Nashville Great Books Discussion Group

A reader's group devoted to the discussion of meaningful books.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

LIFE LESSONS FROM THE GREAT BOOKS: Schopenhauer, Medea and Max Weber

SCHOPENHAUER: Don’t sweat the small stuff. All those problems that seem so overwhelming to you now won’t amount to a hill of beans a year from now. In ten years they’ll all be forgotten. In a hundred years you’ll be forgotten. In a thousand years this whole city will be forgotten. Time marches on. This little time we have on earth is just the blink of an eye. Life comes into this world, goes back to where it came from, then re-emerges as a different form of life. Life goes on. Only the forms change. There’s nothing new under the sun and there’s nothing you or I can do about it. So don’t worry what tomorrow will bring. Don’t worry about your puny little ego. In the grand scheme of things you really don’t matter very much anyway. You’re just a speck in the great cosmos of time and space. This may sound depressing at first. But think about it for awhile. Once you accept it for what it is, it’s really a liberating experience. Your ego will no longer matter. You can move beyond all those small-minded worries which seem to plague you so much. Accept your place in the great wheel of life and death and re-birth.

MEDEA: Are you kidding me? That’s the mentality of a slave. It may be an acceptable way for a philosophy professor to live but I’m a princess. Your life may not mean very much; mine does. You may not matter very much but I do. You say the world will continue long after I’m gone. But what’s that to me? That may or may not be true. One thing I do know is that I’m alive here and now. And as long as I have breath left in my body I WILL make a difference in this world. You can’t understand that because you think too much. While you’re sitting alone in your room reading a book I’ll be out sailing the seas, making love, establishing kingdoms. That’s something you’ll never experience because you’re too timid. Don’t lecture to me about life and death. I give life and I can take it away too. Test me and find out. Your ego may be small and puny. Mine’s not. I’m too much woman for a man like you. Some day death may come but as long as I’m here I’m going to live with passion. Just don’t cross me.

WEBER: Well, in my opinion both of you guys are a bit extreme. Look, most people aren’t philosophy professors and they’re not royalty. They’re just ordinary folks trying to get by the best way they can. They’ve got children to raise, grass to cut, mortgages to pay. They don’t have time to ponder the meaning of the universe or establish kingdoms. They just want a decent job and a comfortable place to come home to at night. Maybe a week’s vacation up in the mountains or down at the beach. Is that too much to ask out of life? Lighten up. We can’t be grim and serious all the time. As long as you have interesting work to do and a little leisure time, what more do you want out of life? We’re born, we grow up, we grow old, we die. But that’s what life is all about. That’s the way it was with our grandparents and their parents before them. That’s the way it will be with us too. And our children after us. And their children after them. Time marches on, that’s true. But here’s the real secret of happiness: accept who you are. Do your work. Do it well. And when the time comes to move on, then move on. No regrets. You left the world a better place than you found it. Life’s not about studying philosophy all the time. Or sailing the seas in search of glory and honor. Just stay at home and live an ordinary life. That’s the real secret of happiness.


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