Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Choice wisdom from a lonely pessimist

This is really interesting stuff. As an ex-pessimist I can definitely sympathize and tell you that much of it works. It's also a recipe for continued pessimism, under which life can, really, only be bearable.

"Life, then, is suffering (an idea well-known to Buddhists). The answer for Schopenhauer was not to seek happiness, but to try and get through life with the minimum of suffering. His goal was for a bearable life.

Our relationship with ourselves

Here are some practical suggestions Schopenhauer put forward for managing ourselves:

    * Live in the present, making it as painless as possible.
    * Make good use of the only thing we can control, our own minds.
    * Our personality is central to our level of happiness.
    * Set limits everywhere: limits on anger, desires, wealth and power. Limitations lead to something like happiness.
    * Accept misfortunes: only dwell on them if we're responsible.
    * Seek out solitude, other people rob us of our identities.
    * Keep busy.

Our relationship with others

For Schopenhauer relationships with others are mainly sources of stress and hurt. As far as he was concerned true friendship is a near impossibility. As a result his advice is mostly aimed at protecting us from the inevitable damage other people will cause us:

    * People are selfish: they are easily flattered and easily offended. Their opinions can be bought and sold for the right price. Because of this friendship is usually motivated by self-interest.
    * Behaving with kindness towards others causes them to be arrogant: therefore other people must be treated with some disregard.
    * Displaying your intelligence makes you incredibly unpopular: people don't like to be reminded of their inferiority.
    * Truly exceptional people prefer to be on their own because ordinary people are annoying.
    * Accept that the world is filled with fools, they cannot change and neither can you."


My two cents here. If you agree with the above characteristics of "ordinary people" and "others" (easily flattered, arrogant, dislike for displays of intelligence, etc) then by all means, ensure that YOU are not an ordinary other!

Down with the sheep! :)

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