In other posts I have pointed out that life is the source of all suffering. I can’t claim to be profound; this is the First Noble Truth of Siddhartha Gautama. I’m only convinced that he was correct. Some Christians, of course, also see life as a “vale of tears,” only to be survived in order to be rewarded with relief in the afterlife. Hinduism and Theosophy also see existence in the flesh as something to be endured rather than a gift in and of itself.
So, why do we cling so tightly to this gift or trial or punishment, depending on one’s beliefs? Evolutionary psychologists and biologists would most likely agree that clinging to life aids the survival of the species (or of the “selfish genes” as Richard Dawkins would say). Surely, this is correct, but it may not be the entire answer.
Very soon after we are born, we also begin to form attachments. We not only love our own lives, but we love the lives of others. Many people resist the temptation of suicide because they “could never do that” to their parents, children, spouses, or friends. Some give in to the temptation of suicide because they care for no one and feel no one cares for them. Or, in some cases, people come to believe that their death will bring more happiness to those they care about. In some cases, they are correct in this as well.
So, love makes life extremely valuable but also excruciating. Our obligation, then, is to recognize the sorrow that is life. Recognize that it is a common feature of human existence. Recognize that all suffering is our own and do our best to help each other through. In so doing, we may find joy, bliss, and comfort along the way.
We may, in the end, feel that it is all worth it.
(Some have said the Buddhist view is pessimistic. I’m not sure whether most Buddhists would agree, but I know that Arthur Schopenhauer, who was greatly influenced by Buddhism, classified Buddhism as a pessimistic religion. He also based his moral and ethical writings on the principle ideas of Buddhism.)