Theorizing Poly-vocal Existentialism

Download 76.66 Kb.
Size76.66 Kb.

Theorizing Poly-vocal Existentialism

The Acquisition of Knowledge through the Pursuit of Happiness

Jacob Tyles

AP Language and Composition

Mr. Anthony Barra
June 13, 2014

macintosh hd:private:var:folders:71:7nmm1vr9319bqqf_h6txwjfm0000gn:t:temporaryitems:1022px-cyclops-greek-mythology-facts-i18.jpg

Odysseus and the Cyclops

To the endless pursuit of happiness,

To the ceaseless quest for knowledge, and

To the timeless search for that which makes us human.

Table of Contents

Theorizing Poly-vocal Existentialism 4

The Acquisition of Knowledge through the Pursuit of Happiness 4

Part I: A Brief Moment in Time 4

Theorizing Poly-vocal Existentialism

The Acquisition of Knowledge through the Pursuit of Happiness

Part I: A Brief Moment in Time

A bust of Aristotle
To an extent, we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. Aristotle had once reciprocated this sentiment amongst an assembly of youths at the Lyceum1, and dictated thus to those present for the sake of learning. The ancient Greeks valued the art of acquiring knowledge, and purposefully expressed this through volumes of literature that have lasted with us for over two millennia. Such works include Plato’s Republic, The Art of Rhetoric, and Antidosis, all of which devote an immensity of wealth to knowledge in order to lead a meaningful life. In fact, rhetoric was, if not established, heavily developed in the times of the polytheistic thinkers. Aristotle developed his three appeals: logos, ethos, and pathos, which not only influenced the way in which man contorts his situation for his benefit, but also allowed for people to rule themselves in an effective way. Plato2 put it well, that “Rhetoric is the art of ruling the minds of men.” macintosh hd:private:var:folders:71:7nmm1vr9319bqqf_h6txwjfm0000gn:t:temporaryitems:87984-004-5ade9aca.jpg

The acquisition of knowledge is an intoxicating avenue filled with perilous deviations and even greater adventures. It is undeniable that humanity has avoided merely existing by finding purpose in life. This extends to the existentialism of reality, mankind’s place in it, as well as axiomatic truths and postulates that govern the world around us. In order to continue to not just exist, but to live, begs the question as to what fulfills our insatiable resolution for purpose. The acquisition of knowledge and happiness has seemed to find its way into the hearts and minds of many great thinkers throughout history, and it is unanimously agreed that through knowledge, lives purpose; and through purpose, lives happiness.

A freed prisoner, discovering a whole knew reality.

Diagram of the Cave
Part II: Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave
About two thousand years ago, Socrates and Glaucon3 strolled through the immersive Corinthian pillars and grassy hills of Athens, Greece, discussing reality, and the relationship between knowledge, happiness, and purpose. In Plato’s The Republic, Socrates and Glaucon do walk together and discuss the same ideas, as purposefully drawn by Plato himself. Within The Republic lives the story of The Allegory of the Cave, a hypothetical reality in which we are, as Socrates implies, prisoners of our own reality. The story of the cave goes as follows. An entire community has been born in a cave, chained to the cave walls so that they may not move and only see a giant wall in front of them. A fire shines behind them, so that shadows appear on the wall. Since the prisoners live and die only knowing this wall, it becomes their reality. Socrates then entertains the chance for one prisoner to escape from his bonds, and turn his neck towards the light for the very first time in his meek existence. Plato writes, “At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains,” (The Republic, Book VII, 196). The glare of the light will greatly distress the prisoner, and he will be able to see that the realities of which he had been living were but a fragment to a greater truth. After recovering, the prisoner learns of the cave’s mouth, and ventures off to find the ultimate fire above: the sun. Foreign sights and unknown smells pervade this freedman, almost to a point that utterly annihilates his understanding of reality. Soon, he begins to sympathize for his fellow prisoners, as Plato writes, “And he will count the one happy in his condition and state of being, and he will pity the other,” (The Republic, Book VII, 199-200).

