Regarding my previous entry, most people fail to address the force of the argument, which depends on the assessment of pain and pleasure. The insinuation, little more than a cheap handwave, that people who get bored are not creative is easily contradicted by the facts of life. The most creative people i know are also the ones most prone to boredom, (the sharper the intellect, the worse the boredom) more than likely because their intelligence is not so easily satisfied. Creativity provides no immunity to boredom whatever.
Historically speaking, boredom is a 19th century invention that updated the Latin “tedium” and the French “ennui.” Madame Bovary and Awakening both contain protagonists whose boredom killed their will to live.
If a person achieves sustained satisfactions of his/her desires, and because the essence of his/her nature is a restless driving, he/she will find her/himself confronted with an inner emptiness that is brought about by the absence of the only mode in which she/he can exist. This malady is known by many names: anomie, accidie, noia, ennui, existential boredom, is a 20th century characteristic. Schopenhauer says the formula for people to avoid the Scylla of the will and the Charybdis of boredom is “bread and circuses,” i.e., in our modern vernacular, McDonalds and television.
Optimists in general have neither lived long enough nor looked deeply into the sufferings everywhere. The so-called bright future or the great individuals are merely momentary respite from an overall pattern of one objectification of the insatiably hungry will devouring another. If the essence of the universe is to cannibalize itself by proxy through its objectifications in the world as representation, then there must be a continual give and take. Some are eating, some are eaten, and all things eventually suffer the same fate. The cycle ends only when the world as representation ends (the death or inability to represent for any representing subject). The optimist, totally lacking in a metaphysical foundation in understanding the world as representation, has a narrow attitude that is solely concerned with the fate of those who are (for a time) privileged to be eating rather than eaten, and mistake those limited one-sided happenstances as typical of life. Optimists fail to appreciate that for every objectification of the will that temporarily thrives, there are billions of others that must pay the price. If your life during this particular period of life is going gang-busters, the pleasure that takes place requires the desolation of many other objectifications of the will being sacrificed in the process. (depletion of the natural resources, pollution of the environment, disadvantages for future generations). Show me a successful individual, and I’ll show you thousands of others being used or consumed. The suffering and the exploited always outnumber those who benefit. Moreover, the satisfaction of desires in turn produces its own intense dissatisfaction. Malise is followed by death, and for those who temporarily succeed in gratifying their will, poverty, humiliation and debility await. A sober and realistic view of life is truly pessimistic – perhaps extreme, but to think that we are not meant to suffer, that we somehow deserve happiness, or that the world owes us the fulfilment of our purposes, is a mistake. Schopenhauer’s essay on vanity helps us escape these optimistic delusions to a harder view, but also at the same time a more humane one – more realistic, at least. Life has no purpose, suffering is always part of it and its end may be welcomed.
Some may be tempted to argue that Schopenhauer is not a true pessimist because he does not truly believe that there is absolutely no value possible in life. He grants aesthetic contemplation, artistic genius, life of philanthropy, justice, asceticism, renunciation of the will are the supreme value for some of us. Whosoever escapes the will achieves salvation, a state which value is unassailable. Indeed, this does not quite chime with pessimism, if it must mean that nothing is of any value. However, this does not conflict with Schopenhauerian pessimism where nonexistence would be better and this world is the worst possible one. The value of will-lessness is genuine, but only as some amelioration of the worst possible situation. Hypothetically, there could be an even worse world – one utterly lacking in salvation of will-less resignation. Yet, this existence would appear to be so intolerable that nobody who understood it could endure it at all. Not really a possible existence.
Moreover, I think even Schopenhauer’s salvation is deeply pessimistic, if the only possible true value depends on self-renunciation. Resignation or aesthetic quality is the attitude of detachment from the individual that strives for life. If this individual remains what I am in the world of representation and the will to life, what i am in myself, no immaterial soul, no rational essence, no part of divine plan, then what i am is not only worthless but the very obstacle that must be broken down before true value is even glimpsed. Schopenhauer’s solution to the problem of existence is basically a self-loathing that contains the blackest pessimism possible…