Among us there is not, and probably will never be again, the kind of wisdom with regard to suffering that existed among the ancients, because that wisdom presupposes a balance between the individual and the world, and this balance has long been absent, at least since the beginning of the industrial revolution. We bow our heads before sickness and aging, but this very temporary docility will be abandoned as soon as human ingenuity makes it possible to change previously accepted norms. How sad it is, for example, to think that one is going to die of a disease, a virus that will be curable in a few years—that one is leaving too early. Pain is a fact. We don’t need to make a religion out of it, and we can make only temporary armistices with the inevitable. There is in the world a great impatience with misfortune and suffering, because the progress already realized makes the immensity of what remains to be done odious. What Cesare Pavese called the “bestiality” of distress prevents us from establishing relationships with it that are not chaotic and uneven. Any serenity in this matter would be merely the result of fatigue. What we are awkwardly groping toward today is an art of living that includes an acknowledgment of adversity but does not fall into the abyss of renunciation.

Paul Bruckner, Perpetual Euphoria: On the Duty to Be Happy, translated by Steven Randall, in “The Art of Suffering”