While combing the internet for a new book to read I came across this tidbit in the reviews for The Giver, soon to be released as a movie. I've studied enough about Buddhism to understand why Buddhism would refute the philosophy presented here but I'm having a hard time coming up with an 'elevator speech' that I could use to give to someone foreign to Buddhism that may bring up the idea at a dinner party or some other social situation.
This book is perhaps the best refutation that I have seen in some time of a common philosophy of pain that is sometimes found in the popular media and in some versions of Buddhism. According to this philosophy, pain is the ultimate evil, and so, to eliminate pain and suffering we must give up desire, and individuality. Self is an illusion, and leads to pain; desire and agency are dangerous, so we should give them up and join the cosmic oneness "enlightenment" to find a utopia without pain. As George Lucas unfortunately has Yoda say to Anakin, "you must give up all that you fear to lose."
And, of course, this is hogwash. Choice, agency, adversity, love, desire, and real pleasure are dangerous, they can lead to pain, but without them life has no purpose. Love could lead to the loss of that which we love, but life without love is empty. Purpose comes from choosing. Purpose comes from overcoming adversity. Yes, you could choose poorly, and that could lead to pain, choice is dangerous, but without it, life has no meaning, it is colorless. Greatness in life is found by overcoming adversity, not by the absence of adversity. Without opposition, there is nothing to overcome, and thus there may be no bad, but there is also no good, there may be no pain, but there is also no joy.
How might you defend Buddhism against someone who said something similar to you?