Alain de Botton on Pessimism – Free Ebook

Susan takes your hand and she leads you to the ribbon she is wearing rags and feathers from Salvation Army counter and the Sun falls down like money on our leave the heart and she shows you where to look Thank you very much! As I think Susanne mentioned this is unfortunately going to be a very bad lecture. I brought you all under the false pretense as you will learn almost nothing You will come away from this talk disappointed thinking that I’ve let you down. That you learned almost nothing, that your life is not being enhanced. Things will then start getting worse and you will come to the realization that life is essentially meaningless; that your efforts are headed nowhere. And then at some point you will be struck down by death and your loved ones and all your achievements will wither and be returned to dust. These are the basic facts of human life though they are often denied. But here, we have come together today to put darkness on the table and to look at it fairly and squarely. So, I want to sing a hymn in praise of looking at the glass half-empty and do want to emphasize to you the wisdom, and indeed the beauty of thinking of life as an essentially deeply troubled and compromised affair. We are currently living in troubled times and many of us respond to these troubled times with a feeling of injured self-pity, as though something that is supposed to have gone right, has gone wrong. I would like to reverse the equation. Nothing was entirely supposed to go right and so nothing has particularly gone wrong. We have simply returned to a state of crisis which is the norm in human history. It’s sometimes the principle of newspapers that murder, disease, crisis is the exception. It makes the news. But in fact, this is the news. This is all that ever happens. So, as I say, this feeling of being in a historically abnormal postition is really a misreading of the true facts of existence which is an almost continuous series of crises. Let’s try and remember. None of us were particularly happy in 2004 when things were going supposedly so well. We had all sorts of troubles on our mind, certainly, I did. I don’t remember these boom times being so great. Nothing boomed for me. So, it’s really a return, as I say, to the same. We do have in our world-culture, two very important strands of thought: Buddhism and Christianity that have emphasized that life is essentially an imperfect business from an entirely secular point of view. And we are a secular organization talking in this secular hall. I’d like to recover some of that wisdom. Some of the wisdom of thinking that, essentially, life is suffering, and the human-being is a fallen creature. I love the idea of fallenness. It’s a wonderful starting point; very good in a marriage or a relationship – “Don’t expect… I never said I was perfect. I am a fallen creature.” It’s very hard for people to comeback at us on that one. So, really, I am just trying to emphasize the ever present nature of suffering and unhappiness. But really, I want to talk about impotence first. Who here has been impotent recently? The devil… Anyone else suffered from impotence? You are just not being honest! Please, someone put up their hand, apart from me. Ok, thank you, thank you! Lady, Ok, right, so impotence it’s a fact of life now, very interesting thing about impotence impotence is all to do with pessimism and optimism its when there is a huge expectation on you for things to go really well thats when people get impotent, and really this goes to the heart of what I wanted to be talking about today there’s a lovely for those of you who knows Monte know montagnes essays Montaigne 16th century French philosopher wrote a wonderful essay what about impotence in which his essential drift is if you if you arrive in the bedroom or bedchamber as he put it with high expectations there’s a very serious risk that things will go wrong so he counsels there was a man there’s a true story there was a man near his his village who had failed with a woman as he put it and had cut off his member and had sent it to the woman in atonement for his error and this had so disturbed the local community and so disturbed Montaigne that he picked up a pen to try and write about listen and and his essential conclusion was when entering the bedroom always say that you are a bad lover this is the only way really in which you can ever stand the chance of making it a good impression must always lower the expectations of performance that’s the way in which you can be a good lover but I think there’s a deeper point a this is not just about sexual performance this is about life performance that somehow raising expectations and and and suggesting that all will go well is the surest way to get very nervous and with nervousness comes failure so there’s a curious debt of success on a complete familiarity with failure if you expect to succeed you will almost certainly fail so pessimism doesn’t necessarily have to lead to a lack of achievement or a complete resignation but very strangely we have to start I think I want to argue from a feeling that that things are not going to go well nowadays our philosophers and thinkers and and public figures are often in the business of trying to tell us how to cope