Arthur Schopenhauer, one of the great German philosophers of the nineteenth century fascinates me with his concepts of life. His idea of life is centered on the existence of such thing as what he termed as “will”. Contemplating on my own life, I found that there are a lot of truth and wisdom in what he said. In this writing, I would like to share some of those with the readers, and hopefully we all can benefit from it.
Will is the basic element of life. Without will, there is no life; and in fact the end of will itself is death. We all have the will to breathe, the will to eat, the will to move, the will to work and so on. The will is what carry us through in our daily life. In the same manner also, we have the will to pro-create, to love, to hate, to be happy, to have joy, to endure sorrow and to continue breathing, eating, sleeping, drinking and so on. The will also presents in even the most micro details of our body: the blood have the will to flow, the lungs the will to take air, the heart the will to pump, the blood cells the will carry oxygen and eliminate the viruses, etc. The will is in fact everywhere, in every organism of life.
On a more complex scale, the society at large also collectively develop its will: the will to strive and succeed, the will to overcome adversity, the will to govern, the will to exchange and trade, etc. The success and failure of nations, the birth and death of civilization – all are the results of will at play.
On the opposite side of the will is suffering. Without suffering and struggle, the will becomes meaningless. You have the will to get cured because you want to overcome sickness. You have the will to get sustenance because you want to overcome poverty. You have the will to fight cancer because you want to continue to live. You have the will to fight injustice because you want to have a fair society. You have the will to learn because you want to avoid stupidity and be a better person. Without the will, the world is full of suffering.
Even the people who endure a lot of suffering, for example, the Palestinian people, or Iraqi people, who observes daily killings – show a lot of resolve and the will to live. Human beings are built to continue their life, however bad or terrible the conditions that they face. In fact, the more severe the conditions, we can see much clearer on the human will to live. Such is the fact of life.
On the other hand, when the will to overcome sufferings succeed, the results will be joy and happiness. When a person manages to overcome any obstacles, accomplish some achievements, they will be overwhelmed with joy. Joy is what makes the will even stronger and better. But there is a massive asymmetry exists between sufferings and joy. There are a lot of sufferings to occur before a small joy can take place. Sufferings have a much deeper impact on us compared to joy. Joys and happiness, no matter how much it is, are very short lived, and after a while it will be covered with boredom. In fact the zenith of joys is unfortunately a very anti-thesis to joy itself: total boredom. Even worse, boredom itself is in fact the worse form of sufferings, and hence came the phrase: “bored to death”.
Henceforth we have to understand the issue of joy itself: does the joy in life mainly consists of worldly pleasures? Or are there other forms of ultimate joy and happiness in life? To this fact it becomes clear why eliminating the sufferings of another fellow beings should becomes one of the greatest joys in life. Sharing the results of your will with fellow beings – such as charity works, giving back to society what you earn, working to eliminate poverty and eradication of illiteracy, curing others from diseases, and others are in fact the ultimate joys to a human being. These forms of joys actually has no boundary and natural limits, as everyday, fellow human beings are suffering from many ailments as we have said before. If joys are only to fulfill our senses and pleasures of the flesh, then we are definitely mistaken.
Let me then touch on about our Malaysian society: we as a country in fact do have the will to thrive and survive. We also have the will to change and work for the better. We do have the will to shape and create a future for our next generation. But the question is how strong does our will push us and direct us? How willing are we to wake up and effect the changes that needed to happen? How willing are we to fight against what’s wrong and to uphold what’s right? Or are our will so weak that we render ourselves helpless, and only opt for easy way out? We may realize that we do have the will in our own self, as I have explained above; but we may not realize the potential of our collective will on how far we can move and achieve.
Finally, let me deliberate about the end of will, which is death. Without the will to breathe, a person will die; similarly, without the will to eat, a person will also eventually die; without a will to thrive and succeed, a nation will fail. On a personal level, life is about the will to fight against all odds that are stacked against us; it is a daily struggle against the sufferings of the world, and intermittently, we have brief periods of joys to celebrate our triumph over sufferings, and finally after all has been done (or when the time comes), we will face the final and last form of suffering of life: that is the pain of death.
In conclusion, do not despair and give up hope. Do not lament of why I have been so or such. Do not lose your sights and wisdom of this life; do not be afraid of fighting and struggling over sufferings –as it is part of your task to be alive; do not be overwhelmed with temporal joys as they are very much transient; seek the true meaning of life, and therefore you will turn sufferings into meaningful strides of life; success as part of the life’s ladder that you have to climb; and the true and final form of joy is that you have lived the life meaningfully, and therefore when the final sufferings come (i.e. death), you will face it with a smiling face.
May God bless us all.