Wherever one goes one immediately comes upon this incorrigible mob of humanity. It exists everywhere in legions; crowding, soiling everything, like flies in summer. Hence the numberless bad books, those rank weeds of literature which extract nourishment from the corn and choke it. They monopolize the time, money and attention which really belong to good books and their noble aims; they are written merely with a view to making money or procuring places. They are not only useless, but they do positive harm. Nine-tenths of the whole of our present literature aims solely at taking a few shillings out of the public's pocket, and to accomplish this, author, publisher and reviewer have joined forces.
The philosophy we evolve is determined by what we are; just as a nation passes laws legalizing the things it wishes to do. "Where the artist is, there you will find art," said Whistler. We will not get the Ideal Commonwealth until we get Ideal People; and we will not get an ideal philosophy until we get an ideal philosopher. Place the mentally and morally slipshod in ideal surroundings and they will quickly evolve a slum, just as did John Shakespeare, when at Stratford he was fined two pounds ten for maintaining a sequinarium. All we can say for John is that he was the author of a fine boy, who resembled his mother much more than he did his father. This seems to prove Schopenhauer's remark concerning a divine sonship: "Paternity is a cheap office, anyway, accomplished without cost, care or risk, and of it no one should boast. A divine motherhood is the only thing that is really sacred."
It isn't his philosophy that makes a man--man makes his philosophy, and he makes it in his own image. Living in a world of strife, where the most savage beast that roams the earth is man, the Philosophy of Pessimism has its place.
Schopenhauer proved himself a true philosopher when he said: "All we see in the world is a projection from our own minds. I may see one thing, you another; and according to the test of a third party we are both wrong, for he sees something else. So we are all wrong, yet all are right."
He was quite willing to admit that he had a well-defined moral squint and a touch of mental strabismus; but he revealed his humanity by blaming his limitations on his parents, and charging up his faults and foibles to other people.
It is possible that Carlyle's famous remark about the people who daily cross London Bridge was inspired by Schopenhauer, who, when asked what kind of people the Berliners were, replied, "Mostly fools!"
"I believe," ventured the interrogator--"I believe, Herr Schopenhauer, that you yourself live at Berlin?"
"I do," was the response, "and I feel very much at home there."
* * * * * * *
Heinrich Schopenhauer, the father of Arthur Schopenhauer, was a banker and shipping merchant of the city of Danzig, Germany. He was a successful man, and, like all successful men, he was an egotist. Before the world will believe in you, you must believe in yourself. And another necessary element in success is that you must exaggerate your own importance, and the importance of your work. Self-esteem will not alone make you successful, but without a goodly jigger of self-esteem, success will forever dally and dance just beyond your reach. The humble men who have succeeded in impressing themselves upon the world have all taken much pride in their humility.
Heinrich Schopenhauer was a proud man--as proud as the Merchant of Venice--and in his veins there ran a strain of the blue blood of the Castilian Jew. Too much success is most unfortunate. Heinrich Schopenhauer was proud, unbending, harsh, arbitrary, wore a full beard and a withering smile, and looked upon musicians, painters, sculptors and writers as court clowns, to be trusted only as far as you could fling Taurus by the tail. All good bookkeepers have, even yet, this pitying contempt for those whose chief assets are ideas--the legal tender of the spirit. The Alameda smile is the smile of scorn worn by the bookkeepers who prepare the balance-sheets for the great merchants of San Francisco. Alameda is young, but the Alameda smile is classic.
When Heinrich Schopenhauer was forty he married a beautiful girl of twenty. She had ideas about art and poetry, and was passing through her Byronic stage, before Byron did, and taking it rather hard, when her parents gave her in troth to Heinrich Schopenhauer, the rich merchant. It was regarded as a great catch.
I wish that I could say that Heinrich and Johanna were happy ever after, but in view of the well-known facts put forth by their firstborn child, I can not do it.
