Stop Chasing Happiness

“Life swings like a pendulum backward and forward between pain and boredom”

I have been reading essays of the often misunderstood German Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer and the quote above stopped me in my tracks. I don’t need to explain his point on pain, as humans we know it too well – we feel pain when we need food, shelter, friendship, love.

It’s his point about the other pendulum that is often missed or dismissed as overly pessimistic. What he got, and other philosophers got before him, is that we are wired to get used to life’s pleasures pretty quickly, and then all we have left is boredom, and then we chase more pleasure. This endless loop is a likely culprit for why we are so miserable even though life has never been more comfortable in history.

Buddha understood that there is a gold mine hidden in the hills of boredom. That sitting still, alone reflecting has a way of quieting the restless mind and breaking the loop. This sitting in plain stillness brings a calm and joy to many of us.

I love studying philosophy but the vast majority of us are not going to spend a great deal of time reading 2,000 year old books and contemplating life’s meaning. After all, it is this ‘boredom’ that fueled the modern civilization and all the advances in life we take for granted. Stoic teachings have generally appealed to me because it has practical modern tools for those of us unwilling to go live in a Monastery.

It’s the enlightenment around the disease of more, that ends in the boredom loop, coupled with tools that allow you to find meaning, thrive, contribute and live a life you can be proud of.

Arthur Schopenhauer is crankier than Larry David from curb your enthusiasm and he is the original “get off my lawn” crank.

He is absolutely right that we are constantly oscillating from Pain to Boredom, our task is to use our brain to navigate the space in between the two loops to maximize the meaning we create for our lives.

 

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