The price of beauty is pain, and hard work, which are sort of the same thing, really. When people gaze upon a beautiful piece of human creation, be it a book, a painting, a tiny carving, often what they do not realise is that behind the beauty and brilliance lies much suffering, days and days of endless, unfruitful labor and toil. Scrape away the gold leaf covering, and beneath there lies nothing but blood and sweat, in messy pinkish-red swirls.
You see, this is something very important to realise: that everything you see around you, from the food in your fridge to the book on your bedside table to the very screen you gaze upon this very moment, was dreamed, built, made and distributed by other human beings. Everything. The roads, the traffic lights, everything that surrounds was made by human hands, dreamt and imagined and created by human minds. That is why I believe everyone should do their best to contribute to the world over the course of their lifetime, to ask themselves what it is they can give the world while they are alive, and exist, because human civilisation has given each and everyone of us so much already, and the best way to show one’s gratitude for the wealth of knowledge and inventions and books and art and utilities that surround us is to make your contribution to humanity, in your own way, as best as you can.
And behind everything lies pain, you see. Growing food takes work, writing a book takes work, looking after children takes work, purifying water takes work—the key to happiness, in this life, is to find the work, by looking into your heart, that you are meant to do, and then to go forth and do that work, which will not only bring you satisfaction but benefit the lives of others. And it, like I said, will not be easy. Far from it. All work is difficult, no matter how simple, because the effort it takes to do anything, even as simple a task as getting out of bed and cooking food, is its own kind of suffering. Thankfully, in life, if you are lucky, you have the freedom to choose the kind of suffering you want to undergo—and, make no mistake, as long as you are alive, no matter what path you take in life, there will be suffering. Even if you are fortunate enough to be able to take the easy path, to live a life of ease and pleasure, that can also entail its own kind of suffering, the suffering of boredom, of being ordinary and mundane, of not contributing to the world and society at large, of dying empty and unknown. If you choose the path of productivity, at the end of it, after all the pain, at the end of your life, at least you have some work left to show for it which will likely live on after your body and mind are gone.
Nothing is easy. During the short span I’ve spent on this planet, this is one of the few truths I am certain of. Nothing is simple, and nothing is easy; the first step in maturity comes from embracing and accepting this fact. From afar, the painting is detailed, lush, glorious, colours swirling and spinning, dazzling and intricate—but it is only when you step up close to the canvas, nose almost brushing it, that you see each of the millions of individual brushstrokes which make it up, layered one on top of the other, one after the other, covering every inch of the canvas, placed there by a paintbrush held once in a human hand, a human hand that dipped the paintbrush into the paint, and drew the next brushstroke, and then dipped the paintbrush into the pain and drew the next brushstroke after that, and repeated the same action several million times, across a span of several months…it is only then that you realise the effort and time and patience and persistence it took to create this one, single piece of beauty, another little scrap of complexity in this wildly beautiful universe.
One step at a time, one brushstroke at a time, one work at a time, one stone at a time—Rome, my friend, was not built in a day.