with how to make life better somehow the improvement of life is the way in which most problems are viewed how can we make things go better I want to direct your thoughts to a school of philosophy that flourished in ancient Rome and that took a completely different approach I’m talking about stoicism and the stoic school of philosophy when we speak of someone being stoic in the face of it of a disaster we are very much plugged in to an ancestral memory of how the Stoics of ancient Rome went about things one of my favorite stoic philosophers is the philosopher Seneca who lived in the time of Nero a very troubled time for the Roman Empire if we think we haven’t got it bad look at Nero’s reign for what was going on then and he very much believed that philosophy was a discipline to keep you sane in troubled times and that one of the best ways to be sane was precisely to master pessimism to make yourself at home in pessimism to become a master of this strange and perhaps depressing seeming but not actually depressing philosophy Seneca wrote a book on anger very interesting thing about anger now many of us nowadays think that anger is an almost physiological problem it’s to do with sort of being hot-blooded or something Seneca thought that was nonsense he believed that anger we get angry for a very simple reason optimism optimism makes us angry and he compared a very interesting thing he asked why people don’t get angry when it rains particularly in Northern Europe the reason why people don’t get angry when it rains is that we expect it to rain ticking in England it’s amazing if it doesn’t rain so it would not occur to anybody to get angry at the fact it is raining now the interesting thing is we don’t adopt this very wise approach in all areas of life and think about our keys you know we start shouting when we lose the house keys or how we behave when they were stuck in traffic we you know we insult people we think how come we’re in traffic now essentially that is because we believe implicitly in a world in which keys never go astray and the roads are always mysteriously traffic free a very very odd starting for life so it’s our it’s our expectations that defines what will anger us that’s not to say we won’t ever feel sad but there’s a difference between sad sadness and anger and I think Senecas point was will be a lot wiser if we manage to expect a lot more that our sense of what is normal to expect is hugely reduced so we get very surprised when people suddenly die or when things suddenly go wrong he urges to think Seneca that our fate is really in the hands of the goddess of fortune now the goddess of fortune was held to be a woman who commanded all of our destinies and the thing about her is that he’s entirely fickle she’s cruel vain and made any point decide that we will die and somebody else will succeed essentially she’s uncontrollable entity in our lives and in ancient Rome the goddess of fortune was everywhere there was her Statue everywhere she was on the back of coins etc and her message was most of our life is in the hands of somebody else and however much we try and achieve rational control we will you know we will she’ll probably at some point get us in order to try and cope with the vagaries of fortune Seneca counseled us to undertake what he called a in Latin a prime edit RTO a curious exercise called a premeditation he advised that every morning in bed before getting up you should essentially run through in your mind the whole day ahead of you and imagine every single disaster that could occur to you not because it would necessarily occur but in order to protect you if it might and I just want us to go through what Seneca says in his premeditation he says some the wise will start each day with the thought that fortune gives us nothing which we can really own nothing whether public or private is stable the destinies of men no less than those of cities are in a whirl how often of cities in Asia been laid load by a single shock of an earthquake how many towns in Syria we live in the middle of things which have all been destined to die mortal have you been born and to mortals have you given birth so reckon on everything expect everything a year later the town of Pompeii was destroyed in other words we of on unstable ground and we must accept this in a very fundamental starting point we must not react with injured surprise to bad things these bad things are written into the contract of life no one should have a child wrote Seneca without the ability to tolerate the thought that that child may be may be dead by evening here I have two children he gives some lovely quotes which are oddly cheering he says what need is there to weep over parts of life he says the whole of it calls for tears there’s also a lovely quote from him he where he says a man must swallow a toad every morning to be sure of not meeting with anything more disgusting and the whole day ahead we try to have toad cereal here for you today but it didn’t it didn’t come about but essentially the starting point has to be much more pessimistic the interesting thing is I always cheer up when I read this sort of stuff and I think the reason is that some of the darkest thinkers are consoling the reason I wanted Leonard Cohen is that listening to Leonard