This is a photograph of a friend of a friend of mine. His name is Tyke, an old horse who comes for his breakfast every morning and if breakfast is late he may even come up close to the house to peek in her bedroom window. This is a picture of beauty and suffering both and I'll try to explain what I mean.
Buddha said the essence of life is suffering which on first glance seems a pretty morbid point of view. It doesn't seem as though it's correct. Yet if we examine any moment when we feel really fulfilled and happy we find that pervasive undercurrent of tension that tells us this moment will soon end.
The bittersweet process of mourning is not always suffering. Sometimes it is appreciation and sometimes it is love. Would any child, upon the death of their beloved parent, wish that they had never loved their parent? The lifecycle of desire, appreciation, passing, and remembrance is a net-positive experience, and one of the true joys of life. To love someone unconditionally, truly for their own selves, is a reward in itself that can never be taken away. Separation from an object of desire does not always end in suffering, and when it does, it does not cancel out the enjoyment.
Suffering is universal. In spite of the differences in customs, traditions, language, literature, art, and philosophy every society understands that harsh reality. Of course there's more to life than suffering and to acknowledge beauty only in suffering would be unbalanced but after thinking about it for a long while I realized that suffering is ennobling. It inspires feelings of compassion and empathy. Tears and sadness felt in sympathy with another feels beautiful to me. It is compassion and empathy that bring people closer together and without mutual understanding, without empathy no true bond between human beings can exist. Joy can be shared as well but balance is the key. Great joy and sorrow are the extremes of emotions that meet one another in opposition and both cause tears.
Buddhists know that desire causes suffering, ambition is suffering, being trapped inside ourselves is suffering. Our natural state is to expand and share with others and our suffering makes us human because it's what pushes us toward our potential. The higher we go the greater the tendency to leak or even break the vessel that contains our limited view of ourselves.
There's nothing wrong with existence. It's perfect.. but it's also very transient and that is both sad and beautiful.