Plato, through Socrates and Glaucon, argues a number of controversial, yet equally valid points. For instance, Socrates purports that the prisoners are unmistakably content with their own reality, knowing nothing more, nothing less. The moment one experiences a greater reality, a reality check of what is existential and what is abstract is in order. Furthermore, these prisoners become more and more attuned to learning these shadows along the walls. Socrates argues that the “intellects” of the chained community are able to distinguish, categorize, and understand the shadows created by the overhead fire. Since those who understand are content, there is no need then to pursue the facts (such as why these people are even in chains to begin with) any further. Socrates then draws his source of compare and contrast rhetoric with a slugger of a statement: “As being is to becoming, so is pure intellect to opinion. And as intellect is to opinion, so is science to belief, and understanding to the perception of shadows,” (The Republic, Book VII, 217). We live amongst the shadows, and even dwell in our own lecherous contentment. Our realities are perhaps muddied by the lack of evidence that there exists something greater, that perhaps we are within a cave of our own, chained to the distractions and modern conveniences of today.

Before we venture off into any rubbish claiming or nonsensical asserting, let us consider the valuable (and moreover productive) ideas that can be derived from Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. Socrates is so bold as to passively connect us to the prisoners in the cave, therefore leaving the reader wondering about the authenticity of the world. Essentially, the thesis behind Plato’s allegory is the basic tenets that all we perceive are imperfect "reflections" of the ultimate Forms, which subsequently represent truth and reality. It is human nature to conquer what we do not understand, in order to find any semblance of purpose, which in turn satiates our hunger for happiness.

One can argue that the prisoner is happy and content with the shadows of the wall, knowing nothing but his or her own reality. Yet the moment a prisoner breaks free from his chains, and ventures out towards sunlight and sees a whole new living, breathing world, it becomes unarguable that this prisoner is infinitely happier at discovering a scene comparable to divine creation itself.

macintosh hd:private:var:folders:71:7nmm1vr9319bqqf_h6txwjfm0000gn:t:temporaryitems:images.jpg

Of course, light is not darkness;
But, to itself, is it even light?

If there is a pot, a pot is perceived,
And if the pot is broken, its brokenness is perceived;
If there is no pot at all,
Is not its absence perceived as well?

It can be seen, therefore,
That he who perceives that there is nothing
Does not himself become nothing.
The Self has this same unique kind of existence,
Beyond both existence and non-existence.

The ultimate Reality
Is neither an object to Itself
Nor is It an object to anyone else.
Should it then be regarded as non-existent?

In a tank the water may be so clear
That it appears non-existent;
Though one who looks into the tank may not see it,
Still it is there.

The ultimate Reality exists in Itself,
And is beyond the conceptions
Of existence or non-existence.

When a jar is placed on the ground,
We have the ground with a jar;
When the jar is taken away,
We have the ground without a jar;

But when neither of these conditions exists,
The ground exists in its unqualified state.
It is in this same way
That the ultimate Reality exists.
Part III: Identity, and Jnanadeva’s Influence on Perception
12th Century India saw an explosion in thinking beyond the political contexts of previously existing law and scripture, such as the notable epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata4. Jnanadeva explores a critical enigma of the human psyche, in which we read through a poem titled Knowledge and Ignorance. Here, Jnanadeva considers the duality of knowledge and ignorance. Knowledge and ignorance are intertwined, as Jnanadeva argues, at the most basic of levels.

By looking in a mirror, one perceives his own identity;
But that identity was already there.

In the same way, relative knowledge gives the understanding
Of the identity of the world and the Self --
But it is like using a knife
To cut another knife.

Fire, in the process of annihilating camphor4b,
Annihilates itself as well;
This is exactly what happens to knowledge
In the process of destroying ignorance.

The cresting of a wave is but its fall;
The flash of a bolt of lightning
Is but it’s fading.

Likewise, knowledge,
Drinking up the water of ignorance,
Grows so large
That it completely annihilates itself.

This absolute Knowledge is like
The intrinsic fullness of the moon,
Which is unaffected
By its apparent waxing and waning.

Likewise, that which is Consciousness Itself
Does not possess the quality of being conscious,
And is, therefore, not conscious of Itself.

If absolute Knowledge required the aid
Of some other kind of knowledge to know Itself,
It would be nothing but ignorance.

Knowledge and Ignorance by Jnanadeva

Through imagery and extended analogy, Jnanadeva conveys the differentiation between ignorance and knowledge, as well as any settled awareness of reality that is ever changing through our own observation. Jnanadeva describes how we objectify what we see, and through this, ultimately discerns the nature in which we strive to comprehend that which is around us.

