Book Reviews - Autumn 2021

Touché-ing the Void

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How can we live only to die?

By John Kaag | September 7, 2021

The Sweet Spot: The Pleasures of Suffering and the Search for Meaning by Paul Bloom; Ecco, 304 pp., $27.99

On the title page of Paul Bloom’s new book, a thumbnail figure climbs toward the top right corner, pushing an enormous boulder that threatens to crush him. This is Sisyphus, the ancient Greek personification of suffering, condemned to roll his rock in endless repetition—and the paradoxical hero of Bloom’s The Sweet Spot. Bloom has crafted a motivational book for those who generally hate motivational books. Its appeal? The Sweet Spot deals head-on with the most serious of philosophical questions: How can humans live a meaningful life not only in the face of suffering but also by virtue of it? At least in America, Bloom suggests, we are living through a crisis in meaning, one that is only exacerbated by our attempts to make life as enjoyable and painless as possible. In The Sweet Spot, Bloom counsels another route by observing that suffering has untold virtues.

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