Arthur Schopenhauer, German Philosopher 1788-1860
Quotes On The Vanity of Existence
“To our amazement we suddenly exist, after having for countless millennia not existed; in a short while we will again not exist, also for countless millennia.”
“Every moment of our life belongs to the present only for a moment; then it belongs for ever to the past.”
“The greatest wisdom consists in enjoying the present and making this enjoyment the goal of life, because the present is all that is real and everything else merely imaginary. But you could just as well call this mode of life the greatest folly: for that which in a moment ceases to exist, which vanishes as completely as a dream cannot be worth any serious effort”
“No man is happy but strives his whole life long after a a supposed happiness which he seldom attains”
“Boredom is nothing other than the sensation of the emptiness of existence.”
Schopenhauer is known for his very negative perspective on the existence of life. It is rather disheartening to hear his conclusion that life is essentially meaningless and empty. He makes the claim that we suddenly exist out of nowhere because he does not believe in a higher power or creator. This adds to his pessimistic view of existence. Nevertheless, I think there is a lot of truth to his philosophy. The idea that life is essentially meaningless and vain certainly seems true at times. Especially when there is some selfish or ego driven ambition that is motivating the will to live. But when we transcend the ego and choose to believe that there is something bigger than ourselves to live for, then there is the conclusion that life is not meaningless after all and that existence is not in vain. We can find life worthwhile because we choose to believe we are living for something higher. This is a spiritual perspective. I am not making the claim that the spiritual perspective means that there is a father figure deity in the universe that governs all of life and created us to get to Heaven for eternity. For me, the awareness of something higher is the notion that we live in a world with both the sacred and the profane. The sacred is accessed through consciousness and the profane is rooted in the material. And for those who are spiritually inclined are committed to awakening their consciousness to higher states of being. A higher state of being that experiences love, peace, joy, and wisdom. All these higher states of consciousness give life more meaning. And that higher consciousness can be described as God. Because describing the source of our life giving consciousness as God is to personify higher consciousness into a spiritual relationship. A relationship that gives reason for existence. Life becomes a spiritual journey of growth and love rather than a struggle and suffering that breeds hopelessness and despair. Life and existence is only vain or meaningless when you choose to perceive it without God. Believing that our higher consciousness offers something bigger than ourselves to live for is the key to living a worthwhile life.
Perhaps a few opposing quotes from William James and Viktor Frankl will be of service to the conclusion that life is meaningful and not ultimately vain.
“Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.”
-William James, The Will to Believe
“The last of the human freedoms-to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances…It is this spiritual freedom-which cannot be taken away-that makes life meaningful and purposeful.”
-Viktor Frankl, Mans Search for Meaning