By looking in a mirror, one perceives his own identity;

But that identity was already there.
A reflection in the mirror suggests both an image and an object. If that mirror is removed or if you look away, the object is no longer seen. Jnanadeva explains that even though the lack of appearance exists, the reality of an object in existence is still ever present. So too is knowledge and ignorance. macintosh hd:private:var:folders:71:7nmm1vr9319bqqf_h6txwjfm0000gn:t:temporaryitems:imgres.jpg
The deeper we look, the more our desire to learn grows, and the more we begin to perceive in all phenomena a greater means in discovering what we do not know.
The cresting wave is but its fall;

The flash of a bolt of lightning

Artist’s interpretation of Jnanadeva
Is but its fading.
It is recognized that what we are truly looking at is always some shimmering aspect of our own perception of reality. Just like in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, many times do we catch ourselves being content with what we can know, yet when the moment an opportunity to explore what was previously thought impossible arrives, we take it. In Jnanadeva’s poem, each phase of the moon may appear to be in at some point in time, yet his claim belts out a grander picture, that we constantly stand in the intrinsic fullness of the moon the entire time. The real opportunity to learn is in fact possible.
The ultimate Reality

Is neither an object to Itself

Nor is It an object to anyone else.
The “ultimate Reality” derives not from the concrete accomplishments made through scientific and moral breakthroughs, but rather stems from the actual pursuit of knowledge in order to satiate our desires to know, conquer, and understand.

Poe’s The Happiest Day describes experiencing the high of power and pride as one ascends his or her passion. Poe wrote this soon after dropping out of high school, recognizing that the road he had chosen would be difficult and perhaps even unyielding for most of his life.

The initial tone of this poem is tinged with nostalgia and reminiscence of a time once thought highly, as indicated by phrases such as “sear’d and blighted heart hath known,” or “I feel hath known,” (Poe 2,4). Yet the tone only adds to the richness of the meaning the poem yields. Along with rhetorical appeals like imagery and personification of emotions such as “power” and “pride,” The Happiest Day serves to demonstrate the poignant bliss one feels after discovering purpose, such as Poe did when realizing his future career in writing. The valuable ideals that can be derived from this rich work of literature are as such. Poe lets, at some point, power and pride nearly consume him, for “such I ween” power serves to prove how intoxicating this bliss had been, (Poe, 5).

At some point in all of our lives, we have felt this mutual elation, this sensational bliss so powerful that it can knock down the very essence of your soul, as Poe seems to suggest. Happiness is the result of finding meaning and purpose in life, however it can also serve to annihilate any collection of prior understanding, creating ignorance as Jnanadeva had claimed. The Happiest Day serves to underscore the human pursuit of happiness, as well as the potential to plummet while searching for it.
Part IV: The Happiest Day
For even the lightest of poetical zealots, the name and legacy of Edgar Allen Poe lives on as a testament to the American Romantic Movement5 in literature. Forever shaping the contours of written work, Poe has found his spot in history through his gripping horror works such as The Raven or through his lighthearted poems such as Dreams. Regardless of tonality, Poe’s written works express a sundry of themes that help rectify human existence in one small way or another.

The Happiest Day, The Happiest Hour
The happiest day–the happiest hour

My sear'd and blighted heart hath known,

The highest hope of pride and power,

I feel hath flown.

Of power! said I? yes! such I ween;

But they have vanish'd long, alas!

The visions of my youth have been–

But let them pass.

And, pride, what have I now with thee?

Another brow may even inherit

The venom thou hast pour'd on me

Be still, my spirit!

The happiest day–the happiest hour

Mine eyes shall see–have ever seen,

The brightest glance of pride and power,

I feel–have been:

But were that hope of pride and power

Now offer'd with the pain

Even then I felt–that brightest hour

I would not live again:

For on its wing was dark alloy,

And, as it flutter'd–fell

An essence–powerful to destroy

A soul that knew it well.

