“Life is suffering.”
Asuka, SOEDA MAN: Any race, aged 20-30 SOCIETY (a person): Any gender, aged over 40 WOMAN: Any race, aged 20-30
VOICE: “Part 1. Poem “Creation” by Shinkichi Takahashi.
A sparrow will not die because they have not been born yet
After they are born, they will no longer be born, so they will not die
There is a quiet world without a sound. It is the sparrow’s old nest
The sparrow can control any phenomena at their will
Because all the creation is wet with the sparrow’s tears”
Lights on. MAN and SOCIETY are seated on an individual couch.
MAN. I’m sick.
SOCIETY. I’m sick of you.
MAN. I know, you are the society. Shut up!
SOCIETY. If you wish.
MAN. (Long pause.) I’m tired. I graduated from university a little while ago, I quit my first job and started a new job a few months ago. I think I’m doing fine. But it doesn’t feel right. I’m not happy, I don’t feel safe, I feel lonely around anyone or just by myself. I think I’m seeing… bad sides of you. (
Pause.) Could you converse with me now?
SOCIETY. (Pause.) What do you mean, bad sides?
MAN. I’m not looking forward to my future. I can’t be myself and become happy at the same time anymore. Everytime I want to do something, I become afraid of possibilities of bad things.
What if I ended up with no money? No place to live? No one to go to? So I just work and do small boring things. There are things I want to change in the world, but people would try to knock me down. That’s sort of what happened to me last time anyway. So I knock myself down before I try. I feel… exploited.
SOCIETY. Do I exploit you?
MAN. I don’t know if it’s you who’s doing it. It’s not this someone directly trying to use me, I feel like it’s… something bigger. Like you. Because there are only certain types of freedom that I can actually enjoy. If I cross the line, I can end up miserable and no one will help me. I’m afraid of falling down so I just stopped trying.
SOCIETY. It sounds like you are being a little too pessimistic. You know, humans these days are into new concepts of ethics in fact, and it is all about welfare and equity. Although it would be an exaggeration to say all humans who check on me care about me in that way.
MAN. Yeah, like I’m sure the world has been changing in that direction as a whole, like all sorts of equal rights and opportunities. But I always see money ahead of it. Wealth. And that’s what makes me feel comfortable about life. Antidepressants wouldn’t work, it’s money that would give me comfort and hope. And I hate it that money gives me so much emotional support when I’m short of it.
SOCIETY. Oh yes, money has been such a big thingy recently, hasn’t it? But the good old people who have always been around me. Ultra-capitalists. Capital! These people love me. They benefit from me.
MAN. Not from me?
SOCIETY. Of course, but you know I help them benefit from you. You benefit from them too.
MAN. (Gasp) Wha… how?
SOCIETY. By letting you exploit the more vulnerable! Ever bought something from China? Ever wondered how much these folks are paid and under what conditions they work?
MAN. (Pause.) But how can I stop that? I can’t buy these organic locally sourced products every single time.
SOCIETY. Exactly. Exploitation is mankind’s long-lived tradition. It is indeed such a difficult task to resist and change the intricate art of exploitation. That part of me is so polished and garnished that the small portion of humans who try messing with it are always, always suffering. Even you are suffering because alas, you’ve found it! But on the other hand, isn’t it wonderful that you guys have made yourselves the living dead? You know, many of you are so happy like this!
MAN. They don’t know they are being exploited?
SOCIETY. Oh maybe you do, I think you are just enjoying the sugary illusion of happiness. So many of you lot just don’t bother too much to think. (Smiling)
MAN. So they just go on with their lives thinking they are happy while there’s always exploitation and… suffering?
SOCIETY. Bingo. Why would you have children otherwise? Why would you breed your species, perfectly capable of suffering and inflicting suffering on others?
MAN. Because, I thought… we can find happiness after all. You have to believe in that to keep going.
SOCIETY. Exactly, that’s the wishful idea that kept humans go on for centuries. But is survival happiness? Do you feel happy surviving?
MAN. (Pause.) No, it’s excruciating.
SOCIETY. Do you believe you will be happy in the end?
MAN. I… have no idea. I’m too sick of how I’m living my life right now to think about the future.
SOCIETY. Would you like some change? Something that might totally change your life? Something that I and others would totally love you for?
MAN. You mean… have kids?
SOCIETY. Yes. Biological ones. Unless you are seeing a male partner.
MAN. But you were just talking about how having kids is a thoughtless act for humans.
