The manipulative nature of desires
Suffering motivates us to act, in order to stop feeling it, or prevent it being felt. This is perpetual. We will do this till the day we day, because we have bodily needs - food, water, shelter, etc. Hunger is suffering, thirst is suffering, cold is suffering. So we must act, expend effort and energy, struggle to avoid it. Because if we don't, the suffering will intensify greatly, until we die a horrible painful death, of starvation, thirst, exposure, etc. Life is a constant struggle to avoid suffering, and the consequence of avoiding all these various sufferings is that we continue to exist (and suffer). So I would not say that "we avoid suffering because we want to continue living". Rather, I'd say that we want to avoid suffering (because it feels bad, it's unwanted, it hurts), and the consequence of this is continued existence. Evolution has fine tuned this, whereby we feel hunger, so we struggle to find something to eat, and then we feel thirst, so we must expend effort to drink, and then we get cold, so we find some clothes or heat, etc. It's a constant series of sufferings in various forms, which motivate us to perform different actions - which produces the overall effect of continued existence (and continued suffering).
The horrible thing is that when we avoid all our bodily sufferings, we're not rewarded with anything (aside from not feeling suffering), there's no prize, no compensation for our struggle. All we achieve is a state which the dead get through no effort at all, and don't have to suffer and struggle for it. We just feel 'not-bad'. Our physical needs are met, now what? We are confronted with the emptiness of existence, it's inherent lack of value, it's ambivalence - you could take it or leave it. And we become bored, and restless. We are so used to perpetually being in action, struggling from suffering that when we rest, we simply don't know what to do with ourselves. We need tofind something to do. When our attention isn't being absorbed into something, when we lack a goal or purpose, we face life itself. And it's empty. So we must invent goals, we must invent something to absorb our attention into. We must put made up goals ahead of ourselves, so that we struggle towards those instead.
And we are so dumb, that psychologically we imagine it all paying off in the future. "I'll be happy when I achieve x, or when I reach y, or when I get z". But when we reach xyz, perhaps we feel some momentary excitement, or joy, but soon, due to our once again lacking purpose, goals or direction to distract us from the emptiness of existence, we are confronted with it again, and lapse into suffering. We become anxious and restless. And it just repeats. "I'll be happy when I reach a".
And due to psychological complexity, how complicated we are (as opposed to say a cow), we have more needs than just bodily. We experience a far greater range of suffering than other animals. We need social contact, we need to feel valued, we need to feel like what we do is meaningful, we need to feel part of a wider, greater whole (a society, a country, the human race, etc). It's just endless. Life is just a constant race, a struggle to avoid a vast range of sufferings. Because we experience such a wide range, we develop the complex and complicated societies we see today. There's no real end goal. We may tell ourselves we do it all for 'x', it all has 'y' meaning, and that's why we live and struggle. But this isn't the case. We struggle simply because suffering hurts. Pain hurts, cold hurts, hunger hurts, and so we do whatever we need to, to avoid these various sufferings. The resulting effect being continued biological existence. But we also feel the suffering of meaninglessness, and so we must invent justifications/reasons for our struggle ("we may tell ourselves we do it all for 'x'), to try and give us some psychological comfort, to avoid the ennui and anxiousness.
And there's all kinds of other sufferings as well. This is just the normal functioning humans life. Everything can go wrong, addiction, mental illness, physical illness, heartbreak, rejection, fingers down chalkboard, car crashes, being harmed by empathy (you feel bad when others do), I could go on for days.
But yet, there's no true pleasure in this world. There's no genuinely positively valued experiences. Suffering has negative value, and yet pleasure is not positive. At best it's neutral. What pleasure actually consists of, is an experience of 'losing oneself'. We say that we feel pleasure in moments when we become absorbed into something so much that we forget our existence, our struggle. We say eating good food is pleasurable. What actually happens is we become lost into the flavor sensation, we focus so much on it that we lose our sense of ourselves and forget we exist. This is what happens in sports, movies, music, sex, massages. Pleasure is nothing but a brief respite from suffering, through completely absorbing ones attention into something. An orgasm feels good, not because it's an actual genuinely good sensation in-itself. Rather, the feeling is so strong that our attention is overwhelmed into it, and we lose our sense of self, of being in the world, if only for a brief moment.
I'm writing this post right now, because I have secured my bodily needs, and the emptiness of the world is confronting me head on. I need to find something to do, to distract myself, to absorb my attention into. Just so happens that the complicated thought involved in doing philosophy, much like a puzzle to solve, takes a lot of concentration/attention, so that I don't have to face the emptiness of merely existence anymore. Soon this wont be enough, my attention will stop being absorbed by my thoughts, it doesn't last. And so I'm downloading an episode to watch soon. I've prepared to avoid the future suffering.
I don't think most people are really aware of how bad their lives are, and the world is. It's suffering all the way down. There are no motivations for action that are not a kind of suffering. We seek 'pleasurable' (which we falsely believe are genuine goods) experiences only because the lack of them is a kind of suffering. Anyone with any sense of empathy should conclude that creating another being that will have suffering inflicted upon them, day in and day out, until it finally overwhelms them and they die, is clearly not the right thing to do. It's cruel and unnecessary. But most people are deluded about the value of their lives. They are masters of pollyannaism, or just genuinely lack empathy. Some of the reasons people have children are downright shocking. "So someone will care for me in my old age", "to save my marriage", "to get money from the government". And then there's people who do it unthinkingly, because that's the thing that you do. You become an adult, you find a partner, you have children and settle down. And so they do that, because that's the thing that you do. thedoxa.
Life consists of nothing more than a struggle away from suffering, and brief respites from suffering by forgetting you exist, essentially. Losing oneself into a moment, or a sensation. That's it. We delude ourselves by perpetually imagining the future better than it will be in reality. We imagine happiness ahead, we don't really understand that we'll never reach the future, we'll always be here, presently suffering and struggling. And then one day our bodies will be lethally harmed, or give out, and we will die.
Humour and laughter is an important and effective counter to suffering. It's probably the best way to deal/respond to it. Find a way to keep laughing, try not to get too depressed.