Sunday, November 14, 2021


The Way Things Are

Bryan Magee (1930-2019), The Tristan Chord: Wagner and Philosophy (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2000), p. 166:
There have been other writers who would have assented to the validity of Schopenhauer's tragic vision, but none who insisted on it so relentlessly. His view of the way things are is totally bleak, without comfort; and he gives expression to it in passages of unforgettable vividness and power. Existence in itself he saw as a miserable business: it would be better for each of us, he believed, if we had never been born. He was also a great misanthropist: he regarded human beings, by and large, as selfish, cruel, greedy, stupid, aggressive and heartless in most of their dealings with one another, and bloodthirsty in their attitudes to the animal kingdom. The world seemed to him an appalling place, teeming with violence, crime, poverty, political oppression, economic exploitation, every little town having its own torture chambers in its hospital and its prison, and every individual life ending in the inescapable smash-up of death. The world of Nature was no better: literally in every instant thousands of screaming animals are being torn to pieces alive. The only thing to do in these circumstances, he said, is turn our backs on the whole thing, refuse to be involved, have nothing whatever to do with it.
Id., p. 186 (He = Wagner):
He realized now that it was simply not the case, and never had been, that society was getting better all the time: tyranny and the abuse of power were perennial, as were cruelty, selfishness, greed, stupidity, and the failure of compassion, together with lovelessness and betrayal. These were not merely a part of the current order of things, about to be swept away, they were permanent features of life on this planet, and were reproduced over and again in every age. The belief that this was going to change radically to a new order of things in which love, happiness and self-fulfilment were the order of the day was just a pathetic illusion.

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