“People don’t learn much when everything is peachy and life presents no challenges.”
– Jon Hudson, from Project Hyperion, by Jeremy Robinson
If there is anyone who can talk about life being difficult, it’s Jon Hudson. Not to make it sound like no one has had it worse, of course, but Hudson’s life has not been easy. It’s just been difficult in different ways.
His father beat his mother all but senseless at Christmastime when he was just a boy. He worked in a government agency that was practically a joke, shown no respect, and even when his job became relevant, he had to deal with a lot of idiots getting in his way. Said relevancy came at the advent of giant monsters rampaging around the world, slaughtering entire cities, and that’s just the prelude to an extraterrestrial invasion of truly cosmic proportions. His career becomes entirely about dealing with madmen and monsters in the hopes of saving all of humanity and stopping an ongoing interstellar holocaust.
Yet, for all the suffering, Hudson has actually gained quite a bit. He has learned lessons and gained the greatest treasures of all: his family. The woman he loves, and marries, had an abusive first husband, but she came the other side of that determined to be strong, and never be dominated by a lesser man again. The daughter he adopts has a truly unique and tragic life story as well, one that has left her with countless nightmares. The people around him move forward with their lives, growing stronger and more loving, through each ordeal that is thrown their way.
And Hudson, who was once alone, learns about being a husband, father, friend, and protector of humanity… both the species and the principle.
All of that would not happen without the pain that he and those around him have faced.
Pain, suffering, all the difficulties of life, even the outright horrors… they’re never easy to go through, or even witness. But I believe, truly, that we learn more from tribulation than we do from complacency.
The man who has an easy life may study all he wants, but learns very little, and forgets it all rather easily, because he has no real need for it. History and storytelling both provide ample examples of people who have money and learning and spend all their time thinking about things they don’t actually know anything about and coming to wildly mistaken conclusions that ignore the facts of everyday life.
The man who has a difficult life learns much more, through experience and necessity, and never forgets it. There’s a reason we came to respect “street smarts” as a reflection of more practical, down-to-Earth knowledge, and an understanding of how the world actually works, gained through living a hard life.
As for what we learn, that will depend on the person, I think.
Some of us learn about the importance of kindness, of charity, of love and family and freedom.
Others learn how easy it is to close oneself off to human feeling, to be cruel and cowardly and self-serving.
I’ve said before that pain is a teacher. The question is what kind of student we are.
It may be a high price, with uncertain results, but if everything were easy, we would never really learn anything at all, would we?