Writing Prompt: “Compared to What?”


In re: “Compared to what? Life, that is. Whenever people say “life is hard” or “life is strange” I always wonder what their point of reference is. Life is hard, as opposed to (BLANK) which is much easier. Wrap your mind around that one, darling.” – as posed by the lovely Helena Hann Basquiat. in response to a blurb about brains vs. hearts

“Life is hard.” This statement is easy enough to  make and so understated that it is so easily overlooked. Life is hard in reference to what? Something that is neither easy nor hard? Simply existing passively in the world is quite easy. It involves minimal decision making or brain power, it indulges your subconscious while ignoring the higher of your cognitive faculties.

There is a way you could choose to live which would require a lot more brain power to mediate your actions, thoughts and emotions. There is a way of going about your day with meaning and intention. There is a way of actively living and making and impression upon the world. To live this way, the active, meaningful way, is much more difficult. It requires a level of self-reflection that some people find terrifying and nearly impossible.

Some people are so afraid to look into their reflection, into their own eyes, and tell themselves the truth.

“I lied to her. I looked her in the eye and I lied. No one knows this but me, but at least I can be honest with myself.”

“I love the drugs. I don’t care who I hurt or what I do to hurt them as long as I get to feel the way the drugs make me feel.”

“I want to die. I want to cease to exist. I want the world to suffer my loss as I have suffered my existence.”

To tell your self the truth, when you can not admit it to another soul, requires great strength and self-acceptance. A lot of people live their lives in denial of who they are, passively allowing the world to happen around them, lest they realize the horrors of who they truly are. There is a process one must go through to accept the horrible things you know about yourself. If you want to accept them, you have to be able to admit it. You have to feel the emotions tied to the intellectual information of what has happened, to you or by your own hands, in your life. Its much easier to move on and forget it ever happened, or worse, deny it ever happened.

The majority would seem to prefer the latter. A life of bliss, as you may have heard, is a product of ignorance. To ignore your problems, your past, your faults, well, it allows you to ignore most anything! It allows you to construct your new mental view of who you are. You get to ignore the stuff you don’t like and embellish the stuff you do like! You don’t have to approach your true emotions and you can live based on the logical reasoning that has never let you down in the past.

“Following your heart” as some call it, doesn’t always work out for the best. It can often leave you in a much worse place than you started. Following your heart often blinds the logical thinking side of your brain. The emotional (irrational) side takes over and distracts you with images of what *could be* rather than what actually is. If you ignore reality, you will find happiness in your deluded fantasy. If you choose to consider the other side, the logical side, you will be disappointed to find that reality doesn’t always line up with our fantasies.

Your decision lies in your willingness to crush your own dreams. Will you protect the facade? Or will you bravely accept the truth and learn to reconstruct your dreams around the truths that continue to present themselves along the way? Are your emotions, your happiness, important enough to trump the truth? Is the truth important enough to crush your spirits? Is finding balance really worth it?


For some people, the answer is no. The world is *full* of people living in their deluded fantasy lands, coated by layers of defensive behaviors intended to protect the fragile reality they cling to. Other people live in a bleak, meaningless world, where happiness is nothing and fact is always favored over fantasy. They live according to what is and what will be; they don’t care about what might have been or what could come. They have no capacity for feeling and dreaming. They live based on the facts; Do I have food? Do I have water? Do I have shelter? If so, then I am happy.

“If ‘p’ then ‘q’
*yes* ‘p’
*therefore* ‘q'”

For the emotional people, to be happy means much more. Happiness depends upon a multitude of factors, many of which depend upon relationships with others and feelings about oneself. The rationals would rather not think about how they feel about themselves. To consider all the factors of what an emotional person bases their happiness on is too much for the rational thinker. The rational thinker considers the basics, the essentials, the rest is just fluff – there to fill up all the extra space between meals and sleep cycles.

A rational life is quite simple. An emotional life of denying the facts, or ignoring problems, is equally as fulfilling, though. Neither gets a full experience of life, because both ignore an essential part of human-ship. We are beings that strive for balance. This constant effort to balance the many important aspects of our lives is what makes life so very hard.

There are many ways we can choose to live that can turn us into zombies that just go about our lives and our days as if nothing catastrophic were going on around us, but the fact of the matter is, the world is spinning like crazy around a giant fiery ball of doom. We need to make the most of our time here before its gone. We can’t do that without opening our eyes to the full picture. Self-awareness and awareness of the world around you is vital to living a balanced life.

You have to take in and give out equal amounts of energy. You can choose to live passively and either ignore the horrible truths to protect your fantasy, or bleakly reject your emotions. You can claim that life is meaningless and empty. You can claim the world is full of rainbows and sunshine and there’s not a damn thing wrong. Or, you can acknowledge that, while the world is slowly crumbling beneath our feet, we have the capability of feeling wonderful things. Those wonderful things are worth enduring the hell that is the destruction of our homely planet by the foul inhabitants dwelling on its surface.

The effort required to find balance between the good and the bad; the actively participating in life and passively allowing the world to spin, its all part of a whole system of spectrums that we have to strive for balance within. Life is all about balance and finding balance isn’t easy; its a lot easier to ignore your troubles, whatever they may be.

So, I guess life doesn’t have to be hard, but its only worth it when it is. The things that make life hard are the things that make life worth experiencing. An easy life is a boring life – no matter which way you spin it.


2 thoughts on “Writing Prompt: “Compared to What?”

  1. Sorry it took me so long — busy day — but I needed to read this today. I’m in the midst of a spell of depression, and my outlook is terribly bleak. I’ll say no more on this other than thank you for posting this.


    • I’m glad it was of some service to you. It served me well to write it, so thanks for all your inspiration. I’ve been experiencing a particularly unpleasant frame of time these past few weeks, myself. Here’s to hoping for better days…


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