Before marriage the woman has her way: let her make the most of her power--she'll not keep it long! Shortly after their marriage Heinrich saw symptoms of the art instinct creeping in, and players on sweet zither-strings, who occasionally called, compelled him to take measures. He bought a country seat, four miles from the city, on an inaccessible road, and sent his bride thither. Here he visited her only on Saturdays and Sundays, and her callers were the good folk he chose to bring with him.
Marital peace is only possible where women are properly suppressed--lumity dee!
It was under these conditions that Arthur Schopenhauer was born, on February Twenty-second--in deference to our George Washington--Seventeen Hundred Eighty-eight.
The chief quality that Schopenhauer inherited from his father was the Alameda smile--and this smile of contempt was for all those who did not think as he did. The mother never professed to have any love for her husband, or the child either, and the child never professed to have any love for his mother. He once wrote this: "I was an unwelcome child, born of a mother in rebellion--she never wanted me, and I reciprocate the sentiment."
* * * * * * *
In that troublous year of Seventeen Hundred Ninety-three, the Free City of Danzig fell under the sway of Prussia.
Heinrich Schopenhauer, who loved freedom, jealous of his privileges, fearful of his rights, immediately packed up his effects, sold out his property--at great loss--and moved to the Free City of Hamburg.
That his fears for the future were quite groundless, as most fears are, is a fact relevant but not consequent.
Johanna was vivacious and eminently social. She spoke French, German, English and Italian. She played the harp, sang, wrote poetry and acted in dramas of her own composition. Around her there always clustered a goodly group of men with long hair, dreamy eyes and pointed beards, who soared high, dived deep, but seldom paid cash. This is the paradise to which most women wish to attain: to be followed by a concourse of artistic archangels--what nobler ambition! And let the great biological and historical fact here be written down--that there are no female angels.
Heinrich did not settle down in Hamburg and go into business, as he expected. He and his wife and boy traveled much--through England, France, Germany and Switzerland.
This man and his wife were trying to get away from themselves. Long years after, their son wrote, "When people die and wake up in hell they will probably be surprised to find that they are just such beings as they were when they were on earth."
For a year the lad was left at school with a clergyman at Wimbledon, in England. The strict religious discipline to which he was there subjected seemed to have had much to do with forming in him a fierce hatred of English orthodoxy; but he learned the language and became familiar with the great names in English literature. The King Arthur stories pleased him, and he always took a peculiar satisfaction in the fact that the name Arthur was the same in English, German and French. He was a prenatal cosmopolitan.
Boarding-schools are a great scheme for getting the children out of the way--it throws the responsibility upon some one else. When nine years of age, Arthur was placed in a French boarding-school, remaining for two years. There he learned to speak French so fluently that when he returned to Hamburg and tried to talk to his mother in German, his broken speech threw that excellent woman into fits of laughter.
When the mature man of affairs takes a young girl to wife, he expects to mold her to his nature, but he reckons without his host. Heinrich Schopenhauer's opposition to his wife's wishes was not strong enough to crush her--it simply developed in her a deal of wilful, dogged strength.
One winter day in Eighteen Hundred Four the body of Heinrich Schopenhauer was found in the canal at Hamburg.
Arthur was then sixteen years of age--old for his years, traveled, clever--strong in body and robust in health.
In wandering with his parents, he had met Goethe, Wieland, Madame De Stael, Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton, and many other distinguished people, for his mother was a famous lion-hunter, and wherever they went, the great ones were tracked to their lairs. But however much Madame Schopenhauer indulged in hero-worship, she had no expectations or ambitions for her son. She apprenticed him as a clerk and did her utmost to immerse him in commerce. What she desired was freedom for herself, and the popular plan to gain freedom is to enslave others. Madame Schopenhauer moved to Weimar and opened there a sort of literary salon. She wrote verses, novels, essays, and her home became the center of a certain artistic group. The fortune her husband had left was equal to about forty thousand dollars, one-third of which was to go to Arthur when he was twenty-one. The mother had the handling of it all until that time, and as the funds were well invested, her income was equal to about two thousand dollars a year.
A handsome widow, under forty, with no encumbrances to speak of, and a fair income, is very fortunately situated. Indeed, a great writer has recently written an essay showing that widows, discreetly bereaved, are the happiest creatures on earth.
