21 December 2011

Like Children in a Theatre

Arthur Schopenhauer, Section 156 and 157 of Nachträge zur Lehre vom Leiden der Welt (an essay usually referred to in English as On the Suffering of the World), from Parerga und Paralipomena. My translation:
In early youth we sit in front of our lives like children in a theatre, waiting in joyful anticipation for the curtain to rise and the show to begin. It is fortunate that we do not know what is really coming. For if one did know, the children would seem like innocent prisoners, condemned not to death but to life, and still unaware of the implication of their sentence. But despite all this, everyone wants to reach old age; a condition in which one can only say that today is bad and tomorrow will be worse, until the worst finally arrives. 
When one considers, in so far as it is possible to do so, the amount of hardship, pain, and suffering that the sun illuminates in its course, one will admit that it would have been better if it had not called the phenomenon of life into being, and had left the surface of the earth as crystalline as that of the moon. 
One can also consider life a useless, troublesome interruption in the blissful state of nothingness. In any case, even someone who has had a decent time of it will see more clearly the longer he lives that, on the whole, life is a disappointment, nay a cheat. Or to speak plainly, that it is by nature a giant mystification, not to mention a swindle.
My source text is the sixth volume of Arthur Schopenhauer’s Sämmtliche Werke (Leipzig: Brockhaus, 1874), pp. 320-321. It came to mind when I read this post on Michael Gilleland’s excellent blog.