Life Consists In Conflict


Life consists in conflict. So long as man remains a social animal he

cannot live in isolation. All individual hopes and aspirations

depend on society. Society is reflected in the individual, and the

individual in society. In spite of this, his inborn free will and

love of liberty seek to break away from social ties. He is also a

moral animal, and endowed with love and sympathy. He loves his

fellow-beings, and wou
d fain promote their welfare; but he must be

engaged in constant struggle against them for existence. He

sympathizes even with animals inferior to him, and heartily wishes to

protect them; yet he is doomed to destroy their lives day and night.

He has many a noble aspiration, and often soars aloft by the wings of

imagination into the realm of the ideal; still his material desires

drag him down to the earth. He lives on day by day to continue his

life, but he is unfailingly approaching death at every moment.

The more he secures new pleasure, spiritual or material, the more he

incurs pain not yet experienced. One evil removed only gives place

to another; one advantage gained soon proves itself a disadvantage.

His very reason is the cause of his doubt and suspicion; his

intellect, with which he wants to know everything, declares itself to

be incapable of knowing anything in its real state; his finer

sensibility, which is the sole source of finer pleasure, has to

experience finer suffering. The more he asserts himself, the more he

has to sacrifice himself. These conflictions probably led Kant to

call life a trial time, wherein most succumb, and in which even the

best does not rejoice in his life. Men betake themselves, says

Fichte, to the chase after felicity. . . . But as soon as they

withdraw into themselves and ask themselves, 'Am I now happy?' the

reply comes distinctly from the depth of their soul, 'Oh no; thou art

still just as empty and destitute as before!' . . . They will in the

future life just as vainly seek blessedness as they have sought it in

the present life.

It is not without reason that the pessimistic minds came to conclude

that 'the unrest of unceasing willing and desiring by which every

creature is goaded is in itself unblessedness,' and that 'each

creature is in constant danger, constant agitation, and the whole,

with its restless, meaningless motion, is a tragedy of the most

piteous kind.' 'A creature like the carnivorous animal, who cannot

exist at all without continually destroying and tearing others, may

not feel its brutality, but man, who has to prey on other sentient

beings like the carnivorous, is intelligent enough, as hard fate

would have it, to know and feel his own brutal living.' He must be

the most miserable of all creatures, for he is most conscious of his

own misery. Furthermore, 'he experiences not only the misfortunes

which actually befall him, but in imagination he goes through every

possibility of evil.' Therefore none, from great kings and emperors

down to nameless beggars, can be free from cares and anxieties, which

'ever flit around them like ghosts.'