Young Schopenhauer, at his desk in Hamburg, grieved over the death of his father. That which is lost becomes valuable--bereavement softens the heart. The only tenderness that is revealed in the writings of Schopenhauer refers to his father. He affirms the sterling honesty of the man, and lauds the merchant who boldly states that he is in business to make money, and compares him with the philosophers who clutch for power and fame and yet pretend they are working for humanity. When Schopenhauer was past sixty, he dedicated his complete works to the memory of his father. As nothing purifies like fire, so does nothing sanctify like death--the love we lose is the only love we keep.
Mathematics, bills and balance-sheets were odious to young Schopenhauer. He reverenced the memory of his father, but his mother had endowed him with a strong impulse for expression. He wrote little essays on the backs of envelopes, philosophized over his bills, sneaked out of the countingroom the back way to attend the afternoon lectures by the great Doctor Gall, and finally, boldly followed his mother to Weimar, that he might bask in the shadow of the mighty Goethe. It was shortly after this that he sat in a niche of Goethe's library, musing, sad and solitary, while a gay throng chattered by. Some young women, seeing him there, laughed, and one asked, "Is it alive?" And Goethe, overhearing the pleasantry, rebuked it by saying, "Do not smile at that youth--he will yet eclipse us all."
At Weimar there was no greeting for Schopenhauer from his mother--she welcomed all but her son. Unfortunately for her, she put herself on record by writing him letters. Scathing letters are all right, but they should be directed and stamped, then burned just before they are trusted to the mails. To record unkindness is tragedy, for the unkind word lives long after the event that caused it is forgotten. Here is one letter written by Madame Schopenhauer that this methodical son saved for posterity:
My Dear Son:
I have always told you it is difficult to live with you. The more I get to know you, the more I feel this difficulty increase. I will not hide it from you: as long as you are what you are, I would rather bring any sacrifice than consent to be near you. I do not undervalue your good points, and that which repels me does not lie in your heart; it is in your outer, not your inner being; in your ideas, your judgment, your habits; in a word, there is nothing concerning the outer world in which we agree. Your ill-humor, your complaints of things inevitable, your sullen looks, the extraordinary opinions you utter, like oracles, none may presume to contradict; all this depresses me and troubles me, without helping you. Your eternal quibbles, your laments over the stupid world and human misery, give me bad nights and unpleasant dreams....
Your Dear Mother, etc.,
* * * * * * *
The young man took lodgings at Weimar, at a goodly distance from his mother. Goethe held out a friendly hand, as he did to Mendelssohn, and all bright young men. They talked much, and Goethe read to Arthur his essay on the theory of colors (for Wolfgang Goethe was human and dearly loved the sound of his own voice). The reasoning so impressed the youth that he devised a chromatic theory of his own--almost as peculiar. Theories are for the theorizer, so all theories are useful.
At the earnest importunity of his mother, who starved him to it, Arthur went back to his clerkship, but soon returned and made terms, agreeing not to call on his mother, in consideration of a pound a week. He took lessons in Greek and Latin of a retired professor, attended lectures, fell in love with an actress--vowed he would marry her, but, luckily for her, he didn't.
When he was twenty-one, his mother turned over to him his patrimony, amounting to about fourteen thousand dollars; and suggested that he leave Weimar and make his fortune elsewhere--the world was wide.
His money was invested so it brought him an income of seven hundred dollars a year. And here seems a good place to say that Schopenhauer's income was never over a thousand dollars a year until after he was fifty-six years of age. Although he could not make money, yet he had inherited from his father an ability to care for it. Throughout his life he kept exact books of account, never ran in debt, and never allowed his expenditures to outrun his income, thus complying with Charles Dickens' recipe for happiness.
In still another way he revealed that he could apply philosophy to daily life: he exercised regularly in the open air, took long walks, was absurdly exact about his cold baths, and like Kant, served the neighbors as a chronometer, so they set their clocks at three when they saw him going forth for a walk. And in the interests of truth, we will have to make the embarrassing admission that the great Apostle of Pessimism was neither a dyspeptic nor an invalid--if he was ever aware that he had a stomach we do not hear of it.
