The Art of Struggle

umair haque
3 min readDec 19, 2014

Go ahead. Admit it. Life today. It feels like a wearying, endless struggle. Why?

Leaving outraged internet comments. Trying to get ahead at work. Negging at the bar. Rating profiles on TinderCupid. Gossiping on FriendFace.

You’re just not “competitive”, son. Your very own peers said you’re not a “top performer”!! You don’t have the “killer instinct”. Your brain, body, face, career, life…it’s just not in the topmost percentile.

It’s all the same thing. We’ve been deluded into thinking that shitting on everyone and everything all the time is the greatest thing that we can do.

We spend a lot of time competing with one another. Competition is the great project of rationalized, data-driven modernity, and its quest for perfection. And so perhaps we’ve come to believe that competition itself is the prize. Let me call this idea “hyper-antagonism”. We’re extremists of antagonism, who believe in a fundamental principle — that the more adversarial we are, in every aspect of our lives, the better we are.

We’re warriors…fighting…everything…all the time. Hey! Life is war…right? Is it? What are we really doing? Normalizing malevolence. Rewarding one another for punishing everyone. Living zombie lives. Flinging shit at one another, repetitively, automatically, permanently, thoughtlessly. Who else does that? Prisoners who’ve been in solitary so long they’ve gone crazy with the sickness of it all.

All life is struggle. From the smallest creature, to the mightiest. The question is: what do we struggle for?

Spending your days gleefully shitting on people is not living a worthy life. If everyone shits on everyone else, what happens? We don’t go to the moon. We don’t invent new antibiotics. We don’t make great films, write great books, sing great songs. We don’t laugh with joy—we cackle with rage. We don’t ache with love—we burn with shame. We drown in shit. We suffocate in mediocrity, tedium, banality, evil, cruelty…meaninglessness. The best lives that we can live elude us because we’re throwing a bit of our selves away every time we fling shit at one another.

What does it take to live a great life? It takes the opposite of the things we’re taught to perform…enjoy…compete for…strive for…learn…master. Derision is not determination. Contempt is not confidence. Scorn is not acceptance. Disparagement is not nobility. Killer robots programmed with algorithms of rage, fury, and self-destruction, to serve systems of destruction might be useful . But they will not be…alive. Not really. What does it mean to be alive? Truly alive? To be seared by passion, kindled with suffering, burned with love, illuminated by truth, devastated by beauty—reborn in possibility.

And that is precisely what too many of us are giving up. When we sling shit at one another, laughing like desperate, crazed, helpless things—because we’ve come to accept that it’s the best we can do, all we may be, everything there is…what do we give up?

Ourselves. It’s when we can cultivate the best in us that we feel as if we’ve truly lived. And it’s when we never do that feel as if we’re not really here. Because, in truth, we’re not. Our selves are our gardens. When they wither, we don’t just die. We never live in the first place.

We feel as if we’re struggling. Are we? Is struggle…just raw, unbridled aggression? The great challenge in each life is not merely to drag every other life down into the darkness. It is to raise it up to the light. The great struggle in each life is not whether it can vanquish any life. The great struggle in each life is whether it can embrace all life. That is the greatest of all struggles. The one that decides whether we will regret—or rejoice. To love.

Your adversaries. your enemies. Your opponents. Your foes. They’re not, really. They’re just like you. Someone who’s been wrongly taught that hate is love, and love is hate. And that’s why you’re both busy competing…grappling…fighting. Flinging shit, every moment of every day. At each other. Harder, faster, nastier, dirtier. Never realizing.

You’re both standing beneath the very same perfect sky. And It’s not the last man standing who wins. But the first man who kneels. And plants his garden.