Everyone who has ever wondered why modern people, so rich and healthy, are unhappy, has come back to this: we evolved to face very difficult lives. Studs Terkel interviewed dozens of World War II veterans who felt that the war was the high point of their lives; many felt that ever since they had just been marking time. Of course many people are also destroyed by war, violence, disease, and other sorts of crises -- quite apart from the millions who are killed. There just isn't any sort of life that works for everyone.
This is trite but also so, so true: A brush with mortality turns out to be the best way to appreciate how blue the sky is, how sensuous grass feels underfoot, how melodious kids’ voices are. Even teenagers’ voices. A friend and colleague, David E. Sanger, who conquered cancer a decade ago, says, “No matter how bad a day you’re having, you say to yourself: ‘I’ve had worse.’ ”
Floyd Norris, a friend in The Times’s business section, is now undergoing radiation treatment for cancer after surgery on his face and neck. He wrote on his blog: “It is not fun, but it has been inspiring. In a way, I am happier about my life than at any time I can remember.”
As an aside, this is why I have never been able to take heaven seriously. What would life be without struggle, difficulty, and the threat of failure?