Monday, April 26, 2010


"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: I have no pity for them, because I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not - that one endures."
(The Will to Power, F. Nietzche)

Don’t you find these pessimistic thoughts by Nietzche strangely consoling? They are so refreshing to hear in a society saturated with self-help books and success stories of people who have managed to change their lives from rags to riches, from being snubbed to popular, from being miserable to overjoyed…

Well, I don’t buy the books or the concepts they espouse. Misfortunes are an inevitable part of life in a society where there are so many factors beyond our control to consider. Self-help books, new age gurus and social leaders highlight success stories to convince us that society is based on meritocracy so that we can believe that it is purely up to us to make the right moves for more fulfilling lives.

So, if you are in a rut, realise that you are the standard rather than the exception. We, the ordinary people, stuck in the chicken coop with mediocre marriages and unglamorous jobs are the norm. Breaking out of this trench is just as rare today as it was for 18th century peasants to become members of the French aristocracy. The sooner we realize this the more relieved we can feel knowing that we are not to blame for all our shortcomings (perhaps, only for some of them). No, we do not deserve our failures and we can thank the goddess of fortune for sending us the right conditions to allow for our success.

Next time you’re feeling down, take comfort in a quote by Seneca, “What need is there to weep over parts of life? The whole of it calls for tears.”

Hence, why harbour optimistic expectations when these can only lead to false happiness and disappointment when things don’t happen as we envision? It is far better to expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised. And if the worst really does strike – then perhaps we can listen to sad songs by reclusive Leonard Cohen or heart-wrenching Edith Piaf or maybe wrist-slitting Emilie Autumn (may I suggest "Misery Loves Company") and realize that we are not alone

So if you are feeling unfulfilled, remember that you are just the norm. Like me.



Sharon said...

What a wonderful perspective you have. Very thought provoking post. Endure we must, because those few joyous moments are more than worth the price.

Purple Cow said...

Woooo-hooo...Sharon's real face! Beau-ti-ful! Yes, my dear, thank goodness for those little pockets of paradise.

LJ said...

In 1980 there was a song that came out by a Canadian Singer - Bruce Cockburn. the one line that has always stuck with me is: The trouble with normal is it always gets worse. So, what does that say about 'normal' people like you and me? :-)

Phoenix said...

I love this sentiment. It's true...society today puts so much emphasis on being happy, making ourselves happy, only living for ourselves, making no sacrifices, enduring no hardships...

I shudder to think what happens when these people know real tragedy or adversity that they cannot simply just wish away.

Robin said...

So, I shouldn't feel so crappy. I knew as soon as I saw your quote that I had inspired this post (albeit in a small way). This is my kick in the ass telling me to be thankful for the good times and just accept that we all have sad times. And, yes, sad songs say so much. Alright, I will try to take comfort in the fact that we all feel shitty. Now, I hear another song in my head. I dont' even really know it. Just the chorus. "I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden."

Purple Cow said...

LJ - Now there's a song worth thinking about! Once again, worse by whose standard and compared to what? Maybe we should all put skulls on our desks as they did in medieval times to remind us of our own mortality and to help us get priorities straight.

Phoenix - It's no surprise that along with the self-help books, shelves with books on increasing your self-esteem have also increased. Is it any wonder that people feel small if they believe that they are the ones solely responsible for "making it"? Add to that alcoholism and drug problems...but let's not even go there. By the way, welcome to my blog, I've been an avid reader of yours for quite some time.

Robin - yes, you guessed right. This post may well apply to you, but also its for me who expects my marriage to be so full of romance and "meaning" all the time...well, guess what, marrying for love is just a recent development in society! As for rose gardens...well, what better excuse than to say - "I never said I was perfect" - the other person really has nothing to come back to!

George said...

So much here... old Freddie Nietzche, the screaming Munch.
I have collected many 'self help' books over the years (a bit of an oxymoron: 'Self Help Book') and although there is some useful stuff in SOME of them, I agree with a lot of what you say.

Nietzche, I feel, is much misunderstood. Have you read 'Thus Spoke Zarathustra'?

One of the things 'therapists' need guard against is expecting too much from the client - like urging them to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps. You need to take a realistic look at their SITUATION as well as their childhood, personality, habits of thought etc..

Once again, I am beguiled by your writing - I can also hear the gaps between the words.