Cohen particularly when you listen it on CD cheers you up it it makes you feel that somehow you’re not alone in your sadness that sadness which can seem like an aberration a departure from the norm is in fact the basic default mode of human beings and so the works of art have a huge role to play I think in confirming those dark hunches it’s very unfortunate as I said a minute ago that we live in a world full of hope we live in a world surrounded by self-help books and one of the things about self-help books is they’re constantly telling us to get out get out of bed and achieve things and do wonderful things and I undertook a few years ago a bit of a study of the self-help of genre and I found I came across a self-help book which was perhaps one of the most depressing books I think I’ve ever read unintentionally it’s by a man called Anthony Robbins and if any of you know him please don’t read him if you don’t a few years ago he read he wrote a book called awaken the giant within and the the essential point is that all of us are small he said but all of us have a potential giant and by reading his book $16 on Amazon he we can start to grow and do do amazing things and he described how he had once been poor and small and depressed but he and fat as well but he went on a diet etc I’ve got a little quote for you here he goes um I discovered a magical power in me to take back control of my physical well-being I permanently rid myself a 38 pounds of fat through this dramatic weight loss I attracted the woman of my dreams I married her and I created the family I’d always desired I used my power to change my income from subsistence level to over ten million dollars a year this moved me from a tiny apartment where I was wish washing my dishes in the bathtub because there was no kitchen – my family’s current home the spanish-style Del Mar castle a picture of which he helpfully includes in his in his book okay we all know the type of book they’re out there in water stones and everywhere else and they’re a very very depressing but they’re part of a wider movement and that is the feeling that everybody can succeed that opportunity is not just for the few it’s for the many this is the message we hear from every single politician who ever stands up on a pulpit everyone can do it no one should hold you back you can do it it’s a beautiful idea except it’s got some serious drawbacks one of the most serious drawbacks is it constantly feels leaves us feeling envious let me talk to you about Envy the interesting thing about Envy is you don’t envy everybody it’s I think very unusual for anyone in this room to Envy the Queen anybody envy the Queen I don’t envy the Queen the reason the reason we don’t envy the Queen is she’s too weird she’s just someone she’s just so remote from us we can’t really relate to her she lives in this odd Palace et cetera however who in this room has not envied someone at a school reunion or at a university riu nor by reading something in the paper about someone they were once at school with or interested with anyone not felt that emotion no few but not very many about the same level as impotence so basically the reason for this is a sense of opportunity we don’t feel that we will envy the Queen because she feels too strange she feels distant from us we don’t feel equal to her as soon as you feel equal to somebody soon as you feel I’m basically more or less like this person and I could do this too but you haven’t you will start to get envious and depressed so a feeling of opportunity and equality and the fact that everybody can make it this is strangely a really really depressing a starting point which constantly leaves us a feeling that we haven’t achieved enough there’s an interesting thing when I was doing my little study of American self-help books it struck me that if you look at self-help shelves in in America but I think probably all over there are really two kinds of books the first kind of book is like the Anthony Robbins type of book you can do it you can make it it’s out there the other kind of book is a books telling you how to cope with what’s euphemistically termed low self-esteem and I think there’s a real relationship a society that tells people that they can achieve anything we’ll also be a society that very swiftly develops a problem of self-esteem because simply if everybody expects to achieve everything you’re going to get an awful lot of people who are feeling that something’s gone dramatically wrong with their lives it probably is unlikely today that you could become successful as Bill Gates as it was unlikely in the 17th century that you could join the ranks of the French aristocracy but it doesn’t feel like that it feels from opening most magazines etc that you know if you had a garage and knew that what about software and had a few bright ideas few contacts you could get there simple really it’s not statistically it is unbelievably small I was talking to somebody in venture capital the other day who said to me that something like 98% of all business ideas ever submitted will fail we don’t hear that we don’t hear those stories we are focused on a very very small minority another thing that you always hear another very optimistic but very depressing idea that is proposed in our optimistic