* * * * * * *
The life of Schopenhauer is the life of a recluse--a visionary--a hermit who lost himself amid the maze of city streets, and moved solitary in the throng. Berlin, Dresden, Hamburg, Gottingen, Frankfort, engaged him, and from one to the other he turned, looking for the rest he never found, and which he knew he would never find, so in the vain search there was no disappointment. He was always happiest when most miserable, for then were his theories proved.
A single room in a lodging-house sufficed, and this room always had the appearance of being occupied by a transient. He had few books, accumulated no belongings in way of domestic ballast, persistently giving away things that were presented to him, satisfied if he had a chair, a bed, and a table upon which to write; getting his own breakfast, dining at the table d'hote of the nearest inn, with supper at a "Gast-Haus"--so passed his days. He had no intimate friends, and his chief dissipation was playing the flute. His black poodle, named "Homo" in a subtle mood of irony, accompanied him everywhere, and on this dog he lavished what he was pleased to call his love. He anticipated Rip Van Winkle concerning dogs and women, and when Homo died, he bought another dog that looked exactly like the first, and was just as good.
In a few instances Schopenhauer read his essays in public as lectures, but his ideas were keyed to concert pitch and were too pronounced for average audiences. He was offered a professorship at Gottingen and also at Heidelberg, if he would "tone things down," but he scornfully declined the proposition, and said, "The Universities must grow to my level before I can talk to them." By his caustic criticisms of contemporaries he became both feared and shunned, and no doubt he found a certain satisfaction in the fact that the so-called learned men of his time would neither listen to his lectures, read his books, nor abide his presence. He had made himself felt in any event. "Blessed are ye when men shall revile you," is the sweet consolation of all persecuted persons--and persecution is only the natural resentment towards those who have too much ego in their cosmos.
His opinions concerning love and marriage need not be taken too seriously. Ideas are the results of temperaments and moods. When a man amplifies on the woman question he describes the women he knows best, and more especially the particular She who is in his head. Literature is only autobiography, more or less discreetly veiled. Schopenhauer hated his mother to the day of her death, and although during the last twenty-four years of her life he never once saw her, her image could at any time be quickly and vividly thrown upon the screen. The women a strong man has known are never forgotten--here is where time does not tarnish, nor the days grow dim.
Between his twenty-eighth and fortieth years, Schopenhauer had wandered through Italy--spent months at Venice, and dawdled away the days at Rome and Florence. He had dipped deep into life--and the wrong kind of life. And his experiences had confirmed his suspicions--it was all bitter--he was not disappointed.
Until Schopenhauer was past thirty he was known as the son of Johanna Schopenhauer. And when he once told her that posterity would never remember her except as the mother of her son, she reciprocated by congratulating him that his books could always be had cheap in the first editions.
He retorted, "Mamma Dear, my books will be read when butchers are using yours for wrapping up meat." In some ways this precious pair were very much alike.
It is very probable that Schopenhauer's mother was not so base as he thought; and when he declared, "Woman's morality is only a kind of prudence," he might have said the same of his own. He stood aloof from life and said things about it. He had no wife, no child, no business, no home--he dared not venture boldly into the tide of existence--he stood forever on the bank, and watched the current carrying its flotsam and jetsam to the hungry sea.
In his love for the memory of his father, and in his tender care for his dog, we get a glimpse of depths that were never sounded. One side of his nature was never developed. And the words of the undeveloped man are worth what they are worth.
Schopenhauer once said to Wieland, "Life is a ticklish business--I propose to spend my time looking at it." This he did, viewing existence from every angle, and writing out his thoughts in terse, epigrammatic language.
Among all the German writers on philosophy, the only one who had a distinct literary style is Schopenhauer. Form was quite as much to him as matter--and in this he showed rare wisdom; although I am told that the writers who have no literary style are the only ones who despise it. Dishes to be palatable must be rightly served: appetite--literary, gastronomic or sexual--is largely a matter of imagination.
