Pain Is Better Than Emptiness

I’ve come to realize that I cling to pain and yearning because they give me inspiration. They may not be the sole source, but certainly a great deal. I always listen to Leonard Cohen and Elliot Smith during such moods, as they have the ability to intensify and deepen the sadness.

I can tell it’s something of a destructive habit. It’s almost like I subconsciously choose to dwell on things that have been resolved for the sake of something to write about.

It makes me think of the last lines from King Missile’s song Ed:

“Yes, this is the answer. This is the ending. I shall keep on running, because a body in motion tends to stay emotional, and it’s better to feel. Pain is better than emptiness, emptiness is better than nothing, and nothing is better than this.”

Is this how I feel alive, a way of bringing significance to my life? Or is this the way I truly feel, and I’m simply a slow healer, and too much of a thinker?

Or perhaps the better question is this: does happiness inspire me just as much?


  1. From what I’ve read over a couple of years here, I think you are just as moved by happiness…. it’s just more of a surprise to you. You are a thinker.

    Morbid moroseness can be a companion for a while, but for me it’s a device I need to make pain dissipate. It does eventually. Wouldn’t it be worse if you contained it all and put on a tough shell?

    • I agree with your assessment, although perhaps it’s not that happiness is more of a surprise, but less frequent.

  2. The question of bringing signifiance in my life via pain is one that I often turn over in my head. I wonder if it’s simply a skill that needs developing like anything else – the ability to draw inspiration from happiness and contentment.

    The painful memories have also been my most prolific. Inspiration is around every corner and I find myself constantly writing and thinking. Though I’ve certainly enjoyed the happy times in my life, the amount of creative output during those times is relatively small and I find documenting these times of my life exceedingly difficult.

    I imagine Goethe’s writings would have been pretty bland had he not had his intense heartaches.

    • I believe it’s fairly common that artists need to suffer to create. Sometimes, I get to the point where I’m so happy that I don’t “need” to write, though it doesn’t happen that often. Sometimes, I wonder if I ever reach a state of eternal happiness whether I’ll stop this blog completely.

  3. It’s odd that I wanted to write about this yesterday as well, guess you’ve given me the nudge to write about it.

    I’ve touched it before though, how people like ourselves are driven by the state of our melancholy. We seem to go further and faster being down than we are when we’re content or happy. Maybe its because this is a world we’re used to rather than being happy. Or maybe it’s because this is a world we’re supposed to live in rather than one where happiness is a state of life.

    Anyway, that much I subscribe to. That pain is one of those defining things that makes me feel alive (also a justification of one of my more destructive habits). And it drives us, to feed on it, and to paradoxically do whatever it takes to make sure it never touches us, or anyone else we care for.

    • I thought of a third possibility to reason why we’re driven by melancholy. In some situations, I work best under pressure. Perhaps it’s the melancholy that drives us because it gives us something to work towards, whereas happiness leads to (potentially boring) complacency.

      Your final point is quite important, but it’s something I never realized. There have been many times when I’ve felt let down, with no one to help me, most likely because they don’t understand what the pain is like. We become caregivers, and make sure that those whom we love will not have to go through the same thing. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all.

  4. I pondered this question too recently… I once noticed that if anyone read my diary when I die they would think I had a sad life of heartach and disillusion, with people that have hurt or pained me in some way… but the funny thing is I only write in a diary a few times a year, representing such a tiny percentage of my actual life… All the times I am happy, with all the people I really love and have to thank in my life barely get a mention in the diary!! (and I have to say here I am a very optimistic happy person by nature, who has had a great life!)

    I then came across this quote which I think really answers alot… ‘a content mind hasn’t much need to think…’

    maybe if we are not struggling, we are not over-analysing, replaying, and trying to figure something/someone/some situation out… we are just being in the flow… I think it’s as alive, but perhaps not in the mind, and its more subtle… (maybe confused with emptiness)…

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