Edgar Allan Poe
macintosh hd:private:var:folders:71:7nmm1vr9319bqqf_h6txwjfm0000gn:t:temporaryitems:imgres.jpg
Part V: Happiness, Nature, and Walden
When a man takes it upon himself to learn of the human condition, of the mores of the human psyche, one may find that which he was searching for. Walden is such a little joyous book, filled with a collection of anecdotes and self-proscribed journeys. Henry David Thoreau explores the human condition by isolating himself from the daily and societal routines, forcing his own idiosyncrasies to conform to that of a simpler outline. By doing this, Thoreau accomplishes various smaller epiphanies, as well as expanding his lens and broadening his scope on the world around him. For about two years, Thoreau explored different outlets of nature, such as ponds, farms, and fields. During the course of his exploration, Thoreau remarks a great number of things concerning happiness, and how one may find the means to achieve it. The below passages will examine key excerpts concerning happiness from various sections of Walden, and coagulate Thoreau’s findings with our own.
I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours,” (Conclusion, 304)
Found in at the end of Walden, Thoreau expresses his final thoughts on achieving dreams through the onerous pursuit of happiness. Unlike many other passages in Walden, Thoreau is quite explicit as to what his reader may take away from his experiments. Robert Frost once said, “The best way out is through.” This correlates with Thoreau’s findings, as he also expresses endurance through endeavors and finding direction in our dreams.
However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are…Love your life, poor as it is,” (Conclusion, 308).
Again, Thoreau’s findings are profoundly similar with that of Frost’s. No matter how downtrodden one’s life deescalates, Thoreau argues that happiness is of the mind, not of the circumstance. Just as Aristotle would have dictated, happiness is on the accountability of our own attitudes. In order to successfully accumulate happiness, one needs to look inwards, and find his or her self worth, rather than comparing that worth to other that of other people.
It is life near the bone where it is sweetest,” (Conclusion, 309).
A good chef will know that the meat of an animal is most tender and flavorful at around the bone. Just as meat is best near the bone, so too is life at it’s very core. Consider that all the outside distractions and discourses that create stress and tension in life. If one is able to look past that, and takes time to slow down as Thoreau did to “smell the roses,” then life becomes simpler and increasingly elegant. It is also funny to note the Thoreau was a blatant vegetarian, as suggested in Walden.
When we are unhurried and wise, we perceive that only great and worthy things have any permanent and absolute existence – that petty fears and petty pleasures are but the shadow of the reality,” (Where I Lived, 83).
In congruence with the previous sentiment, life is sweetest at its very core. When we allow ourselves to get caught in the “petty fears and petty pleasures” of daily routines, we not only throw out the chance to be completely engaged in learning new things, but also too with happiness itself. Knowledge to Thoreau is not the only avenue to obtaining happiness, but rather it is at the moment when one centers on the core of nature, and of life’s pleasures.
Through his own experimentation, Thoreau finds that happiness cannot be found by material things and luxurious rewards. Instead, simplicity elicits one way of achieving peace and happiness. All too often do we find ourselves discontent with the way our lives are going. Thoreau considers this, and suggests that indeed we all need to understand our connections with nature and the simple things in life.

Wooden shack where Thoreau stayed in for the course of two years
macintosh hd:private:var:folders:71:7nmm1vr9319bqqf_h6txwjfm0000gn:t:temporaryitems:imgres.jpg

Part VI: Futility (?) in Happiness

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These words have been the staple of American ideology. Ever since colonial assimilation, the then nascent nation demanded recognition of independence from Great Britain. Unfortunately, this led to a bloody war. Only after the war did America gain a mutual nonalignment with the lobsterbacks6 of the East. When independence was achieved, the people of America decided to challenge contemporary thinking by pursuing individual goals for the betterment of their nation.
11 score and 7 years later, Jon Gertner wrote The Futile Pursuit of Happiness, as it first appeared in the New York Times Magazine in 2003 as an essay. The primary function of the essay questions human desire as well as our inability to accurately judge how an event or acquisition will affect our emotional state.
The ever-fleeting question arrives at “What makes us happy in life?” Jon Gertner, along with a coterie of fellow academics such as Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert, University of Virginia’s psychologist Tim Wilson, Carnegie Mellon’s economist George Loewenstein, and Princeton’s Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, have conducted extensive research in order to tackle the aforementioned question. To start, people are in fact, terrible predictors at our future state of emotion.
Through Gilbert’s psychological studies on happiness, he states, “That’s because when it comes to predicting exactly how you will feel in the future, you are most likely wrong,” (Gertner 397). This is a powerful assertion to make, especially since it pokes holes in our most fundamental assumptions about the perception of our happiness. To claim that people lack accurate foresight into what they want and what they don’t want is particularly compelling, since it is relevant to everyday decision-making.
The term given for the gap in what we predict and what we ultimately experience is called the impact bias. From person to person, the impact bias is varied, however it is still present, and considerably noticeable.
The phrase characterizes how we experience the dimming excitement over not just a