Schopenhauer need not be regarded as final. The chief virtue of the man lies in the fact that he makes us think, and thus are we his debtors.
In this summary of Schopenhauer's philosophy I have had the valuable assistance of my friend and fellow-worker in the Roycroft Shop, George Pannebakker, a kinsman and enthusiastic admirer of the great Prophet of Pessimism.
In talking to Mr. Pannebakker, I am inclined to exclaim, "Thou almost persuadest me to be a pessimist!" It is unfortunate that our English tongue contains no word that stands somewhere between pessimism and optimism--that symbols a judicial cast of mind which sees the Truth without blinking and accepts it without complaint. The word Pessimist was first flung in contempt at those who dared to express unpalatable truth. It is now accepted by a large number of intellectuals, and if to be a pessimist is to have insight, wit, calm courage, patience, persistency, and a disposition that accepts all Fate sends and makes the best of it, then pity 'tis we haven't more.
* * * * * * *
The root of existence, the inmost kernel of all being, the original vitalizing power, the fundamental reality of the universe, is, according to Schopenhauer, "WILL." What is Will? Will, in the usual sense, is the faculty of our mind by which we decide to do or not to do. Will is the power to choose. In Schopenhauer's philosophy, Will is something less as we know will, and something more than force. Will, connected with consciousness, as peculiar to man, is, in a less developed form, the real essence of all matter, of all things, organic or inorganic. Will is the blind, irresistible striving for existence; the unconscious organizing power, the omnipotent creative force of Nature, pervading the whole limitless universe; the endeavor to be, to evolve, to expand.
The whole world of phenomena is the objectivation or apparition of Will.
Will, the same force which slumbers in the stone as inert gravity, forms the crystals with such wonderful regularity.
Will impels a piece of iron to move with ardent desire toward the magnet. Will causes the magnet to point with unfailing constancy to the north. Will causes the embryo to cling as a parasite and feed on the body of the mother. Will causes the mother's breast to fill that her babe may be fed. Will fills the mother-heart with love that the young may be cared for.
The same force urges the tender germ of the plant to break through the hard crust of the earth and, stretching toward the light, to enfold itself in the proud crown of the palm-tree. Will sharpens the beak of the eagle and the tooth of the tiger and, finally, reaches its highest grade of objectivation in the human brain. Want, the struggle for existence, the necessity of procuring and selecting sufficient food for the preservation of the individual and the species, has at last developed a suitable tool, the brain, and its function, the intellect. With the intellect appear consciousness and a realm of rational life full of yearning and desires, pleasures and pain, hatred and love. Brothers slay their brothers, conquerors trample down the races of the earth, and tyrants are forging chains for the nations.
There is violence and fear, vexation and trouble. Unrest is the mark of existence, and onward we are swept in the hurrying whirlpool of change. This manifold restless motion is produced and kept up by the agency of two single impulses--hunger and the sexual instinct. These are the chief agents of the Lord of the Universe--the Will--and set in motion so strange and varied a scene.
The Will-to-Live is at the bottom of all love-affairs. Every kind of love springs entirely from the instinct of sex.
Love is under bonds to secure the existence of the human race in future times. The real aim of the whole of love's romance, although the persons concerned are unconscious of the fact, is that a particular being may come into the world.
It is the Will-to-Live, presenting itself in the whole species, which so forcibly and exclusively attracts two individuals of different sex towards each other.
This yearning and this pain do not arise from the needs of an ephemeral individual, but are, on the contrary, the sigh of the Spirit of the Species.
Since life is essentially suffering, the propagation of the species is an evil--the feeling of shame proves it.
In his "Metaphysics of Love," Schopenhauer says: "We see a pair of lovers exchanging longing glances--yet why so secretly, timidly and stealthily? Because these lovers are traitors secretly striving to perpetuate all the misery and turmoil that otherwise would come to a timely end."
Will, as the source of life, is the origin of all evil.
