There is more to life than the miserable business of trying to be happy. Some of the best that has been said and done has been incubated by misery. Soon after he painted Starry Night, Van Gogh walked out into a field and fired a revolver at his own chest. Milton wrote Paradise Lost after losing his wife, his daughter and his eyesight. Proust barely ever got out of bed. Toulouse-Lautrec was as depressed as only an inbred syphilitic alcoholic with an absinthe addiction, the torso of a man and the stunted legs of a child could be.

Olympians, artists and writers go through hell in pursuit of perfection. We’re the beneficiaries of their suffering, says Philip Collins. Read more

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