On struggling

Think of a book or a movie or an album that you really struggled with. One that wasn’t easy to digest, it was complicated and obtuse and you had to go over it a few times and take notes to really get it.

Now think of another one that was a breeze. It was fun and easy and it pulled you along and you enjoyed it.

Which of those two experiences, would you say, is more valuable? Which was more worth your time?

Naturally, I wouldn’t wish to be deprived of either experience. Both serve a purpose, both are worthwhile. As much as I wouldn’t want to only read A Brief History of Time and War and Peace, I also wouldn’t want to only read Packing for Mars and The Player of Games. But it’s easy to assume that the less difficult something is, the less valuable it is. Asceticism and inaccessibility are associated with goodness. I’m not totally sure where this association originates, but I reject it.

Not that ascetic and inaccessible things are never worthwhile — I just don’t think that it’s a very good signal. Plenty of easy things are great. Plenty of difficult things are crap. Just because you enjoyed yourself doesn’t mean your experience was less valuable. I’d say the enjoyment itself adds to the thing’s value. Stuff that makes you happy is better than stuff that doesn’t.

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