Having awakened to life from the night of unconsciousness, the individual finds itself in an endless and boundless world, striving, suffering, erring; and, as though passing through an ominous dream, it hurries back to the old unconsciousness. Until then, however, its desires are boundless, and every satisfied wish begets a new one. So-called pleasures are only a mode of temporary relief. Pain soon returns in the form of satiety. Life is a more or less violent oscillation between pain and ennui. The latter, like a bird of prey, hovers over us, ready to swoop down wherever it sees a life secure from need.
The enjoyment of art, as the disinterested cognition devoid of Will, can afford an interval of rest from the drudgery of Will service. But esthetic beatitude can be obtained only by a few; it is not for the hoi polloi. And then, art can give only a transient consolation.
Everything in life indicates that earthly happiness is destined to be frustrated or to be recognized as an illusion. Life proves a continuous deception, in great as well as in small matters. If it makes a promise, it does not keep it, unless to show that the coveted object was little desirable.
Life is a business that does not pay expenses.
Misery and pain form the essential feature of existence.
Life is hell, and happy is that man who is able to procure for himself an asbestos overcoat and a fire-proof room.
Looking at the turmoil of life, we find all occupied with its want and misery, exerting all their strength in order to satisfy its endless needs and avert manifold suffering, without daring to expect anything else in return than merely the preservation of this tormented individual existence, full of want and misery, toil and moil, strife and struggle, sorrow and trouble, anguish and fear--from the cradle to the grave.
Existence, when summed up, has an enormous surplus of pain over pleasure.
You complain that this philosophy is comfortless! But Schopenhauer sees life through Schopenhauer's eyes, and tells the truth about it as he sees it. He does not care for your likes and dislikes. If you want to hear soft platitudes, he advises you to go to a non-conformist church--read the newspapers, go somewhere else, but not to the philosopher who cares only for Truth.
Although Schopenhauer's picture of the world is gloomy and somber, there is nothing weak or cowardly in his writings, and the extent to which he is read, proves he is not depressing. Since a happy life is impossible, he says the highest that a man can attain to is the fate of a hero.
A man must take misfortune quietly, because he knows that very many dreadful things may happen in the course of life. He must look upon the trouble of the moment as only a very small part of that which will probably come.
We must not expect very much from life, but learn to accommodate ourselves to a world where all is relative and no perfect state exists.
Let us look misfortune in the face and meet it with courage and calmness!
Fate is cruel and men are miserable. Life is synonymous with suffering; positive happiness a fata morgana, an illusion.
Only negative happiness, the cessation of suffering, is possible, and can be obtained by the annihilation of the Will-to-Live.
But it is not suicide that can deliver us from the pains of existence.
Suicide, according to Schopenhauer, frustrates the attainment of the highest moral aim by the fact that, for a real release from this world of misery, it substitutes one that is merely apparent. For death merely destroys the phenomenon, that is, the body, and never my inmost being, or the universal Will.
Suicide can deliver me merely from my phenomenal existence, and not from my real self, which can not die.
How, then, can man be released from this life of misery and pain? Where is the road that leads to Salvation?
Slow and weary is the way of redemption.
The deliverance from life and its sufferings is the freedom of the intellect from its creator and despot, the Will.
The intellect, freed from the bondage of the Will, sees through the veil of selfhood into the unity of all being, and finds that he who has done wrong to another has done wrong to his own self. For selfhood--the asserting of the Ego--is the root of all evil.
Covetousness and sensuality are the causes of misery.
Sympathy is the basis of all true morality, and only through renunciation, through self-sacrifice, and universal benevolence, can salvation be obtained.
He who has recognized that existence is evil, that life is vanity, and self an illusion, has obtained true knowledge, which is the reflection of reality. He is in possession of the highest wisdom, which is not merely theoretical, but also practical perfection; it is the ultimate true cognition of all things in mass and in detail, which has so penetrated man's being that it appears as the guide of all his actions. It illumines his head, warms his heart, leads his hand. We take the sting out of life by accepting it as it is. "Drink ye all of it."
