Consolations

15 May 2013
8:26 PM
Manila

M.–

I am self-medicating with orange juice and Vicks Inhaler. I got through the day alright, except for a little incident: when Sam ran past me while I was taking out the garbage. She got through the gate and was on the street in an instant, without a collar and a leash. I ran after her with my heart in my throat, fearing the worst. I have never lost a pet this way before, and this one hadn’t been outside much. I don’t know if she knows how to come back home, and I didn’t want to risk it, not with drunkards about in the neighbourhood, who wouldn’t hesitate to eat her (which happened to my childhood friend’s dog years ago, and scarred me for life). So I ran after her, hollering her name. In my haste I left the gate wide open, and that was in my mind, too, while chasing Sam.

My thought process: Dammit Sam, of all fucking days, shit shit shit don’t make me run so far, stupid fucking dog, oh god good dog I didn’t mean it come back come back come back, shit I left the gate open, my house is vulnerable to intruders, Sacha is all alone and probably has no idea what’s happening, what if someone comes in and hurts her, oh god what if Sam never comes back I have to get to her on this street and not let her round the corner oh god she looks so large outside oh god she’s heading towards a stranger oh god oh god please don’t let them get hurt fuck shit Sam don’t fucking bite them why why why is this my life shit I think I just lost a slipper fuck what if I am stepping on shit ah fuck who gives a shit just get the damn dog–

Anyway: yes we got her back. Finally got to her. She was just pretty excited to smell things I guess. How simple it is to be an animal, and how very very complicated we make things out to be.

So that was my day. And I just read about your morning. I’m happy you’re happy. I know what you mean by living within words, and yet existing without them. Tomorrow I am going out for some fresh air, hoping that a walk and a change of scenery might make me feel better.

…These were, Nietzsche implied, some of the elements that human beings naturally needed for a fulfilled life. He added an important detail; that it was impossible to attain them without feeling very miserable some of the time:

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…you have the choice: either as little displeasure as possible, painless in brief…or as much displeasure as possible as the price for the growth of an abundance of subtle pleasures and joys that have rarely been relished yet? If you decide the former and desire to diminish and lover the level of human pain, you also have to diminish and lower the level of their capacity for joy. (214-215)

But frightful difficulties are sadly, of course, not enough. All lives are difficult; what makes some of them fulfilled as well is the manner in which pains have been met. Every pain if an indistinct signal that something is wrong, which may engender either a good or bad result depending on the sagacity and strength of mind of the sufferer. Anxiety may precipitate panic, or an accurate analysis of what is amiss…

…As Nietzsche’s beloved Montaigne had explained in the final chapter of the Essays, the art of living lies in finding uses for our adversities:

We must learn to suffer whatever we cannot avoid. Our life is composed, like the harmony of the world, of discords as well as of different tones, sweet and harsh, sharp and flat, soft and loud. If a musician liked only some of them, what could he sing? He has got to know all how to use all of them and blend them together. So too must we with good and ill, which are of one substance with our life.

And some 300 years later, Nietzsche returned to the thought:

If only we were fruitful fields, we would at bottom let nothing perish unused and see in every event, thing and man welcome manure.

How then to be fruitful? (224)

– Alain de Botton, from The Consolations of Philosophy

Goodnight.

Yours,
T.

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