In Arthur Schopenhauer’s The Wisdom of Life. The sense of self as the most distinctive and defining aspect of human life.
Do you believe that we are always constant with a specific pattern in life? We change rhythmically but our roots cling to the same soil? The same source of life — water?
To meditate on such an existential and personal thought forms the basis of one of the most influential and philosophical essays of Arthur Schopenhauer. Today, I contemplate on The Wisdom of Life’s subject of a person’s objective and subjective reality.
The following passages, which can be found at the beginning of The Wisdom of Life, are confounding and comforting to the mind. It brings to light the fact that no changes in any circumstances can align one’s internal perception, emotions, and thoughts to another. And no change in one’s internal world can influence that of another. Assuming that we are fellow passengers on the same train.
“…all of which rests upon the fact that every event, in order to be realized and appreciated, requires the co-operation of two factors, namely, a subject and an object, although these are as closely and necessarily connected as oxygen and hydrogen in water. When therefore the objective or external factor in an experience is actually the same, but the subjective or personal appreciation of it varies, the event is just as much a different one in the eyes of different persons as if the objective factors had not been alike.”
We revise our internal world to fit the scale of the external. And in doing so, or trying to, we irrevocably develop our individual and original identities. This is what makes any two persons different in their own ways.
Can you imagine two people, cooped up in the same room from childhood to maturity, being unanimously at odds with each other?
Arthur Schopenhauer has. He has, so eloquently, explained this fact in what constitutes to the ultimate distinction of human life. And this exactly what he wishes to enlighten us with. Consider the following passage:
“In plain language, every man is pent up within the limits of his own consciousness, and cannot directly get beyond those limits any more than he can get beyond his own skin; so external aid is not of much use to him.”
We hope to transcend major life lessons such as pain, heartbreak, guilt, and loss. We hope to understand them, mold them, and nurture them. Not for the world that constitutes them. But in order to understand ourselves.
To solidify our nature as the only way to react to what happens outside of us. Throughout this journey, we cling to what guides us forward and we cut loose those strings that hold us back.
Is this, Schopenhauer suggests, the basis of our imagination? Or does this have an actual and objective groundwork in reality? Something that everybody can see and feel together?
The answer to this empirical question lies below:
“Since everything which exists or happens for a man exists only in his consciousness and happens for it alone, the most essential thing for a man is the constitution of this consciousness, which is in most cases far more important than the circumstances which go to form its contents.”
This concludes that self-expression makes the self the deepest layer of our reality. And what happens outside of it forms our circumstances; merely cards that in a game are meant to be dealt with.
The thing that makes life rich to one and dull to another is the realization of the identity surpassing the contents of the world. And to win against this fight we have to learn to connect our mind of today to our mind of yesterday and of tomorrow.