The Essential Dilemma of Euphoria

Assume you are just beginning your time on Earth and are given a choice without any preconceived ideas or bias realities.


There is a box. You are told it is a box of euphoria. The box keeps your body functioning and safe while ensuring a lifetime of bliss. This box is offered to you, but you cannot get out once you decide to get in.


Aside from this box, you can choose to live in a world of ever-changing emotion. There will inevitably be sadness and detrimental pain but there will also be happiness and joy.


Will you choose to live a life of ecstasy or a life of fragmented emotion?

This scenario was posed to me a few years ago and has since been one I return to regularly. The point of this question isn’t to determine an answer, but rather for reflection. Of course, no one wants to live in a box. No one wants to be in an unconscious state of one emotion with no memory or sensory experience. The box isn’t the appealing part of the first option, the part we all consider choosing is the promise of everlasting joy.


Joy is the ideal. It’s the benchmark for all adventures we take or choices we make. We strive as emotional and social creatures to reach a point of not only happiness but also contentment. The reason this is an essential dilemma is due to the fact that the box of euphoria would mean nothing if you never knew pain. In order to be thankful for the good, we must be able to define good. Without the bad, horrifying and heart-wrenching experiences, joy means nothing. As Thomas Nagel would point out, each of us inhibits something called the subjective nature of being human or “subjective character”. In other words, all of our emotions, actions and sensory perceptions are our own. We compare their value to the value of past experiences. If I have a sh*tty day on Monday and then on Tuesday everything goes exactly the same as it did on Monday but I find fifty bucks in my pocket, Tuesday, therefore, becomes more enjoyable than Monday.


The point of this article is to realize that without the sh*tty days, we wouldn’t recognize the great days. We have to be able to identify the potential of “ups and downs”. The lower you’ve been, the higher you can get. If you’ve never experienced loss, the saving of a life may not be as significant. If you’ve never been heartbroken, the reappearance of love may not be as promising or magical. A world of one seemingly great emotion will never be euphoria if you can’t comprehend the value of happiness.

2 Comment

  1. Patrick says: Reply

    You explain in easy detail how I’ve forgotten to give credit to my negative experiences. Without those tough times, I wouldn’t be the individual I’ve become today. Thanks again for the reminder and taking the time to write this for me and others to enjoy.

  2. Akhil says: Reply

    Hi Alyx
    I’m over from the Slack group, Try Blighter. You’re right in explaining how the negative gives value to the positive. Joy and sorrow aren’t two opposite things. I prefer to look at them as two sides of the same coin. Without a benchmark of sadness we’ll never know what joy is. A quote I once read comes to mind: “The view from the mountaintop is amazing, but it is only in the valleys that we discover who we truly are.” It is a quote about determination and grit, but can also mean that it’s the bad days that make your good days stand out.

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