Dynamist Blog

Why Suffer?

Commenter Dan Weber on a Freakonomics blog post about Restless Leg Syndrome:

The obscure diseases that I or someone close to me has are totally real.

The obscure diseases that other people have are just bupkis.

(This is meant to be read ironically.)

I'm particularly sympathetic to this point since the article he's taking issue with starts with a swipe implicitly comparing depression to ordinary sadness, which is rather like comparing the flu to sneezing because you inhaled some pepper grains. Personal interests aside, the more fundamental issue is the way we treat the term disease. If something is a "disease," it is worth treating. If it isn't a "disease," you should just live with it. But why? Why not treat a biological condition you just don't like? (I'm assuming that you are directly or indirectly paying for the treatment.) We don't have to call Restless Leg Syndrome a disease to acknowledge that it disturbs some people's sleep and that those people would like relief. Contrary to what you may have heard, the only sort of character suffering builds is the ability to suffer--a useful ability in a world where suffering is the routine nature of life but not a virtue that makes the world a better place.

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