BMW but also over any object or event that we presume will make us happy. Would a 20

percent raise or winning the lottery result in a contented life? You may predict it will, but

almost surely it won't turn out that way. And a new plasma television? You may have

high hopes, but the impact bias suggests that it will almost certainly be less cool, and in a

shorter time, than you imagine. Worse, Gilbert has noted that these mistakes of

expectation can lead directly to mistakes in choosing what we think will give us pleasure.

He calls this ''miswanting,'' (Gertner, 398-9).

This is a really eye-opening section, as it not only further suggests our inability to predict everyday happenstance, but also does so using everyday situations. We regulate ourselves to endure that which is sporadic. Loewenstein gathers that:

''Happiness is a signal that our brains use to motivate us to do

certain things. And in the same way that our eye adapts to different levels of illumination,

we're designed to kind of go back to the happiness set point. Our brains are not trying to

be happy. Our brains are trying to regulate us,'' (Gertner, 401).
No matter how it’s looked at, the brain is dominant over all matters of emotion. Biologically people have learned to adapt, and therefore regulate, in times of extremities. It is the only sure way to survive at our cognitive level, and by doing so, continue the strength of the population. Humans experience a considerable number of emotions, which do serve a purpose. So it can then be showed that at times of extremities, our brain takes over and regulates the perceived realities around us to a more familiar, comfortable state.
So is happiness then simply futile? Can we never be continuously happy, as Poe experienced, riding the metallic-alloyed wings of passion and pride? While the answer seems bleakly evident with the amount of data gathered by the above academics, people live to be happy. There is no doubt that eternal happiness is both unhealthy and unproductive towards a person’s internal state. However, little things such as Thoreau’s claim to be happy with the simple moments in life are a strong proponent in providing an individual with happy moments.
And those moments do build up.

Part VII: The Dangers of Ignorance, and A Brave New World

Just as Gertner opened the eyes of readers of the New York Times Magazine, so too did Aldous Huxley open the eyes of the world.
Since the advent of the computer age, mass surveillance has become an increasingly debated issue, with key constituents on both sides of the argument contributing their input. Some argue that people should be free of any form of surveillance, in order to honor the sentiments of our forefathers and those who founded this nation. Others argue (and quite cynically too) that people need surveillance in order to be kept in check, that security triumphs privacy. Whichever side you find yourself on, consider a world that has indeed been completely restructured, so that people are constantly under surveillance. Consider a world in which an individual’s destiny is preordained prenatally. Consider a world where all stimuli are eradicated, only to be replaced by mindless, pleasure inducing drugs. Consider, and know that our society is inching ever so closer to this world found in A Brave New World.
In A Brave New World, everyone is happy, content with his or her small life and worthless, planned, daily routines. The main protagonist, Bernard Marx, is dissatisfied with the world around him, and knows that something is not right with the sullen world, he just does not know how to act on it.
"I want to know what passion is," she heard him saying. "I want to feel something strongly." (Huxley, 6.1.60)
Bernard is terribly unhappy about his current situation, and especially how he observes the world acts. He not only wants to feel something, but to feel it intensely. He could easily take a gram of soma7, induce a paroxysm of bliss, and be done with his sadness. Yet Bernard believes that this is not the way to go.
"Of course it does. Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the over-compensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn't nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand." (Huxley, 16.37)
Mustapha Mond is speaking in the above line. Mustapha is responsible for running the organized world society, and has his own philosophies to add to the demands of the reader. Happiness is never truly grand. All happiness is, according to Mustapha, is a dull, mediocre lifestyle that never has any excited release. Yet it keeps the people of A Brave New World content, and the majority of the people choose to lead on this lifestyle. However, these people are inescapably brainwashed. Ignorance is commonplace in this society, as underscored by the complete accord to not demand choices in life. To the people in A Brave New World, knowledge is sacrificed for happiness, which yields total ignorance on any matter within the real world.
In this case, happiness is entirely obtained through sacrificing knowledge. It is a common saying in our own society that “ignorance is bliss.” This may be so, however it is not without any consequences. Just as Thoreau discovered that connecting to one’s roots elicits happiness, so too does the absence of knowledge. Jnanadeva purported that when knowledge is absent, ignorance must compensate in its stead. Using these two assertions, happiness is then therefore the result of resolution: in order to be happy, something inside of us must be able to resolve the misfortunes of an everyday routine. Thoreau found it through nature–the people of Huxley’s A Brave New World found it through total and utter bliss.
Part VIII: Finding Meaning in Hell