Society is the idea of meritocracy now what is meritocracy meritocracy is the idea that if we all work hard enough at making society fair we will be able to build a world where anybody can make it and you know you hear politicians on all sides of the political spectrum praising meritocracy how can we get the school system working well enough that it can make a meritocratic world come true now the interesting thing about a meritocracy is that it’s got some very nasty cruel side effects if you really believe that we can build a world where everybody is going to end up where they merit to be where they deserve to be you’ll also end up with a society in which anybody who doesn’t as it were make it deserves not to make it if you believe in a world where those people who get to the top merit their success you’re implicitly also standing up a society where people deserve to fail and merits to fail and the more people believe that we do live in a meritocracy the more people will be very hard on themselves if they fail and very tough on others I remember a little while ago I was them I was in America which is after all the land the center of meritocracy in many ways of belief in meritocracy and and and there was some at a dinner with some friends and everyone had a bit too much to drink and there were lot of jokes being made about white trash and trailer trash and there was lots of hilarity about trailer trash and how funny was that people were living on the edge of cities in caravans and having children with their children and all this sort of thing and I said oh hang on a minute this doesn’t sound particularly funny here I mean what’s going on in this friend of mine piped up she said you know this really makes me feel my blood boil you know because you know you come from Europe and you know you’re all socialist and essentially you believe you know that that there’s something wrong with this kind of attitude whereas really I only got to where I got and she was quite a high-powered person I only got to where I got because I worked hard you know she’s my father’s an alcoholic but I made it and I made it because of me and so I deserve to be at the top and if someone’s in a trailer home well they’re in a trailer home and that’s their problem and don’t expect me to pay for them now that’s an attitude you sometimes hear and it’s the attitude that’s precisely the result of meritocracy now I think it’s absolutely impossible to have a meritocracy it’s completely crazy to imagine that we will ever reach a society where people will really deserve their success and totally deserve their failure there is simply too many factors in anybody’s life and to expect that you can simply take a read of somebody’s life and and determine from that whether they deserve to be there or not is is simply unbelievable again if we go back to our Romans and our Stoics you know think of the goddess of fortune an ancient Roman who did well did not think that he or she was entirely responsible for success they knew that it was the goddess of fortune the goddess of fortune had done it and so instantly if something went right you went to give an offering to the goddess of fortune to basically say thank you you know I didn’t sell my company for millions of pounds I didn’t you know win public office the goddess of fortune gave this to me it’s a gift and that gift may be taken away I don’t own it that gift says nothing about me that gift is really as it were in the hands of somebody else again we’ve lost sight of this we’ve become much more optimistic we believe that we are in control of our destinies and with that belief in control comes serious self-esteem people commit suicide weirdly a lot more nowadays and a lot more in societies which are felt to be individualistic where the individual is felt to be entirely in control of his destiny the rates of suicide goes up and the reason for that is that all failure is assumed to be a personal point of blame so people assume their success and they assume personally they’re their failure and that’s why rates of suicide are higher the interesting thing about a recession is that racine recessions certain kinds of suicide go down in number why is that because suddenly there is a public explanation for failure and that public explanation is a huge burden that’s lifted off our backs in fact people continue to fail at all times of the economic cycle but suddenly there’s a story a publicly available story for why there is a failure and that and that publicly available story is very important and what I want to suggest is really that these stories of public failure have disappeared in the narrative that we tell ourselves about what life is like I mean if we look at the history of work and how people view work you know for nowadays people expect that their work will be an arena of fulfillment and happiness that is the sort of basic assumption that we have and that constantly is held before us a completely insane idea historically where work was assumed to be I mean if you listen to the ancient Greeks work is slavery and if you want have a good life you you simply have to take yourself out of the financial system you cannot you know the pleasurable sides of existence are not those certain circumscribed within the boundaries of