Arthur Schopenhauer and the quest for happiness

Happiness posterThere is rarely a time during the day that we are not reminded of things that we do not have, must have, or should aspire to. And though this is surely not unique to the 21st century, what has become more prominent in comparison to decades and centuries ago is the manner and multitude of times these reminders are triggered. Reminders of how we should be younger, drive a better car, obtain faster technology service, and even create smarter children, but left alone many of these ideas may not have ever entered our need list to what has now become to many as an obsession.

With all these prompts comes a subliminal reminder that without these things we are missing out on being truly happy. And so it seems that the goal throughout one’s life is to meet up with standards that perhaps we may not really have generated ourselves, but has been energized by a new quest by what I will call “artificial cultural needs” or a need to acquire.

Obtaining a better and healthy life for one’s self and family is surely an essential need; however, if we were to stand back and evaluate the messages, both verbal and visual, that we see and hear each day, we may realize that sometimes, just perhaps, we are being corralled like cattle to the feeding trough. Are we really so hungry that we need to stop and get off the highway before we get home, are we really so bald that we need to implant more hair, are we really that old that we need to have injections to make us appear younger for only a brief period of time?

What is true happiness? That is the question that has been put forth to the ages for all to ponder and if someone had the answer, they probably wouldn’t tell us…for that would be like so many other promises, something we would have to buy!

-Arthur_Schopenhauer-1845 Today blog invites back the esteemed thinker: Arthur Schopenhauer, (1788-1860), 19th century German philosopher. Schopenhauer was the first Western philosopher to have access to translations of philosophical material from India, both Vedic and Buddhist, by which he was greatly affected. Although he was a rather pessimistic man, aesthetics and beauty were a central theme throughout his thoughts. “Schopenhauer emphasized that in the face of a world filled with endless strife, we ought to minimize our natural desires for the sake of achieving a more tranquil frame of mind and a disposition towards universal beneficence.” He is noted for his works, On the Will in Nature (1836), The Freedom of the Will (1841), and The Foundations of Morality (1841).

I now bring you a bit of his words about happiness taken from his book of essays titled, The Wisdom of Life. Perhaps he may unravel fro you some of the mysteries shrouding our quest for happiness…

“… So it is with man; the measure of the happiness he can attain is determined beforehand by his individuality. More especially is this the case with the mental powers, which fix once for all his capacity for the higher kinds of pleasure. If these powers are small, no efforts from without, nothing that his fellowmen or that fortune can do for him, will suffice to raise him above the ordinary degree of human happiness and pleasure … For the highest, most varied and lasting pleasures are those of the mind, however much our youth may deceive us on this point; and the pleasures of the mind turn chiefly on the powers of the mind. It is clear, then, that our happiness depends in a great degree upon what we are, upon our individuality, whilst lot or destiny is generally taken to mean only what we have, or our reputation….

…The only thing that stands in our power to achieve, is to make the most advantageous use possible of the personal qualities we possess, and accordingly to follow such pursuits only as will call them into play, to strive after the kind of perfection of which they admit and to avoid every other; consequently, to choose the position, occupation and manner of life which are most suitable for their development…”

First image: 1936: Poster for Federal Theatre Project presentation of “The pursuit of happiness” at the Waterloo Theater

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