Life

Leisure and Beyond: Unveiling the Inner Wealth & True Character with Schopenhauer

A person endowed with profound internal wealth has little to covet in the external realm, save for the boon of negative attributes—leisure. It is through leisure that one nurtures and refines one’s spiritual faculties, reveling in the opulence of the inner self. For those of eminence, leisure and solitude are, in essence, synonymous. Time spent in solitude is a cherished pursuit, as an affinity for isolation naturally begets an appreciation for leisure. The disdain for trivial worldly affairs stems from the aversion to the encroachment of time by mundane concerns.

The significance of leisure is commensurate with an individual’s intrinsic value. Whether leisure engenders enrichment or ennui hinges on the richness or poverty of one’s inner self.

Schopenhauer, delineating life as oscillating between pain and boredom, posited that exceptional individuals can extricate themselves from this pendulum. “The more exalted and substantial a person’s spiritual and ideological wealth, the narrower the domain for ennui.”

The vacuity within man is the genuine wellspring of boredom. The consequence of an incapacity to lead an inner spiritual life is an internal void etched on countenance, manifested in an insensate expression. The agony of leisure arises from the barrenness within, compelling a relentless pursuit of external stimuli to rouse a sluggish spirit. Consequently, an unwavering focus on even the most trivial external occurrences ensues, akin to the perpetuation of meager and monotonous pastimes, accompanied by social discourse of a similar nature, with multitudes lingering by doors and peering out windows. Pursuing diverse forms of entertainment and opulence, including dance, theater, card games, gambling, libations, travel, and equestrian pursuits, proves inadequate in dispelling boredom, for devoid of spiritual aptitudes and yearnings, spiritual contentment remains elusive.

In contemplating the essence of a person, the perennial debate arises: Which holds greater import, character or intelligence? Schopenhauer contends that character aligns with the will, constituting the core, whereas intelligence is a facet of the phenomenal and serves as a mere instrument of the will. Character, therefore, assumes paramount significance. Furthermore, he asserts that the general inclination is to accord greater value to character. Exceptional intellectual prowess may elicit admiration, but it is virtuous character that garners affection. The commendation for a good-hearted yet intellectually lacking individual outweighs censure, while the converse elicits a less favorable response. Religions proffer the promise of virtue’s reward in an afterlife, with no such assurance extended to intelligence.

Despite this, Schopenhauer posits an inherent interconnection between character and intelligence within the same individual. A saint, regardless of intellectual acumen, radiates the brilliance and vigor of genius. Conversely, a genius, notwithstanding character flaws, exhibits a certain nobility. Instances such as Bacon, who coupled exceptional intellectual prowess with profound moral turpitude, remain exceptions. Just as genius and holiness share a common source, folly often accompanies wickedness. The most ominous scenario unfolds when an evil soul coexists with intellectual frailty, as moral and intellectual deficiencies converge to wreak havoc, causing widespread suffering once such an individual ascends to power.

“The distinction between vanity and pride lies in pride being the conviction of possessing outstanding worth in a specific aspect, whereas vanity endeavors to persuade others of such worth. Vanity, in most cases, is accompanied by a covert hope: by eliciting others’ certainty, one may truly acquire it. Consequently, pride emanates from within, constituting direct self-respect, while vanity stems from external validation and operates indirectly. Vigorous efforts are exerted to secure this self-respect, rendering the vain loquacious, whereas pride bestows a reticent demeanor.” A person of pride comprehends their intrinsic value, while a vain individual esteems others’ perceptions of them. Pride necessitates a foundation; it is not within everyone’s capacity to adopt pride. Many merely feign pride.

Pride’s flip side is contempt—an authentic conviction of someone’s worthlessness, so profound that it coexists with consideration and tolerance. Anyone expressing contempt has already demonstrated elements of respect.

Humility masquerades as subservience, a method for the exceptional to seek pardon from the mediocre in a world rife with envy. Silence in the absence of words is not humility but honesty. Schopenhauer dissents from the virtue of modesty in the eminent, advising: Confronting the shamelessness, arrogance, and ignorance pervasive in most individuals, one must remain cognizant of their merits. Ignoring one’s merits in goodwill and treating oneself as an equal invites others to blatantly ascribe such equality. Horace counsels: “You must compel yourself to embrace your rightful pride.” Humility is a virtue—a clever fabrication by fools to level the playing field for all.

Schopenhauer sharply critiques national pride, deeming it the most inexpensive form of pride. “One afflicted with national pride reveals an absence of personal virtues for which they can take pride. Lacking personal distinctions, they clutch at shared attributes with millions. They are proud of what they share with countless others.” Conversely, those possessing exceptional personal qualities recognize their nation’s flaws more acutely, as these shortcomings are ever apparent. A person’s unique individuality transcends their nationality and warrants a thousandfold greater appreciation. Each nation manifests the narrow-mindedness and disdain of the masses, constituting the so-called national character. Every nation ridicules others, and their mockery is justified.

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