Arthur Schopenhauer, one of the greats.
His writing is filled with wisdom that can help you on your path to happiness and fulfillment.
Below I have listed my favorite passages from Schopenhauer’s essay Counsels and Maxims. I will post a link to full work at the bottom of this article.
“To make extensive preparations for life—no matter what form they may take—is one of the greatest and commonest of follies. Such preparations presuppose, in the first place, a long life, the full and complete term of years appointed to man—and how few reach it! and even if it be reached, it is still too short for all the plans that have been made; for to carry them out requites more time than was thought necessary at the beginning. And then how many mischances and obstacles stand in the way! how seldom the goal is ever reached in human affairs!”
“The cause of this commonest of all follies is that optical illusion of the mind from which everyone suffers, making life, at its beginning, seem of long duration; and at its end, when one looks back over the course of it, how short a time it seems!
“Men of any worth or value soon come to see that they are in the hands of Fate, and gratefully submit to be moulded by its teachings. They recognize that the fruit of life is experience, and not happiness; they become accustomed and content to exchange hope for insight; and, in the end, they can say, with Petrarch, that all they care for is to learn”
“But in regard to the present let us remember Seneca’s advice, and live each day as if it were our whole life,—singulas dies singulas vitas puta: let us make it as agreeable as possible, it is the only real time we have.”
“We should be more likely to appreciate and enjoy the present, if, in those good days when we are well and strong, we did not fail to reflect how, in sickness and sorrow, every past hour that was free from pain and privation seemed in our memory so infinitely to be envied—as it were, a lost paradise, or some one who was only then seen to have acted as a friend. But we live through our days of happiness without noticing them; it is only when evil comes upon us that we wish them back.”
“We are happy in proportion as our range of vision, our sphere of work, our points of contact with the world, are restricted and circumscribed. We are more likely to feel worried and anxious if these limits are wide; for it means that our cares, desires and terrors are increased and intensified. That is why the blind are not so unhappy as we might be inclined to suppose; otherwise there would not be that gentle and almost serene expression of peace in their faces.”
At first glance this quote above does not seem so significant. “range of vision”? But in today’s society our range of vision is stretched to epic proportions.
Smart phones, social media, 24 hour news cycles.
There is no limit to the stimulation an individual receives in a day. Your attention is divided and your faculties spread thin.
Perhaps if one manufactured a smaller “range of vision” they could much more easily find themselves with peace of mind. Back to Schopenhauer.
“Review, every night before going to sleep, what we have done during the day. To live at random, in the hurly-burly of business or pleasure, without ever reflecting upon the past,—to go on, as it were, pulling cotton off the reel of life,—is to have no clear idea of what we are about; and a man who lives in this state will have chaos in his emotions and certain confusion in his thoughts”
” Envy is a source of misery. We should treat it as the enemy of our happiness, and stifle it like an evil thought. This is the advice given by Seneca; as he well puts it, we shall be pleased with what we have, if we avoid the self-torture of comparing our own lot with some other and happier one.
“In the case of a misfortune which has already happened and therefore cannot be altered, you should not allow yourself to think that it might have been otherwise; still less, that it might have been avoided by such and such means; for reflections of this kind will only add to your distress and make it intolerable, so that you will become a tormentor to yourself”
“Therefore, in setting about anything, the first step is to withdraw our attention from everything else: this will enable us to attend to each matter at its own time, and to enjoy or put up with it, quite apart from any thought of our remaining interests. Our thoughts must be arranged, as it were, in little drawers, so that we may open one without disturbing any of the others.”
“Seneca says, to submit yourself to reason is the way to make everything else submit to you”
“Study carefully and inquire diligently what will best promote a tranquil life—not to be always agitated by fruitless desires and fears and hopes for things, which, after all, are not worth very much.”
“That Time works great changes, and that all things are in their nature fleeting — these are truths that should never be forgotten.”
“You may take it as a general rule that you will not lose a friend by refusing him a loan, but that you are very likely to do so by granting it”
“The only way to attain superiority in dealing with men, is to let it be seen that you are independent of them.”
“if we really think very highly of a person, we should conceal it from him like a crime. This is not a very gratifying thing to do, but it is right. Why, a dog will not bear being treated too kindly, let alone a man!”
“To become reconciled to a friend with whom you have broken, is a form of weakness; and you pay the penalty of it when he takes the first opportunity of doing precisely the very thing which brought about the breach”
“No man is so formed that he can be left entirely to himself, to go his own ways; everyone needs to be guided by a preconceived plan, and to follow certain general rules. But if this is carried too far, and a man tries to take on a character which is not natural or innate in him, but it artificially acquired and evolved merely by a process of reasoning, he will very soon discover that Nature cannot be forced, and that if you drive it out, it will return despite your efforts.”
“No one can persevere long in a fictitious character; for nature will soon reassert itself.”
This short essay has had a profound effect on my outlook on life.
Cherish today, tomorrow may never come.
Embrace your nature….resisting who you are will only lead to pain.
The present is a paradise…the world and it’s treasures are fleeting.
Experience not happiness.
Here is a link to the full essay:
Until next time.