work and in early Christianity a similar kind of belief that that work is essentially a punishment for the sins of Adam that’s why we toil that idea starts to disappear by the time you get to the 18th century various bourgeois philosophers are singing the praises of work work as a place to realize yourself to become yourself to to become you know someone who’s someone who can take out of yourself something that’s precious and put it out there and get paid for it a beautiful idea but again an idea with all sorts of casualties because it incidentally the optimistic idea of work kicks in at roughly the same time that the optimistic idea of love comes about the 18th century is a curious time mid 18th century a lot of bourgeois philosophers come up with a new idea of love the idea is that suddenly you should marry someone that you love pletely mad idea historically previously you don’t marry someone you love you marry somebody’s got a farm next door you hand over the family property that’s how you do it but suddenly a new idea note you should marry someone that you love and that’s how marriage should work and and similarly you should get a job and that you love as well you should realize yourself so suddenly these two vital safety valves the hobby and the mistress go out of the window for hundreds of years hundreds of years you know your real working life happens happens on your you realize your real life not real your real life happens on the weekend and evenings in your spare time that’s that’s the time of enjoyment and similarly your real love life goes on in extra curricular activity but suddenly this new better idea I know some people who are very happily married and I know some people who really enjoy their jobs but they’re a real minority I would estimate around 5% of people I’ve ever come across or in that lucky band so it’s very odd that the other 95% of us have before us as idea of normality an ideal which has failed 95 percent of us it’s a very very bizarre philosophy of life that we should be holding up as normal something which is clearly almost a you know beautifully rare so we have holding up before us as an idea of normality something which is anything other than normal I want to talk more about the the cheerful sides of pessimism and how to be happily sad one of the things that I think we should all do a lot more is some put skulls on our desks in the in the Middle Ages and the early modern period a vital piece of interior design was a skull if you’d finished a beautiful desk mahogany desk whatever one of the way you know put your quill pen but also skull a skull was something you’d always put on your desk and the reason for that is that as you’re doing your work you’ll always look at the skull and think I’m going to be like him in a little while and the point was not to despair but precisely to focus on what’s important because I think one of the things about the thought of death is it doesn’t make you think that life is meaningless far from it it simply readjusts your priorities any of us who’ve been in a near-death experience or let’s face it all of us are in near-death experiences we’re in a near-death experience right now because you know you could fall on your head and you would be dead so life is a near-death experience but any of us who’ve come really close to a near-death experience will report the following thing that some things started to matter a lot and other things started to matter a bit less and the things that tend to matter a lot less are what other people think about you and certain aspects of your career so and the things that’s not to matter lotmore are what people you really like think of you very unusual idea but something that only tends to occur to us on our deathbed you know and so the contemplation of death a very very important part of a healthy life and I didn’t don’t have a skull but as I said I would like all of us to reflect on death more regularly and hopefully there’ll be time at the end for us to do that other things to do if you’re if you’re if you’re a tourist ruins I don’t know if and if you like ruins I love ruins but head out to see some ruins there’s some wonderful ruins obviously in ancient Egypt in Greece they’re quite good too but also there’s some modern industrial ruins you know head up north to parts of northern England head to the Mojave Desert weathers a plain famous plain graveyard where most of the world’s airlines are currently parking their airliners it’s good to see modern civilization in crumbling to bits it’s good to see what will happen to us in time to make ourselves properly at home I think we you know we live in a world where human achievement is right at the center of what we do and we constantly have held before us great human achievements it’s very important to balance that by getting out into nature getting out into bits of history where we see the marks of time written into the landscape anything which as it were puts us into perspective in some way there’s a nice we’re feeling small I suppose I want to say very often we made you feel small by people you know at work or in social life who patronize us etc I want to invite us to feel small in relation to the really big things eternity time death these are good things to feel small in front