A black and white image of people throughout history reading books

Life is Hard. Reading Make It Better.

Last weekend, I went to a storyteller’s festival and learned a valuable lesson. The Master of Ceremonies pointed out that stories help us confront the human condition.

That got me thinking, what is the human condition? This question has been with us since cave people crawled out of the rocky earth, squinted at the sun, and surveyed the land for sabertooth tigers. Sleeping on the stony floor put a serious cramp in the lower back, and not having eaten for five days put a knot in the belly. Ever since then, life has been full of hardship, toil, birth, death, and all the good and bad in between. This is the human condition.

Friedrich Nietzsche believed that pain must be embraced and it’s up to you to create meaning in your life. Immanuel Kant tried to make sense of life through principles of moral action. Aristotle had the idea of eudaimonia, often translated as happiness or flourishing. He taught that if we lived by specific virtues, we could successfully cope with the human condition.

Let’s return to our cave people. How did they deal with the drudgery of life? They painted stories on cave walls. Fast forward to today, and we have books for every curiosity, hardship, and philosophical question. That’s why reading will never go extinct. Sure, more people are on the internet, in movie theaters, and distracted ad infinitum, but in our hearts, we’re all craving a good story to help us cope with life.

We need books now more than ever.

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