Snappy Age-Old Philosophies for Modern-Life Ailments

Joachim knows life can be fraught with emotional hurdles. Here, he shares perspectives from some of the world’s most prominent philosophers.

Can’t find a job? Something missing in your life ? Anger issues, perhaps?

Or maybe you’re feeling inadequate among those around you, your heart’s been crushed like a can ready to be recycled and life’s just not shaping up to societal, parental or your very own expectations.

Well, look no further, my miserable friends. Here are six awesome short documentaries by popular British philosopher, Alain de Botton, to help you get through an unbearably rutty life.

1. Socrates on Self-Confidence

“A life unexamined is no life at all.” said Socrates, an ancient-day bum who liked asking questions like “What is Life about?” or “What is Justice?”, adamant on getting one to think about their existence. No, he did not do it because he wanted pity or spare change. What he did want was for people to spare a thought about their lives. He believed that since we all can think, we should all then think away.

2. Epicurus on Happiness

 

“We don’t really know what makes us happy.” Epicurus was the sort of guy one needed around if one had a shopping addiction. What really makes you happy in life? A new phone every 6 months or so? A ‘Hokkien Mee’ fix every first Monday of the month? Ultimate Frisbee? It’s hard to decide when there are so many reasons that could be no reason at all. Right?

3. Seneca on Anger

 

“What need is there to weep over parts of life? The whole of it calls for tears.”

Interestingly, according to this guy, being rich doesn’t make you calmer but instead, angrier. That’s right.  Prosperity fosters bad tempers. It makes sense: We seem to think money insulates us from set-backs, so we raise our expectations. But when we get the face-on-the-hard-floor sort of reality-check, it’s enough to make our blood boil. The trick’s to be more pessimistic about life and prepared for set-backs because this makes acceptance easier. Only when we can succeed in doing this, can we truly call ourselves ‘philosophical’.

4. Montaigne on Self-Esteem

 

In life, according to this Frenchman, there are 3 inadequacies everyone worries about: Our body and its functions; our habits and demeanours; and our lack of intellectualism. He also warns against over-intellectualism and proclaims that happiness is to be without thought. Remember, we’re all equal when we are on the throne, he reminds us. Thanks to him, I think of Cambridge grads in their full gowns, perched on the toilet bowl whenever I do a number two. Hmm.

5. Schopenhauer on Love

I think what Schopenhauer philosophises about love here can best be described by the lines in a Kings of Convenience song, ‘Love is No Big Truth’ which goes like this: “Love is no big truth, Driven by our genes, We are simple selfish beings.” He went on to say that feeling happy in a modern marriage is a myth and that we’re all acting on our biological urge to replicate the species whether we know it or not. Love is to find someone whose genes will complement ours so we can have excellent looking children.

This means that if a member of the opposite sex rejects your advances, don’t blame yourself – it’s your genes! So try not to take it personally! Any reason he or she gives masks a purely biological one and they don’t even realise it!

6. Nietzche on Hardship

 

Escaping from pain or dulling it through, say, alcohol is a big no-no. HardcoreEscaping from pain or dulling it through, say, alcohol is a big no-no. Hardcore, right? Kinda sounds like your dad. Especially if he’s single-handedly fought off the Communists before or been in the police force. Also, Nietzche was no fun at booze-ups. He was a total teetotaler and would be the wet blanket at your party and say stuff like this:

Imagine your pain as a root of a plant. Messy, ugly, soiled with well… soil and dirt. Yet above it, is this lovely plant and people forget where that plant actually comes from. Use your pain and nurture it like a gardener to grow it into a lovely plant.

For me, this brings to mind Neil Gaiman’s quote on good Art (full video here):

"Make Good Art" - Neil Gaiman

It’s a lot to swallow in one sitting. And I certainly hope your head doesn’t hurt from all that thinking. Feel free to share your favourite philosophical quotes or anecdotes below and remember: You don’t have to go through life flitting between emotional states without understanding why. Because once you know why, you’ll be wondering less and living more.

(Feature image accompanying article on main page courtesy of J. Skilling, source: http://bit.ly/TuApJP)

Recommended Reads:

The Malaysian Invader Exclusive with Genie Cum Lau...
#International Volunteers Week (2-8 Dec): When cou...
The Misadventures of Making Eye Contact
Book Review: Man's Search for Meaning by Victor E....

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Posts by Joachim Leong

Egoistic? Ego-manical? Too philosophical? Reading between the lines? Trying too hard? Or just plain cheeky? Good, you're asking the wrong questions. Sometimes, we need to make all the right mistakes. Tweet at him - @jleongmy

Posted on 30 November 2012. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

Read more articles posted by Joachim Leong.

Read this first: LB Terms of Use