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


city Poetry…when you hear or read that word how does it make you feel? For some it ignites pleasure, for others it simply conjures up memories of bad days in literature class. I for one am a big fan of poetry. I read it, write it, record it, video it, sense it in my surroundings.
Try if you dare and ask someone when it was that they last read a poem and many will solicit an expression as though you have just stepped out from a Victorian novel… for not everyone may feel or regard the merits of the poem.

So, I have taken the liberty of offering up to you one of my own pieces originally published in Digital Americana Magazine (May 2011). It is titled…

Do Great Women Vacuum?

Each morning
Riding the number 32 bus
I see angels
Going to work

They step down
Leaving behind rose
And lavender scents
That cling to my skirt

Their starched uniforms
Melt into gray mornings
Till only a bleached silhouette
Fades into each house

And at night
When they return home
They continue to vacuum
Their ordinary lives

Which brings me to day’s blog; as you can imagine is about Poetry; whereby I put forward to you a moment to contemplate the words of our 19th century philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer. From portions of his essay Aesthetics of Poetry, let us read and break from our hectic day…

Authur Schopoeneur “ As the simplest and most correct definition of poetry, I would call it the art of exciting by words the power of the imagination…Because the reader’s imagination is the material in which poetic art represents its pictures, this had the advantage that the more special execution and finer traits so appear in each one’s imagination, as is at the most suitable to his individuality, his sphere of cognition, and his humor, and hence affect him in a most lively manner…but how infallibly a beautiful melody touching the heart travels around the world, and an excellent poem wanders from people to people…To delight the ear with its sounds, seems its whole destiny, and, having done this, everything seems to be accomplished and every claim satisfied. That it, at the same time, conveys a meaning, expresses a thought, proves, as it were, an unexpected addition, like the words to music, an unexpected gift, pleasantly surprising us, and because we made no claims of this sort, very easily satisfying us…”

Esteemed thinker-Arthur Schopenhauer and Beauty

beauty Every day we are bombarded by advertisements, commercials, and conversations that tell us what is beautiful. Initially, we conduct our own analysis however; many of our beliefs are often tailored and altered by the opinions and so- called expert advice of others. As a result, many find themselves questioning and doubting their own interpretation and definition of “beauty”.

Today’s blog will focus our attention towards Arthur Schopenhauer and his thoughts extracted from his Third Book: The World as Idea, as he presents us with his notion of Beauty. So, you may ask…”just who is this guy?” Well, to be brief… Authur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) was a 19th century philosopher who grew up in Germany. Among many of his ideas, he advocated ways to overcome painful human conditions through artistic, moral, and ascetic forms of awareness. He questioned and contemplated, “What is the function of art, of the value of the arts for human life…” Because of his independent thinking and contributions, he has been credited with presenting his ideas in a more profound way than his predecessors, resulting in having a great impact on the poets, composers, and the “common man (and woman)” of his time.

Now, let us now take pause to read some of his words about “beauty”.

Authur Schopoeneur “… When we say that a thing is beautiful, we thereby assert that it is an object of our aesthetic contemplation, and this has a double meaning; on one hand, it means that the sight of the thing makes us objective, that is to say, that in contemplating it we are no longer conscious of ourselves as individuals, but as pure will-less subjects of knowledge; and on the other hand, it means that we recognize in the object, not the particular thing, but an Idea … Therefore it is that man is more beautiful than all of other objects, and the revelation of his nature is the highest aim of art. Human form and expression are the most important objects of plastic art, and human action the most important object of poetry. … “