In On the Suffering of the World , Schopenhauer argues that suffering is intrinsic and, even more than this, crucial to human existence. Without what he terms "Work, worry, toil and trouble", human life would have no purpose since we are designed to constantly struggle. Without this, we would either collapse through boredom or else create new and ever more harmful distractions.
In a particularly memorable passage concerning the nature of Utopia, he writes:
'Imagine this race transported to Utopia where everything grows of its own accord and turkeys fly around ready-roasted, where lovers find one another without delay and keep one another without any difficulty; in such a place some men would die of boredom or hang themselves, some would fight and kill one another, and thus they would create for themselves more suffering than nature inflicts on them as it is. Thus for a race such as this no stage, no form of existence is suitable other than the one it already possesses'.
At first glance, this may appear counter-intuitive, but does Schopenhaur have a point here? Does work, which for him is at the opposite pole of human existence from boredom, save us from self-destruction? Have we evolved to the point where the lives that we lead ideally suit our disposition to suffering, despite the fact that we believe this not to be the case?
Something to think about as we continue to seek distractions from what many have argued to be the disease of our age: boredom...