SOCIETY. But now I am telling you that having kids will change your life in a good way, because they are almost always weaker than you. There’s a very low chance of you being a victim. You can exploit them for your very own illusion of happiness.
MAN. Isn’t that… twisted? I think good people have kids to make them happy, not themselves.
SOCIETY. Man, you ARE young! Why don’t you adopt then? Why don’t you make these poor children happy instead of creating one more human that needs taken care of?
(MAN is confused.) Why do you need to have your biological children? Do you get any less happy if they are not your biological children?
MAN. There are people who adopt. Just most of us choose to… pass the blood.
SOCIETY. For what, exactly?
MAN. I don’t know, seeing them grow looking like you, relating to them as the same biological family, not having to tell them one day they are adopted…
SOCIETY. They are more important than the children’s suffering? Your interest in raising a miniature of you and worry over telling them the truth? (Pause.) Anyway, I’m the one who made the suggestion. Perhaps it was counterproductive considering your negative view towards life at this point. My bad. I would love it if you decide to reproduce one day. Constant reproduction of humans is vital to my existence.
MAN. At the expense of the victims?
SOCIETY. (Pause.) Who are the victims?
MAN. Children… who suffer.
SOCIETY. What do you mean, children who suffer?
MAN. Children who are abused, killed, those who cannot go to school, those who end up being exploited and drowning in poverty… those with no future but only despair.
SOCIETY. Ah. Socialism?
MAN. No, I don’t mean anything political. There are always people who can’t get to the point of peaceful life with enough finances and physical and emotional sense of security.
SOCIETY. You are close.
SOCIETY. I shall help you think farther. If there are no humans who are in the situations you described, do you think everybody will be happy and safe?
MAN. I… don’t know. I never thought it would be possible.
SOCIETY. Picture a person with a loving upbringing, solid educational background and a secure job they love. No addiction, no chronic physical diseases.
SOCIETY. Do you think such a person is happy?
MAN. Yeah, relatively.
SOCIETY. Good. Now, do you think they will keep being happy?
MAN. Um, that… depends, doesn’t it? They might get fired, they might get depressed over someone’s death. Stuff like that.
SOCIETY. Yes. You said there were always people who can’t have a peaceful life, and it is equally true for those who are happy for the most part but will be unhappy later in their lives. It is unable to judge if people are happy or continue to be so, they might look very happy on the outside yet on the verge of meltdown on the inside.
MAN. You can’t control how you feel. No matter how healthy feelings are, they might drop you right into the bottom when they are overwhelming.
SOCIETY. Isn’t that true? Everyone has the ability to suffer.
MAN. (Hesitantly) They do.
SOCIETY. Children who suffer turned out to be everyone. For example, fear has been greatly useful among humans to control each other. However, it is also a major reason for suicide. Fear of poverty, loneliness, even more suffering.. it’s a tremendous loss of labor.
SOCIETY. Of course. I stop functioning once you stop working.
MAN. Is that… all we are?
SOCIETY. Primary feature. Not that those who don’t are useless, they are just unfortunate.
MAN. It’s so stupid. I’m sick. All these things you tell me, all the sickening things… they are just to keep you alive, not to keep us alive.
SOCIETY. Not so fast, young man.
MAN. Why do we have to keep breathing and work just to keep you alive? Trying so hard to believe there’s happiness when there’s no guarantee for peace?
SOCIETY. No, you don’t have to try hard.
MAN. I know what you are going to say. Yes we can choose to take our own lives though it’s “a loss of labor!”
SOCIETY. Guns, knives, buildings, nooses, vehicles, so many options these days, although it’s greatly discouraged.
MAN. (Slowly and painfully) I’d love to do it to be released from all the pain I am in. All the fear and sadness. It’s painful to be alive.
SOCIETY. But you are not going to?
MAN. (Pause.) No. Because, things might get better and I might be happy someday, looking back this period of life as simply a dark time. People always say that. Maybe I should also try getting emotionally involved with others instead of focusing too much on myself.
SOCIETY. That’s beautiful.
MAN. Yes. (Cynically) Thank you. (Pause. MAN sighs, and covers his face with his hands. Long pause.)
SOCIETY. As much as it’s beautiful, it’s also a recitation of a cliche, that I absolutely love. (Beat.) I’m not as hollow as you think, some of you actually have gone far enough to discuss suffering more deeply.
(MAN removes his hands from his face.) Two things I can tell you. Survivorship bias, and your juicy pessimism based on exactly what I am fundamentally built upon.
