Life is all about sacrifice

Simone Redaelli

Simone Redaelli

Simone is a biologist and scientific copywriter. He is vice-director of Culturico, where his writings cover the intersection between philosophy, poetry, science and society. He is also the author of "A Sonnet to Freud", a blog for Psychology Today to illustrate how the life of poets, novelists, and intellectuals can be an inspiration for individuals to better face their interior and social life.

This is a provocative article. The style adopted is intentionally direct and mocking.
We need to wake up from a dream in which we do nothing but complaining about how painful and unsatisfying our life can be.
We have to fight for our desire of self-realization. Better to start now.

Perhaps, you want to hear a story about the reason why the instant you are born, you cry. Do you feel you are alive just to suffer? Deep in your mind, you are convinced that your role in society is to sacrifice your aspirations, your dreams, your plans. But why?
Do you want me to help you find the answer, pal?
Let´s see what I can do for you. 

Life is sacrifice.
That’s what we are told, right?

Get a good education. Find a good job”. Here we go.

Don’t you feel it? I mean, the instant we are thrown to Earth, crying loudly and flopping around, everything is clear. We are here to suffer. That’s how it starts, and that’s how life spontaneously goes.

The very first definition of the noun “sacrifice” that the Cambridge Dictionary offers us is indeed emblematic. Sacrifice is “to give up something that is valuable to you in order to help another person”.

Noble, isn’t it?
But what happens, if we make this concept universal?

Sacrifice is “to give up your life [something that is valuable to you] in order to help the world you live in [another person]”.

Let us now explore this vision.

Life is the most valuable thing we have. In the absence of life, we are not. An individual does not exist in the absence of its biological context. However, this definition is insufficient to describe the human conception of life. People need reasons to live. As we have already explored in this article, individuals aim at fulfilling their desire of self-realization. They need a purpose in their life.

So, giving up your life means giving up your personal reason to stay alive.

But when does this sentiment of sacrifice arise? And what exactly do I mean by that?

A concrete sensation of sacrifice arises when an individual feels the undesired need to answer to the world for the first time.
The world we are born into – which comprises the culture, the institutions, all the superstructures that precede us and are imposed on the newborn – immediately takes its toll.

For instance, why do I have to work, if I don’t want to?
Why should I pay taxes?
Can I jump off this box of rules and demands and say: “Look, to me all of this is crazy.” Can I?

When you first go to school, options are offered. You fill your head with many notions, and nobody explains to you the difference between “schooling” and “education”.
Schooling is the direct intake of notions: you learn things as they are told to you. You assimilate concepts, without questioning them.
But education is something different. Education is knowing that you can escape those notions. Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche would say that you are not simply a camel burdened by the weight of tradition (1). You are something more than a blinded contemplator in front of the magnificent dragon, more than this entire history of culture that pushes you in certain directions, like a drop that inevitably falls into the undertow of a wave.

The question is: who are you?
Are you that person who listens to their parents and societal institutions all the time, who keeps on bending the knee to their family?

Perhaps, having a look at Francisco Goya’s legacy will help you. There is a painting called Saturn devouring his son. In Greek mythology, Cronus – renamed Saturn by the Romans – used to consume all of his sons, because of his fear of being dethroned (2).

Saturn devoring his son.jpg
Saturn devouring his son. Francisco de Goya c. 1819–1823, oil mural transferred to canvas, 143x81cm (56in x 32in), Museo del Prado, Madrid.

This is not merely a story of filicide in the literal sense.

Cronus does not eat his sons because he is famished of his own blood, but because he is terrified of losing it. In fact, the myth narrates that Cronus vomited his progeny, and the progeny came out unharmed (2).
Cronus is scared that his sons might be different from him. Thus, he swallows them, to protect them, till death.

Do you want to be free? Do you want to escape the deadly embrace of your history? The only way is to make your inner reality adhere to your practical life.

It’s tough, I know.
It’s tough because humans – like all other living beings – are first seen by the others as bodies, and only afterwards they are considered as having an inner world, which can be filled with contradictory or irrational thoughts.

As a body acting in and impacting on the world, you are kind of predictable. When you choose to study Physics instead of Latin, and then you attend a master’s degree in Molecular Biology while excluding Philosophy, you display certain behavioural patterns. It doesn’t matter if your mental journey was intricate and you were doubtful about your choices. The world doesn’t perceive this.
So, you basically are what you end up doing.
This is the reason why the practice of your life – how your body behaves in the world – will always be inauthentic. It will always have a hard time keeping up with your changes of mind, with your present thoughts, which are so fluid and sometimes even irrational. You cannot expect to behave authentically every second of your life, otherwise everybody would start to think that you are crazy.

Self-sacrifice. Illustration @ Dan Salinas for Culturico (copyright).

In fact, what happens the moment you begin changing your habits? The world riots.
This is because you are forcing the world to adapt to your new concrete attitude. People will get hurt, they will turn their back on you, they will disappear.

To cite our beloved Nietzsche again, Zarathustra says that the authentic man is like a child: “A new beginning, a game, a self-propelled wheel, a first movement, a sacred Yes(1).
Kids live the truth of present, as their consciousness is adhering to their body. They are unique in the gestures they perform, nothing before or after affects them. They are exactly what you see.

So, what would happen, if we kept our childish souls as adults?

We would get rid of our inauthentic bodies, filled with undesired job positions and unworthy friendships, and we would live as we are, incoherent consciences happy to contradict themselves every second. Our mental journeys are untraceable, and their logic is illogical. And we would meet the girl that we couldn’t see, hidden under the short haircut and the brown beard of the boy. Now it’s so clear, so shining in its obviousness. And unhappy couples would fall apart, because the partners would so purely read each other. And nothing would last beyond the instant, everything would last as a consequence of every instant. Our changes of mind as they are, our dreams as they are.
No more fights to show the world our true essence. Peace, at last.

But this is just a hysterical fantasy.

You have to deal with the practice of your life. You have to fight for your desire of self-realization.
Nobody in the world will ask you to do so.


Simone Redaelli



  1. Nietzsche, F. “Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None”, 1883-1891.
  2. Graves, R. “The Greek Myths”, 1955.
Received: 19.08.19, Ready: 20.09.19, Editors: Celeste Varisco, Robert Ganley.

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3 thoughts on “Life is all about sacrifice

  1. False, kids often copy others, kids have so little freedom to be themselves, because they depend on adults, they should accept rules despite how ridiculous those rules are (for example, living with abusers). Kids very little understand about people, culture, life. They just started to explore themselves and surroundings. When you grow up, you can choose what you want to be, choose values, manners, clothes, haircut, friends, lifestyle, work, interests. Why people so ridiculously romanticize childhood? Lots of children live as an emotional (or even physically) slaves to their parents. Lots of children are emotional slaves to their “friends”, siblings or cousins.

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