Falling in love may not always lead to happiness, but hardships can be the gateway to success. These are some basic tips provided by the last two talks in a series on philosophy
In the series “Philosophy: A Guide to Happiness”, Alain de Botton took us to Socrates who felt we should live an “examined life”, analyse our thoughts, think through our beliefs or actions for more confidence to meet life. Epicurus added two more to Socrates’s recommendations: friends and freedom. Seneca said we still may not be able to overcome anger, and for that he extorts one to lower one’s expectations and prepare for the worst. Montaigne helps to do that, sharing the secret that beneath the glamour that people show off, there is the same stink. So do not be apologetic and lose your self esteem.
The fifth one is on love, and Schopenhauer paints a rather bleak picture of love, saying love is confusing. We tend to associate love with happiness. Stop. That is a mistake. Love is propelled by the biological drive to propagate, and the one who makes you tick is not necessarily the one who will keep you happy. He says, “Love is a cunning route to push us towards having children. However romantic we think we are, we are all essentially slaves to the will to life. We are all driven by a blind biological drive to reproduce...” Schopenhauer says the biological drive is an unconscious drive, or else no one would consciously take on the burden of reproducing a new generation. One of the profoundest questions in love is, Why Him or Why Her? Schopenhauer says this is guided by our unconscious judgement that the other person would be a good parent, or help produce a healthy offspring. On the basis of this contention, Schopenhauer has drawn up some rules of attraction. We are driven to fall in love with people who will cancel out any imperfections we may have and so ensure that our children will be proportioned in limb and stable in the mind. Tall people will find short ones exciting. People with long chins may be drawn to people with small chins. He even believed this search for balance extended to skin colours, the natural human colour being brown.
The partner who saves our child from having a long chin may not be the one to also give us a happy life. Having children and being happy are two different projects in life and the idea of love maliciously confuses us to think the two are the same, contends Schopenhauer.
The sixth and last of the series “Philosophy: A Guide to Happiness” deals with Nietzsche’s views on hardships and their role in our life. Nietzsche’s first sentence when talking of hardships is that we should welcome the good and bad with equal fortitude...regard them as tough challenges to overcome...like climbing a tough mountain. Neitzsche suffered ill health. He was forced to live on a hilltop in Switzerland, for that suited him best. Nietzsche did not have a good career or love life. His life of hardship taught him that suffering makes us emerge all the better for it. To reach anything that is worthwhile, you have to go through hardships. And he gave the example of the mountain on which he lived. The view from the top was fantastic, but to get there was arduous. The pain comes because of the gap between who we are and what we want to be. The challenge is to learn to respond well to suffering, to learn from it. Pain gives us energy to overcome crises. “Life is risky business, do not get wed to comfort,” says Nietzsche if you want to get true fulfilment. “That which does not kill me, makes me stronger,” says Nietzsche. Philosophy for happiness has thus been enunciated over six talks. The tips range from living an analysed life, having friends, embracing freedom, separating love and happiness and taking hardships as the gateway to success.
The clues are out, to find it is another matter.