We can learn from the many teachings of Friedrich Nietzche, a psychoanalyst who has become a source of many ideologies in the Social Sciences. From the readings, I was very curious about his view on discomfort and I think I was left wanting more:
The Osmosis of Pain and Pleasure
This topic from the reading seemed like a laundry list of the dualities between good and evil, pleasure and displeasure, comfortable and uncomfortable, and the list goes on. It’s placed under the light of osmosis or a term that refers to the existence of one as an enabler of the other? We tend to look for these patterns in case studies of many prominent and successful people, who many times claim that the journey to the top is never glamorous.
Examine the lives of the best and most fruitful people and peoples and ask yourselves …whether misfortune and external resistance, some kinds of hatred, jealousy, stubbornness, mistrust, hardness, avarice, and violence do not belong among the favorable conditions without which any great growth even of virtue is scarcely possible.
With all of the examples presented, I’ve noticed the common thread is this – “to achieve growth, one must weather the hardest and toughest hardships”, which sounded like a hero’s journey plot. The repetitive and parallel stories still came a bit underwhelming, even if it’s a good collection of studies by the greatest thinkers in history. I guess you could say that I was yearning for more Nietzsche and how this type of thinking has lead to an evidence of innovation, vs. a single person’s capacity for greatness.
Given all of that, the passage below would be my favorite of all the duality presented because it made me think of how true the statement was when people think of the existence of “heaven” and how it entails waiting and being depressed until death comes:
What if pleasure and displeasure were so tied together that whoever wanted to have as much as possible of one must also have as much as possible of the other — that whoever wanted to learn to “jubilate up to the heavens” would also have to be prepared for “depression unto death”?
And here is the part where I was wanting for more evidence:
The most fulfilling human projects appeared inseparable from a degree of torment, the sources of our greatest joys lying awkwardly close to those of our greatest pains…
Why? Because no one is able to produce a great work of art without experience, nor achieve a worldly position immediately, nor be a great lover at the first attempt; and in the interval between initial failure and subsequent success, in the gap between who we wish one day to be and who we are at present, must come pain, anxiety, envy and humiliation. We suffer because we cannot spontaneously master the ingredients of fulfillment.
The dark path of reaching fulfillment:
I totally agree with this text – that going through the painful process of learning for example, and fear of failure. There is no way to go through answers than by failing many times. It also gets easier after this dreaded failure passes. Pretty much what web development runs on right now is eliminating all types of errors and going through gazillion failures to achieve a certain perfection.
This is in reference to the tension between Schopenhauer and Nietszche.
Because fulfillment is an illusion, the wise must devote themselves to avoiding pain rather than seeking pleasure, living quietly, as Schopenhauer counseled, ‘in a small fireproof room’ — advice that now struck Nietzsche as both timid and untrue, a perverse attempt to dwell, as he was to put it pejoratively several years later, ‘hidden in forests like shy deer.’
“Fulfillment was to be reached not by avoiding pain, but by recognizing its role as a natural, inevitable step on the way to reaching anything good…for it leads us to withdraw prematurely from challenges that might have been overcome if only we had been prepared for the savagery legitimately demanded by almost everything valuable.
Pop Nihilism: Radiolab’s In the Dust of This Planet
The subject of a fantastic recent Radiolab episode. The wise and wonderful Jad Abumrad elegantly captures the allure of such teachings: All this pop-nihilism around us is not about tearing down power structures or embracing nothingness — it’s just, “Look at me! Look how brave I am!”
After listening to this episode, I realize I have been living a Nihilist all my life. It’s very uncanny that this made me look inwardly, as I’ve always believed in breaking boundaries, or not being boxed by rules just as muscle memory from graduating from design school.
Although in the grand scheme of things, the idea of grounding my motives on “existential dread” has worked perfectly fine, and would sometimes create the opposite and the unexpected to search for answers or meaning.
I may have found a good context to frame, not just a cool book cover art that made the rounds in Music Videos, Graphic Tees or an HBO Series (in reference to In the Dust of this Planet Art on the podcast) but how the Arts could be an inherent nihilist territory.
This duality of effervescence or sadness, profoundness or stillness that is widely expressed in art shows, could be rooted in Nihilism, a rationale in Philosophy, (or not because clearly, there is no meaning in everything).