There are people who are destined to taste only the poison in things, for whom any surprise is a painful surprise and any experience a new occasion for torture. If someone were to say to me that such suffering has subjective reasons, related to the individual’s particular makeup, I would then ask; is there an objective criterion for evaluating suffering? Who can say with precision that my neighbor suffers more than I do or that Jesus suffered more than all of us? There is no objective standard because suffering cannot be measured according to the external stimulation or local irritation of the organism, but only as it is felt and reflected in consciousness. Alas, from this point of view, any hierarchy is out of the question. Each person remains with his own suffering, which he believes absolute and unlimited. How much would we diminish our own personal suffering if we were to compare it to all the world’s sufferings until now, to the most horrifying agonies and the most complicated tortures, the mostcruel deaths and the most painful betrayals, all the lepers, all those burned alive or starved to death? Nobody is comforted in his sufferings by the thought that we are all mortals, nor does anybody who suffers really find comfort in the past or present suffering of others. Because in this organically insufficient and fragmentary world, the individual is set to live fully, wishing to make of his own existence an absolute.
On the Heights of Despair