of and it’s I think that’s why many of us enjoy going off to see a glacier say or looking down at the Earth from an aeroplane or going thinking about the polar icecaps these vast empty spaces make us feel small in a way which alleviates us from that agonizing sense of self-importance and egoism which is otherwise clinging to us like a bad smell so head out to glaciers head out to anywhere which makes you feel properly small and as I say put a skull on on your table the other thing of course that that you can do with sadness is to discover works of art that are sad and if you are feeling a little bit sad my advice to you is to find an artist who somehow says not you know life is cheerful that’s a devil’s talk that life is cheer the an artist who somehow makes it even grimmer so read someone like the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer read Pascal listen to Leonard Cohen or indeed listen to Elton John there’s a I want to there’s a lovely song by Elton John called called sad songs and listen to the first verse guess there are times when we all need to share a little pain and ironing out the rough spots is the hardest part when memories remain and it’s times like these when we all need to hear the radio because from the lips of some old singer we can share the troubles that we already know so in other words a sense of confirmation it’s through the sad song that our own sadness is alleviated and on that note I like to play and all of you to sing if you can a little bit of sad songs take it away sad songs by Elton John is it coming should here we are and like you’re just sing and I’ll sing too give it a bit louder one two three guess there are times when be you need to share and for us what is the hardest part when memories remain a times like these when we want me to give her we already know come on louder on Ted on those sides when hope is gone love you too your loo just do you feel gosh of this goal okay we’re gonna cover there thank you thank you Scott thank you all right thank you can I get for it no now now thank you now the other thing that the other thing that sadness and sad songs and pessimism generally can do is to improve your sex appeal it’s a little known fact very rarely spoken off in the pages of fashion magazines and other such things that sadness as I say can bring you dates and it’s very often thought that if you’re not getting out enough if you’re not feeling attractive if if you’re not pulling people in that maybe you should feel happy as more cheerful and suggests an image that your life is going well I’d like to draw your attention to the leaflet that came the parish newsletter where on the back of it you should find a picture by Edward Hopper called automat painted in 1929 here’s a woman in a cafe and I think she’s rather cute and I think one of the reasons why she’s cute is because she’s sad now I think that contra imagined this woman with a group of her girlfriends giggling away things have gone really happy she’s got a promotion she’s so happy she’s waving her arms about instantly I find a rather less attractive I think the reason is that when we think about love and falling in love one of the things I think we want to do is to touch other people’s sadness could sound rather creepy but really what we want in a relationship is to share the sad things I mean what’s the point of having a relationship in which you’re cheerful all the time you want to have a relationship where you can somehow unite your sadness with somebody else’s sadness relationships are built around shared griefs and letting a little bit of that shared grief show even on a first date is a good thing but confessing how lonely you’ve recently been is a good thing cheekily I think there’s a gender divide I have to be honest I think that I think most men speak personally most men do very much like someone who’s been in a lot we feel relaxed and coming back to impotence very cheered up by the sense that a woman has not got too many dates and that she’s a little bit alone so we need to admit to that Oh time is ticking on so I’m gonna I’m gonna bring things to a close but I think one of the things that I want you to take away from today is the advantages of living your dark moments fully living your sadness to the full not seeing it as some aberration but seeing it as something that is an intrinsic part of life and something that you shouldn’t run away from you should embrace and standing in your room with Elton John at full blast you should as I say embrace the sounds also read some Nietzsche let me let me equation a bit from Nietzsche he says to those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering desolation sickness ill treatment indignities and illness I wish that these friends of mine should not remain unfamiliar with profound self contempt the torture of self mistrust the wretchedness of the vanquished in other words Nietzsche one of the greatest philosophers of the 19th century possibly of all time is advising us that anyone he cares about he wants to suffer now what on earth is going on there the reason is simple Nietzsche believed like many of those many those have studied the question that somehow there is a real relationship between the ability to suffer the ability to endure suffering and live