If I’m hungry, food tastes better. If I’m cold, sunshine feels like a warm embrace. If I’m bored, the mundane becomes interesting. If I’m lonely, a brief interaction feels like companionship. The lower the lows, the greater the span between high and low, and the potential for greater enjoyment.
In romantic fiction, the characters are typically kept apart by external forces which they must ultimately overcome to be together. The characters often come close to uniting, only to be torn apart, again and again until the audience can’t stand it any longer. This drawn-out drama is what makes the final fulfillment so satisfying.
Things are only better relative to something else. I win a race relative to my fellow runners — I’m only successful when compared to those around me. If my family is full of people living demonstrably miserable lives, then just living an okay life becomes an accomplishment. And if I live an ultimately satisfying life, then it becomes an amazing feat.
The way in which life appears to orchestrate a constant flow of high and low may be evidence of life’s artificial, or scripted, nature. To explain those that never rise from lows, one might speculate that those experiencing the worst of life are merely fodder for manufacturing relativity. In other words, a simple life of repetitive labor loses its sense of drudgery when compared to a life of intense suffering.
For this idea to bring comfort, I must believe my lows are temporary and merely a mechanism to facilitate an even greater happiness. I must also believe that I’ll be one of those that lead an ultimately satisfying life. I might believe those leading unpleasant lives are ultimately sacrificing themselves for the relative happiness of others — or I might believe they are fleeting artificial constructs.