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In this section, Schopenhauer makes an argument that happiness, if you can call his goal ‘happiness’ is a matter of distance from life and especially other people. The first stop on his list avoidances is pleasure Perhaps it would best be to consider his position to be avoidance of disappointment:

There is no more mistaken path to happiness than worldliness, revelry, high life: for the whole object of it is to transform our miserable existence into a succession of joys, delights and pleasures,–a process which cannot fail to result in disappointment and delusion; on a par, in this respect, with its obligato accompaniment, the interchange of lies.

This proposition is again true and perhaps not so. Let is first consider this as a true statement. No amount of revelry will be maintained forever. This advice of Schopenhauer reminds of the story in Joyce’s Dubliners entitled, “After the Race.” The story concerns a young Irishman named Jimmy who is having a fine time on the back of his father’s wealth as a butcher. Joyce describes the night of revelry as follows

They drove by the crowd, blended now into soft colours, to a music of merry bells. They took the train at Westland Row and in a few seconds, as it seemed to Jimmy, they were walking out of Kingstown Station. The ticket-collector saluted Jimmy; he was an old man:

“Fine night, sir!”

It was a serene summer night; the harbour lay like a darkened mirror at their feet. They proceeded towards it with linked arms, singing Cadet Roussel in chorus, stamping their feet at every:

“Ho! Ho! Hohé, vraiment!”

They got into a rowboat at the slip and made out for the American’s yacht. There was to be supper, music, cards. Villona said with conviction:

“It is delightful!”

Upon the yacht they begin to play cards:

Cards! cards! The table was cleared. Villona returned quietly to his piano and played voluntaries for them. The other men played game after game, flinging themselves boldly into the adventure. They drank the health of the Queen of Hearts and of the Queen of Diamonds. Jimmy felt obscurely the lack of an audience: the wit was flashing. Play ran very high and paper began to pass. Jimmy did not know exactly who was winning but he knew that he was losing. But it was his own fault for he frequently mistook his cards and the other men had to calculate his I.O.U.‘s for him. They were devils of fellows but he wished they would stop: it was getting late. Someone gave the toast of the yacht The Belle of Newport and then someone proposed one great game for a finish.

From there, the arc of revelry and joy turns to profound realization:

The piano had stopped; Villona must have gone up on deck. It was a terrible game. They stopped just before the end of it to drink for luck. Jimmy understood that the game lay between Routh and Ségouin. What excitement! Jimmy was excited too; he would lose, of course. How much had he written away? The men rose to their feet to play the last tricks, talking and gesticulating. Routh won. The cabin shook with the young men’s cheering and the cards were bundled together. They began then to gather in what they had won. Farley and Jimmy were the heaviest losers.

He knew that he would regret in the morning but at present he was glad of the rest, glad of the dark stupor that would cover up his folly. He leaned his elbows on the table and rested his head between his hands, counting the beats of his temples. The cabin door opened and he saw the Hungarian standing in a shaft of grey light:

“Daybreak, gentlemen!”

“They knew they would regret it in the morning.” There was no rest, no time to bear the wound. It struck and would not be relieved. He had crested a hill and the valley was twice as deep.

That theme of the crash after the party is a recurrent theme in everything from high art (like Joyce) to popular music, like the Rolling Stones in Coming Down Again:

Coming down again, coming down again

Where are all my friends?

Coming down again, coming down again

Coming down again, coming down again

Where are all my friends? Comin

Of course being a song, it has more effect heard than read: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UG7WIrHtLUQ

And so we must agree that revelry and “high life” have within them the potential for excess and disappointment.

But does the fact that excess and disappointment are possible mean that all such things are to be shunned. What of a marriage? It is certainly a matter of festivity. But the ceremony does not bear within it the inherent crash which was experienced by Jimmy of Keith Richards.

A time of joy, a time of feasting can be an appropriate consummation of hard work. A festival in the Fall to celebrate a good harvest is fundamentally different than a wealthy slacker gambling away money he does not possess. A birthday party for a child is different than a drug addict’s crash.

Celebrating a graduation from college, obtaining a new job are celebrations of some good thing.

I think it best to limit Schopenhauer’s warning to diversion doing little than stave off boredom. The revelry of people who have no purpose and are merely seeking to stave off ennui is quite different than the celebration of those who have accomplished a good – even if it little more than enjoying the continued relationship of friends and family.

Perhaps he knew little of that celebration and knew only those who were killing time.

Ecclesiastes 9:7–10 (ESV)

Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.

Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.

Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.