At various moments in time do we find ourselves momentarily lost, searching for any semblance of meaning that may brighten our own lives. By achieving our purposes, we perceive to have inherited a greater quality of life. Perhaps this is the result of our own determination, yet what happens to our pursuit of fulfillment when all seems lost?

Hitler and commanders saluting (Reuters)
In 1933 Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany. Soon after, his National Socialist German Workers’ Party, (henceforth the Nazi party) pervaded the broken German government, ushering in draconian rule by fear and sheer jingoism. One could argue that the people in Germany were inured by the political onslaught, and bent to believe whatever propaganda was spread. macintosh hd:private:var:folders:71:7nmm1vr9319bqqf_h6txwjfm0000gn:t:temporaryitems:nazi-party-hero-h.jpeg

By the latter part of 1933, the Nazi party instituted a number of laws that banned Jews, Marxists, Gypsies, and other non-Arian peoples from participating in law, government, and basic societal functions. Soon, those who did not flee found themselves crammed in a cattle car, bound for what survivors would later remark as hell: the concentration camps.

In order to fully understand the brutality that occurred within the camps, it is important to hear the stories of the survivors. The focus of this paper is to determine that which makes us happy, knowledgeable, and overall human. Many of these survivors found meaning within the concentration camps to not just continue living, but to survive.

icture of the sign at the entrance of auschwitz that reads arbeit macht frei.

Entrance gate for Auschwitz (Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi War Crimes, courtesy of USHMM Photo) Archives.

Viktor Frankl is one such Holocaust survivor. As an Austrian Jew, he held a well paying job practicing psychiatry and neurology in Vienna. In 1942 Frankl was arrested and transported with his wife and parents to the camps. After three years, the Allied Forces liberated the camp. By then, most of Frankl’s family, including his pregnant wife, had perished. Only Viktor survived, and he remarked a number of occasions when he had to decide whether he would live or die, that he would have to continue to find meaning in order to find resilience in the reality he had been forced into.

Frankl concluded that the difference between those who had lived and those who had died came down to one thing: Meaning. Those who found it were more resilient, because they would not give into the experiments or cruelty of the Nazi regime. Frankl wrote in his book Man’s Search for Meaning:

"Everything can be taken from a man but one thing…the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." (Frankl, 11).

This powerful statement really underscores the strength of the human spirit, as well as underlines how the survivors of the Holocaust found the ability to continue living. Frankl worked as a therapist within the camps, and recalls two hopeless individuals who had lost their purpose, and therefore saw no more meaning in life. Frankl writes in his book,

"In both cases it was a question of getting them to realize that life was still expecting something from them; something in the future was expected of them. For one man, it was his young child, who was then living in a foreign country. For the other, a scientist, it was a series of books that he needed to finish." (Frankl, 64).

For some, happiness was usurped by death. Many never had the time to follow Frankl’s wisdom.

Prisoners from Buchenwald awaiting execution in the forest near the camp. (1938 - 1940)

Photograph from the Lorenz Schmuhl Collection, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives.
macintosh hd:private:var:folders:71:7nmm1vr9319bqqf_h6txwjfm0000gn:t:temporaryitems:buchenwald11.jpg

Frankl concludes that happiness cannot be pursued; it must be ensued. One must have a reason to be happy, and allow that to expand into a salubrious harmonization of bliss. In order to be happy, according to Frankl, do not let the circumstances around you affect your condition, but instead, let your condition affect that which is around you.

