallest wins will not be as complete.
God frequently reminds us to be grateful for everything. Independently, some are better off, and for them, it’s easy to be thankful. However, for the less fortunate and victims of the unfair world, the baseline of finding something “worth thanking” drops, not to mention the dire situations they have to face continually, which no one deserves.
Life is a perpetual conflict, and everyone shares the inherent struggle in life. With this truth, we should keep in mind a shared goal: All of us are one in find something to be grateful for in life. One might solo in this quest, but no one is alone. We share the commonality of death, and we must share how we can make life count. In helping others, we become more than ourselves. We can’t stop conflict, but we can transmute that fact and make a life victoriously lived.
Our journey is not only about the happy moments we recall, but the pain and angst we’ve held for so long until we found joy and serenity. A fulfilled life is just a mix of its opposites.