suffering and look suffering in the face and the capacity to do anything important or good let me read you another bit from Nietzsche if you refuse to let your suffering lie upon you for even an hour and if you constantly try and prevent and forestall all possible distress way ahead of time if you experience suffering and displeasure as evil hateful worthy of annihilation and as a defect of existence then it is clear that you Harbor in your heart the religion of comfortableness how little you know of human happiness you can little people for happiness and unhappiness our sisters and even twins that either grow up together or as in your case child remains small together in other words there’s a real relationship between the capacity to endure suffering and the capacity to do to do great things it’s not a coincidence that Nietzsche was a teetotaler his favorite drink was milk and he advised us never to drink please know none of you if you want to be Nietzsche and don’t go to the pub now the reason for this is let’s think about what alcohol does alcohol is one of those things if you if you feel a little bit sad got some problems what do you do drink and then what happens after you’ve had a few drinks you feel a bit more cheerful now this is absolutely disastrous advice for Nietzsche because Nietzsche believed that it’s in moments of darkness that we have our best insights into what we need in life if we try and stop feeling envious immediately if we try and stop feeling bad if when we’re writing a book we feel happy with it immediately we will never do anything good the capacity to tolerate suffering the capacity to be pessimistic comfortably to endure passages of pessimism is absolutely essential and that’s why Nietzsche thought that alcohol was a very very bad idea now and it’s something else that Nietzsche thought was a very bad idea and I’m speaking in an appropriate place and that’s Christianity famously and he called Christianity and alcohol the two great narcotics of European civilization and he believed that Christianity was bad for the very same reason that alcohol is bad the reason that Christianity is bad do you excuse anybody here who’s a believer the reason he believed that Christianity was bad is because it makes us feel good too quickly if you’re worried about timidity the New Testament tells you blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth if you’re worried about having no friends the New Testament says blessed are ye when men shall hate you and when they shall separate you from their company if you’re worried about an exploitative job the New Testament advises servants obey in all things your masters according to the flesh so in other words you quickly feel better about a lot of things now Nietzsche famously argued that all of us actually want many good things like we want an active sex life we don’t want to be meek we quite want to be clever we want to have good jobs but some of us give up too quickly and we give up too quickly because we are addicted to comfortableness we want to be comfortable so quickly and Christianity for Nietzsche was a religion that turned all these things on its head it was a hypocritical creed which denounces what people actually want but a too often too weak to fight for and it praises what many of us don’t want but happen to have so in the Christian view powerlessness becomes goodness baseness becomes humility submission to people one hates becomes obedience and in each us phrase not being able to take revenge turns into forgiveness now Nietzsche thought that was all a very very bad idea and he very much believed now incidentally he was poor totally forgotten and in many ways wretched but the very different the difference he thought was that he embraced the darkness he didn’t say he didn’t say I’m sad but he didn’t say there are things wrong with my life but they’re not really wrong he said there are things wrong with my life and I’m sad about it he embraced the pessimism he admitted to the pessimism and this is really the essence of what I’m trying to say now that pessimism is a feature of life it’s a feature of life that we often try to run away from by running away from it too quickly we cut ourselves off from the opportunity to embrace this darkness and to embrace the lessons that it often brings and we often also cut ourselves off from the deepest kind of relationships which we can have with other human beings which are relationships based around a confession of suffering and I think that essentially all good friendships are about confession one sort or another they’re a confession of things that the rest of the world thinks of as unacceptable but are in fact part of human life so all of us now we can have a little bit of time to have some tea and cakes and also there’s get a confessional box but really what I want to what I hope that will take away from the next few minutes is going to be a sense of shared communion around the dark things and a capacity to admit among ourselves just how hard we find everybody a life so join me in joining me in being sad and in eating some misfortune cookies which will also be at the back but thank you all very much and and I hope that today goes quite badly thank you

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