Photograph courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives

American soldiers escort several hundred children from Buchenwald, a liberated concentration camp. Elie Wiesel is amongst these children, fourth child left column.
macintosh hd:private:var:folders:71:7nmm1vr9319bqqf_h6txwjfm0000gn:t:temporaryitems:buchenwald25.jpg

Part IX: Conclusion

Over two thousand years ago, as Socrates and Glaucon strolled through the picturesque hills and plains of Athens, the same topics that we have parsed, they also have parsed; the same topics that we constantly think about, they also have thought about. To an extent, happiness, knowledge, and meaning are intertwined in that which we call the human spirit. It is unequivocal that in order to lead a purposeful life, one must ensue, not pursue, that which makes one happy.
Plato indoctrinated the perception of our own reality, allowing thinkers of his time to fully recognize that an individual’s pursuit of knowledge will increase the weight of their satiation. Jnanadeva concluded from natural observation that ignorance and knowledge are in fact interwoven along the fabrics of causality, duality, and destiny. Poe expressed the dangers of sheer bliss, and that passion and pride in one’s journey may lead to the total impeding of progress. Thoreau expressed that the simpler things in life create an opportunity for one to be happy. Gertner evaluated our own fallacies on the perception of happiness, and how we are always under the conditioning of the brain. Yet, we ourselves are able to determine the condition of our happiness, no matter the happenstance. Huxley opened the eyes of the world, and declared that knowledge is invaluable, that blind ignorance and empty bliss are far more inferior to that of true awareness. Those thrown into the indignations of the Holocaust had to make a choice: find meaning or find death. Viktor Frankl came to the conclusion based off of his own survivor experience that the determination to fulfill purpose allowed any seedlings of hope to be planted in the hearts of the survivors.
Nurture, and grow that which you find your heart aching with passion. I presume no answers as to the inquiries of such an ephemeral enigma; I am but a mere iota, speck, and flicker in the endless flame that we call the human spirit. I have gathered my research, and I hope you have found something useful as well. Although my own ideas will one day be laid to rest with me, my contributions, revelations, and influences will continue to be a part of a never-ending conversation, an endless pursuit of happiness, a ceaseless journey for knowledge, and a timeless search for that which makes us human.
I am happy.

Works Citedmacintosh hd:private:var:folders:71:7nmm1vr9319bqqf_h6txwjfm0000gn:t:temporaryitems:prometheus-fire.jpg

Frankl, Viktor E. Man's Search for Meaning. Boston: Beacon, 2006. Print.

Gertner, Jon. The Futile Pursuit of Happiness - The New York Times (n.d.): n. pag. The New York Times. 3 Sept. 2007. Web.

Huxley, Aldous. A Brave New World. New York: Harper & Bros., 1946. Print.

Jnanadeva. "Knowledge and Ignorance." Trans. Swami Abhyayananda. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Print.

McQuade, Donald, and Robert Atwan. The Writer's Presence: A Pool of Readings. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000. Print.

Plato, and H. D. P. Lee. The Republic. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974. Print.

Poe, Edgar Allan, Arthur Hobson Quinn, and Edward O'Neill. "The Happiest Day, The Happiest Hour." The Complete Poems and Stories of Edgar Allan Poe: With Selections from His Critical Writings. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1967. N. pag. Print.

Smith, Emily Esfahani. "There's More to Life Than Being Happy." The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 09 Jan. 2013. Web. 10 June 2014.

Thoreau, Henry David, and Gordon Sherman Haight. Walden. Roslyn, NY: Walter J. Black, 1942. Print.

VanSpanckeren, Kathryn. "IIP Digital | U.S. Department of State." The Romantic Period, 1820-1860: Essayists and Poets. N.p., 10 Oct. 2013. Web. 10 June 2014.

1 Aristotle’s school

2 Plato was a heavy influence on Aristotle’s philosophies

3 Glaucon was Socrates’s uncle, also a prominent thinker in Greece.

4 Both the Ramayana and Mahabharata deal with the reincarnation of the Hindu Preserver God, Vishnu. The two holy books emphasize the triumph of good over evil, as well as the fabric of human righteousness.

4b A white crystalline substance

55 1770-1860, American Romanticism was both a literary and cultural movement inspired by ambitious works of writing and thinking.

6 Slang for a British soldier, used most often during the American Revolutionary War (1775-83)

7 A fictional drug that induces a sort of “happiness high.” Soma can be compared to that of Opium.

Theorizing Poly-vocal Existentialism


Download 76.66 Kb.

Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright © 2023
send message

    Main page