In Alain De Botton’s The Consolations of Philosophy comes a quotation from Friedrich Nietzsche supporting the idea that difficulties of every sort are to be welcomed by those seeking fulfillment.
So sure was he of the benefits that could result from suffering, Nietzche wrote:
“To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities – I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished” (206).
Nietzsche noted, “If only we were fruitful fields, we would at bottom let nothing perish unused and see in every event, thing and man welcome manure” (224).
“Fulfillment is reached by responding wisely to difficulties that could tear one apart. Nietzsche urged us to endure” (230). And – never drink.
“Why? Because Raphael had not drunk to escape his envy in Urbino in 1504, he had gone to Florence and learned how to be a great painter. Because Stendhal had not drunk in 1805 to escape his despair . . ., he had gardened the pain for seventeen years and published De l’amour in 1822.
‘If you refuse to let your own suffering lie upon you even for an hour and if you constantly try to prevent and forestall all possible distress way ahead of time; if you experience suffering and displeasure as evil, hateful, worthy of annihilation, and as a defect of existence, then it is clear that [you harbour in your heart] . . . the religion of comfortableness. How little you know of human happiness, you comfortable . . . people, for happiness and unhappiness are sisters and even twins that either grow up together or, as in your case, remain small together'” (233).
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Nietzsche himself had a hard life. He was plagued with health problems. He advocated a life among friends, but was profoundly lonely, extremely poor, obscure during his lifetime, and unlucky in love. Wikipedia notes that “In 1889, at age 44, he suffered a collapse and a complete loss of his mental faculties. He died in 1900 from late-stage paralytic syphilis.
May the suffering in your life help you grow in numerous ways.
Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus (341 BC – 270 BC) has words of wisdom for us today:
Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.
It is not so much our friends’ help that helps us as the confident knowledge that they will help us.
Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when it does come, we no longer exist.
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In his book The Consolations of Philosophy,” French philosopher and writer Alain de Botton condenses the wisdom of some of the world’s greatest thinkers into advice for us today.
Amazon describes The Consolations of Philosophy: “Solace for the broken heart can be found in the words of Schopenhauer [but de Botton offers us much humor too as he describes the old lecherous Schopenhauer trying to marry girls half his age]. The ancient Greek Epicurus has the wisest, and most affordable, solution to cash flow problems. A remedy for impotence lies in Montaigne. Seneca offers advice upon losing a job. And Nietzsche has shrewd counsel for everything from loneliness to illness.”
Go to: https://www.amazon.com/Consolations-Philosophy-Alain-Botton/dp/0679779175 The Kindle version is $6.99.
One of the most interesting parts of the book for me was the ideas of Epicurus as to what brings us happiness. Although I’ve associated Epicurus with over-the-top sensual pleasure, he actually promoted simplicity. Epicurus influenced Lucretius, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Immanuel Kant among others.
Roman marble bust of Epicurus:
Alain de Botton explains Epicurus’ philosophy pertaining to happiness: “Why, then if expensive things cannot bring us remarkable joy, are we so powerfully drawn to them? Because of an error similar to that of the migraine sufferer who drills a hole in the side of his skull: because expensive objects can feel like plausible solutions to needs we don’t understand. Objects mimic in a material dimension what we require in a psychological one. We need to rearrange our minds but are lured towards new shelves. We buy a cashmere cardigan as a substitute for the counsel of friends.
We are not solely to blame for our confusions. Our weak understanding of our needs is aggravated by what Epicurus termed the ‘idle opinions’ of those around us, which do not reflect the natural hierarchy of our needs, emphasizing luxury and riches, seldom friendship, freedom and thought. The prevalence of idle opinion is no coincidence. It is in the interests of commercial enterprises to skew the hierarchy of our needs, to promote a material vision of the good and downplay an unsaleable one.
And the way we are enticed is through the sly association of superfluous objects with our other, forgotten needs.
It may be a jeep we end up buying, but it was –for Epicurus – freedom we were looking for” (65-66).
“It may be the aperitif we purchase, but it was — for Epicurus — friendship we were after” (66).
“[B]ecause an increase in the wealth of societies seems not to guarantee an increase in happiness, Epicurus would have suggested that the needs which expensive goods cater to cannot be those on which our happiness depends.
Happiness, an acquisition list 9 [based on the ideas of Epirurus].
- A hut. [You may have a palace or a McMansion – but not be happy. However to be happy, you do need a place of shelter and safety – even if it is only very modest].
2. Friends –
3. To avoid superiors, patronization, infighting and competition.
4. Thought. [Epicurus considered main sources of anxiety: death, illness, poverty, superstition. Now since jobs/careers and a sense of meaning seem most important].
5. A reincarnation of Giovanni Bellini’s Madonna (from the Galleria dell’Accademia in Venice), whose melancholy expression would belie a dry sense of humour and spontaneity — and who would dress in manmade fibres from the sales racks of modest department stores. [This is de Botton’s interpretation of what Epicurus must mean as a significant other in our life. Barry is that for me].
Happiness may be difficult to attain. The obstacles are not primarily financial” (71-72).[my emphases}.
Read this interesting, wise, humorous book for advice you may use.
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