MAN. (With a shaken tone) What are you trying to say?
SOCIETY. I am just trying to insinuate that there might be something else that stops you from taking your own life.
MAN. (Emotionally) It’s scary to try to take your life. Humans are mammals with ability to feel pain. All the tools and options I can take does not exclude pain that comes with them.
SOCIETY. Yes, fear of pain. Because you are born a human.
MAN. Painless death would only happen if I’ve suffered more than enough first. And it’s not me to decide how much I suffer! Because YOU don’t want me to die peacefully!
SOCIETY. Oh, I do, it’s just that only one type of painless death tends to be widely accepted. You know, natural one caused by age.
MAN. Yes, after 80 years or more of living!
SOCIETY. You might become happy in 10 years or so.
MAN. Or I might not.
SOCIETY. What if you did?
MAN. It might not exceed my suffering. So many successful people take their own lives.
SOCIETY. You don’t want to wait and see?
MAN. No. Are you teasing me? I thought we were talking about how we are destined to suffering but how suicide is scary.
SOCIETY. Yes we are, I’m just suggesting what you can do at this point of my development. Life is always suffering, and assisted dying is only available to those whose suffering is socially accepted. I just thought, you might not want to focus on the suffering bits all your life.
MAN. That is exactly why I am sick of you. Why can’t we just try to reduce or banish the suffering?
SOCIETY. Well, because then ambition and desire will be disregarded.
MAN. Ambition and desire for what? Money?
SOCIETY. That too, but mainly to compete with others.
MAN. What do you mean?
SOCIETY. To achieve more and better than others, success, sexual attraction, money, power…
SOCIETY. Because superiority is often considered as a factor of confidence or comfort, and feeling superior, or less inferior, makes humans feel less anxious. Unhappiness, especially fundamental one, if not suffering, is a wonderful source of competition. Being less miserable..
MAN. (Breaking in) No, I got it. It makes sense. That’s just not what I asked. I meant, why do you need us to seek these things? Why can’t we just not compete in the first place?
SOCIETY. Oh. (SOCIETY shrugs) Um-hm, I don’t think that part has something to do with me. I thought that was what you all, at least most of you, were designed to do. Comparing and competing.
MAN. Alright. (Pause.) Alright.
SOCIETY. Perhaps I can ask a question here this time, maybe I can have a little hope you have some insight about it. (Genuinely and excitedly) Why do you folks like to compare and compete?
SOCIETY. I mean, “who’s happier” and “who’s more miserable” types of discourse. It doesn’t seem like a simple capitalistic feature. It seems so deeply ingrained in you. It almost seems like you do not want equality because you want others to be less valuable than you. I have been told numerous times by my wealthy, powerful humans to disregard some of you who do not belong to some of your, attributes, and you know what reasons they gave me?
MAN. Because these people are not normal? Because they are stupid? SOCIETY. Because they are useless to me! MAN. They are not.
SOCIETY. They are not. The point is that they seem to want these humans to be useless to me, so that they can be less useless. Isn’t it counterproductive?
MAN. I get it though. It’s wrong to discriminate others for the purpose, it is just wrong, but I understand why.
MAN. They, your friends, want others who don’t look or think like them, to be less than them because of something no one can change. So that their relative value will never change. It’s safe.
MAN. I mean you will never feel less than them if you believe they are less because they are black or something, because you just can’t change people’s color of skin. Knowing that you can’t be them and they can’t be you, it makes them feel safe about their value.
SOCIETY. Ummm. It’s amazing how obsessed you are with one another. That’s the whole reason of my existence to begin with, but the obsession seems…
SOCIETY. (Pause.) Self-centered.
MAN. (Amused) I’m sorry, but we are humans. What would you expect? I thought you knew us well in that aspect. Like very well.
SOCIETY. Yes, yet my existence is based on you being collective. My primary purpose is to keep you alive as a group.
MAN. Well, you are also an individual after all. People can be egocentric about you and not just about themselves. Another one of you can totally destroy or transform you depending on how powerful they are. Sometimes you don’t manipulate us but some of us manipulate you.
SOCIETY. Oh I never manipulate you. I am always just the middle person, distributing all kinds of things. Some of you just rely on me instead of searching for legitimate belief to act on.
MAN. I actually know that for a fact. (Pause.) What if I want to take a break from you? I just want to stop caring about you like just for an hour.
SOCIETY. (Pause.) Take a sleeping pill, young man. One of the greatest inventions.
Lights off with a clicking