Let Suffering Speak
German-Jewish intellectual Theodor W. Adorno fled the Nazi Holocaust, so he knows a thing or two about suffering.
For much of his career, Adorno wrote about how morality, truth, and meaning are even possible after Auschwitz. In his 1966 Negative Dialectics, he determined that:
“The need to let suffering speak is a condition of all truth.”
Unlike many other philosophers who see "truth" as the correspondence between what we believe and what is real, Adorno sees "truth" as understanding and speaking about the economic, social, political, and historical forces in the world. Suffering—which is inevitable for all of us—is a central part of this truth.
Although it is certainly unpleasant, suffering is perhaps one of the most informative and important parts of the human experience. Sitting with this pain—whether it be our own or someone else's—takes courage, strength, and compassion. It is extraordinarily difficult, but it allows us to get to the heart of what is really happening, both in society at large and in our personal inner lives.
If we really want to know ourselves and our world—if we want to peel back the layers and see the truth of our inner most fears, desires, dreams, and disappointments—and if we want to act with wisdom and effectiveness, we need to allow suffering to speak.