On the source of unhappiness

Because I am free and free to imagine, I am unhappy.

But what does it mean to be not-free? To be conscious necessarily means to be free, since the thinking of thoughts is by its very nature an act of freedom. This is of course, assuming that freedom consists of the belief that you can act one way or another, according to your drives and passions. Whether freedom is an illusion is irrelevant; so as long as you believe you are free, that is sufficient.

To be conscious then means to be unhappy. And conversely, to be unconscious means to be happy. But consciousness is what gives us identity, it is the vessel into which experience flows. Without consciousness, there would be no “I”, and subsequently, no point in talking about unhappiness; since unhappiness requires an agent.

Suppose then that consciousness is necessary. Does being conscious necessarily lead to unhappiness? That is the question that must be answered.

To be free is to be unhappy? Is freedom really the source of our unhappiness? If I were not free, could I be impervious to unhappiness? Supposing I were made a slave, shackled at every joint and constantly under fierce instruction, surely I would be unhappy? But no, I am only unhappy because I know that I can be free; because I can consciously and freely form the idea of myself being free; I can imagine what it is like to be free and upon realizing the state of my confinement, I feel deprived, and thereupon arises the feelings of unhappiness. Thus, even as a slave, I am still free. To be completely un-free is to be, as described above, unconscious. The same problem befuddles us.

Is to be free to be unhappy? Indeed, freedom is the basis of our existence, for without freedom, there is no consciousness, no self. To therefore say that freedom is the source of our unhappiness is to say, almost pointlessly, that our existence is the source of moral evils. Freedom is the precondition for our unhappiness, but not necessarily the cause.

The prowess of our imagination determines the extent of unhappiness? For if I can imagine what I could have (but do not) with incredible vivacity, insofar as I am able to live in the dream; experience, as it were almost in reality, the tendrils of pleasure; then find a little while after the imagining mind tires, that none of it is true, I shall surely feel deprived; and thereupon arises the feelings of unhappiness.

The eloquence of sorrow

Tell the unhappy man that he ought to give up his unhappy books and go to those livelier, more joyful ones, and he shall not listen further to a word you say. For you do not understand him and his unhappiness. His unhappiness is invincible, and is as much a part of himself as is his soul; without his unhappiness, he would be no one; he takes pride in his unhappiness, holds it up like a silver plague, both wishing the world to see it and contriving to hide it behind vague metaphors and allusions. The unhappy wants to be unhappy and no one can convince him out of it. “But is it not so tormenting on the soul?” Asks one. Indeed it is, but the unhappy man cannot resist remaining in his unhappiness; it is his drug, his religion, his God. So all the unhappy man can and wishes to do is to continue to drown himself in all forms of unhappiness. He reads all the unhappiest books he can find, and listens to all the unhappiest music, and finds the outward unhappiness resonating with his inward unhappiness; and though he is far from the agreeable feelings of joy, he knows that he is at least close to himself, whereupon he finds himself.

Perhaps it is better to not have tasted joy than to have tasted it and have it leave you a short while later. Perhaps it is better to remain in the equilibrium where nothing happens; where emotion lies in dormancy; where the soul stares into a void; where the heart yearns for nothing, desires nothing; where passion is never birthed. A deprived passion is too much to handle.

Perhaps I really am strange; and the things that I talk about are strange, and only those to whom I am close have the fortitude and patience to withstand the strangeness of my talk. Thus, when I tried to talk to a new person, either I wouldn’t know how to proceed in conversation, or I start talking in such a strange manner that the person eventually walks away. Perhaps, the strangeness, which I have too often imagined to be alluring, is in fact repulsive. Perhaps that is why…

What breeds this unhappiness? Was it always somewhere within me; but only now, having found form in words? When I was younger, was I always unhappy too? Maybe I was too naive to realise my unhappiness, or could find no expression for it, and so shook it off as nonsense of the mind. Am I bound to be unhappy all my life? Worse still, am I bound to never know the reasons for my unhappiness? I am as unhappy as any man can be, and I don’t know why.

Because unhappiness is infinite and infinitely inventive, I cannot escape it. I keep yearning for more.