Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Climbing the Mountain

Sometime in October 2008

My quest for meaning is still on. Over the past few weeks I have been plagued with questions I have asked myself ever since I was eleven – what is life about? Why am I here? What should I do with myself? Where do I go? Is there meaning to our existence?

The questions are not new. But each seeker is. We each will need to find our own answers I suppose – like those who have before. Philosophers, artists, government servants, homemakers, astronauts – I guess everybody asks the question. So my depression at this point is really nothing out of the ordinary. My complete lack of will to wake up in the morning, take the bus to work, work, and return, eat, sleep… is not peculiar to my condition. It has been and is a part of most people’s lives whether they know it or not.


I wrote this at a time when I had just joined work and was also reading Arthur Schopenhauer in Alain de Botton’s The Consolations of Philosophy. That was the fourth chapter in the book and it really pulled me down. I couldn’t understand how this man could be so pessimistic and yet not kill himself! For four days I walked about in deep despair unable to find hope or a reason to smile. Thankfully I went on to the fifth chapter of the book which was about Friedrich Nietzsche – ‘Consolation for Difficulties’. I must say Nietzsche saved me from turning into the brooding old man Schopenhauer was! (I might have even begun to look like him if I were not careful).

I have a tendency to want the prize without running the race! I dream of great achievements but I never consider the path that will take me there. In fact I don’t even get on it! I crib and whine and blame everyone else for not getting what I want when the only person who stands in the way is me.

Nietzsche said, “Examine the lives of the best and most fruitful people and peoples and ask yourself whether a tree that is supposed to grow to a proud height can dispense with bad weather and storms; whether misfortune and external resistance, some kinds of hatred, jealousy, stubbornness, mistrust, hardness, avarice, and violence do not belong among the favourable conditions without which any great growth even of virtue is scarcely possible.”

Botton says, “…no one is able to produce a great work of art without experience, nor achieve a worldly position immediately, nor be a great lover at the first attempt; and in the interval between who we wish one day to be and who are at present, must come pain, anxiety, envy and humiliation. We suffer because we cannot spontaneously master the ingredients of fulfillment.”

We must all climb our mountain, on all fours sometimes, but we must get to the top. Only then can we see, touch, and feel the beauty of the peak.