* * * * * * *
Arthur Schopenhauer very early in life contracted a bad habit of telling the truth. He stated the thing absolutely as he saw it. He spared no one's feelings, and conciliation was not in his bright lexicon of words. If any belief or any institution was in his way, the pilot in charge of the craft had better put his prow hard a' port--Schopenhauer swerved for nobody.
Should every one deal in plain speaking on all occasions, the philosophy of Ali Baba--that this earth is hell, and we are now suffering for sins committed in a former incarnation--would be fully proved. Our friends are the pleasant hypocrites who sustain our illusions. Society is made possible only through a vast web of delicate evasions, polite subterfuges, and agreeable falsehoods. The word person comes from "persona," which means a mask. The reference is to one who plays a part--assumes a role. The naked truth is not pleasant to look upon, and that is the reason it is so seldom put upon parade.
The man Schopenhauer would be intolerable, but the writer Schopenhauer is gaining ground in inverse ratio to the square of the distance we are from him. "Where shall we bury you?" a friend asked him a few days before his death.
"Oh, anywhere--posterity will find me!" was the answer. And so on the modest stone that marks his resting-place at Frankfort, are engraved the two words, ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER, and nothing more. The world will not soon forget the pessimist who had such undying optimism--such unquenchable faith--that he knew the world would make a path to his tomb.
Schopenhauer was the only prominent writer that ever lived who persistently affirmed that life is an evil--existence a curse. Yet every man who has ever lived has at times thought so; but to proclaim the thought--or even entertain it long--would stagger sanity, befog the intellect and make mind lose its way.
And yet we prize Schopenhauer the more for having said the thing that we secretly thought; in some subtle way we get a satisfaction out of his statement, and at the same time, we perceive the man was wrong.
The man who can vivisect an emotion, and lay bare a heart-beat in print, knows a subtle joy. The misery that can explain itself is not all misery. Complete misery is dumb; and pain that is all pain is quickly transformed into insensibility. Schopenhauer's life was quite as happy as that of many men who persistently depress us by requesting us to "cheer up." Schopenhauer says, "Don't try to cheer up--the worst is yet to come." And we can not refrain a smile. A mother once called to her little boy to come into the house. And the boy answered, "I won't do it!" And the mother replied, "Stay out then!" And very soon the child came in.
Truth is only a point of view, and when a man tells us what he sees, we swiftly take into consideration who and what the man is. Everybody does this, unconsciously. It depends upon who says it! The garrulous man who habitually overstates--painting things large--does not deceive anybody, and is quite as good a companion as the painstaking, exact man who is always setting us straight on our statistics. One man we take gross and the other net. The liar gross is all right, but the liar net is very bad.
Schopenhauer was a talkative, whimsical and sensitive personality, with a fine assortment of harmless superstitions of his own manufacture. He was vain, frivolous, self-absorbed, but he had an eye for the subtleties of existence that quite escape the average individual. He lived in a world of mind--alert, active, receptive mind--with a rapid-fire gun in way of a caustic, biting, scathing vocabulary at his command.
The test of every literary work is time. The trite, the commonplace, and the irrelevant die and turn to dust. The vital lives. Schopenhauer began writing in his youth. Neglect, indifference and contempt were his portion until he was over fifty years of age. His passion for truth was so repelling that the Mutual Admiration Society refused to record his name even on its waiting-list. He was of that elect few who early in life succeed in ridding themselves of the friendship of the many. His enemies discovered him first, and gave him to the world, and after they had launched his fame with their charges of plagiarism, pretense, bombast, insincerity and fraud, he has never been out of the limelight, and in favor he has steadily grown.
No man was ever more thoroughly denounced than Schopenhauer, but even his most rabid foe never accused him of buying his way into popular favor, or bribing the judges who sit on the bookcase.
We admire the man because he is such a sublime egotist--he is so fearfully honest. We love him because he is so often wrong in his conclusions: he gives us the joy of putting him straight.
Schopenhauer's writing is never the product of a tired pen and ink unstirred by the spirit. With him we lose our self-consciousness.
And the man who can make other men forget themselves has conferred upon the world a priceless boon. Introspection is insanity--to open the windows and look out is health.