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Our strength, more than any other thing we possess, still determines the quality and the quantity of our time here in these bodies. Whereas previously our physical strength determined how much food we ate and how warm and dry we stayed, it now merely determines how well we function in these new surroundings we have crafted for ourselves as our culture has accumulated. But we are still animals – our physical existence is, in the final analysis, the only one that actually matters. A weak man is not as happy as that same man would be if he were strong. This reality is offensive to some people who would like the intellectual or spiritual to take precedence. It is instructive to see what happens to these very people as their squat strength goes up.
Mark Rippetoe, Starting Strength

Mankind is a self-domesticated animal; a mammal; an ape; a social ape; an ape in which the male takes the iniative in courtship and females usually leave the society of their birth; an ape in which men are predators, women herbivorous foragers; an ape in which males are relatively hierarchical, females relatively egalitarian; an ape in which males contribute unusually large amounts of investment in the upbringing of their offspring by provisioning their mates and their children with food, protection, and company; an ape in which monogamous pair bonds are the rule but many males have affairs and occasional males achieve polygamy; an ape in which females mated to low-ranking males often cuckold their husbands in order to gain access to the genes of higher-ranking males; an ape that has been subject to unusually intense mutual sexual selection so that many of the features of the female body (lips, breasts, waists) and the mind of both sexes (songs, competitive ambition, status seeking) are designed for use in competition for mates; an ape that has developed an extraordinary range of new instincts to learn by association, to communicate by speech, and to pass on traditions. But still an ape.
Matt Ridley, The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature

Polytheists may be jealous of their gods, but they are not missionaries. Without monotheism, humankind would surely still have been one of the most violent animals, but it would have been spared wars of religion. If the world had remained polytheist, it could not have produced communism or “global democratic capitalism”.

In The Soul of the Ape, Eugene Marais – himself a morphine addict – showed that wild chacma baboons used intoxicants to disrupt the tedium of ordinary consciousness. In times of plenty when many other fruits were easily available, they went out of their way to eat a rare plumlike fruit, after which they showed all the signs of intoxication. Summarising his findings, which are supported by later research, Marais wrote: “The habitual use of poisons for the purpose of inducing euphoria – a feeling of mental wellbeing and happiness – is a universal remedy for the pain of consciousness.”

John Gray, Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals

Health so far outweighs all external goods that a healthy beggar is truly more fortunate than a king in poor health. A calm and cheerful temperament resulting from perfect health and a lucky bodily organization, a clear, lively, penetrating and accurately comprehending understanding, a moderate, gentle will, and consequently a good conscience – these are advantages for which no rank or wealth can compensate. For what somebody is in himself, what accompanies him in solitude, and what nobody can give him or take away from him, is obviously more essential to him than anything that he possesses or that he may be in the eyes of others. A witty person, all alone, has excellent entertainment in his own thoughts and fantasies, whereas in a dullard the continuous diversion of parties, plays, excursions, and amusements cannot fend off the torments of boredom. A good, moderate, gentle character can be contented in meagre circumstances, whereas a greedy, envious, and malicious one is not in spite of all his wealth. Indeed, for the person who continuously enjoys an extraordinary, intellectually eminent personality, most of the generally desired pleasures are entirely superfluous, even just troublesome and annoying.

That person has drawn the happiest lot who lives his life without too much pain, mental and physical; but not the one who was accorded the most vivid delights and the greatest pleasures. Whoever wishes to calculate the happiness of the course of his life according to the latter has seized upon the wrong criterion. For pleasures are and remain negative; that they make us happy is a delusion entertained by envy for its own punishment. On the other hand, pain is felt positively; therefore, its absence is the criterion of happiness in life. And if a painless state is joined with the absence of boredom, earthly happiness has been essentially achieved; for everything else is a chimera. Now from this it follows that we should never purchase pleasures for the price of pain, indeed, not even for the risk of it, because otherwise we pay with something positive and real for something negative and hence chimerical. In contrast, we remain on the winning side when we sacrifice pleasures in order to avoid pain.

Arthur Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena

It is really most absurd to wish to turn this scene of misery into a pleasure spot and set ourselves the goal of achieving pleasures and joys instead of freedom from pain, as so many do. Those who, with too gloomy a gaze, regard this world as a kind of hell and, accordingly, are only concerned with procuring a fireproof room in it, are much less mistaken. The fool runs after the pleasures of life and sees himself cheated; the sage avoids evils. But if even this should fail, then it is the fault of fate, not of his foolishness. However, insofar as he succeeds, he has not been cheated; for the evils that he evades are very real. Even if he should have gone too far in avoiding them and unnecessarily sacrificed enjoyments, nothing is really lost; for all pleasures are chimerical, and to mourn over missing out on them would be petty, indeed ridiculous.

When you come into contact with a man, no matter whom, do not attempt an objective appreciation of him according to his worth and dignity. Do not consider his bad will, or his narrow understanding and perverse ideas; as the former may easily lead you to hate and the latter to despise him; but fix your attention only upon his sufferings, his needs, his anxieties, his pains. Then you will always feel your kinship with him; you will sympathise with him; and instead of hatred or contempt you will experience the commiseration that alone is the peace to which the Gospel calls us. The way to keep down hatred and contempt is certainly not to look for a man’s alleged “dignity,” but, on the contrary, to regard him as an object of pity.

If you want a safe compass to guide you through life, and to banish all doubt as to the right way of looking at it, you cannot do better than accustom yourself to regard this world as a penitentiary, a sort of a penal colony. If you accustom yourself to this view of life you will regulate your expectations accordingly, and cease to look upon all its disagreeable incidents, great and small, its sufferings, its worries, its misery, as anything unusual or irregular; nay, you will find that everything is as it should be, in a world where each of us pays the penalty of existence in his own peculiar way.

Arthur Schopenhauer, Studies in Pessimism

Individuality is a far more important thing than nationality, and in any given man deserves a thousand-fold more consideration. And since you cannot speak of national character without referring to large masses of people, it is impossible to be loud in your praises and at the same time honest. National character is only another name for the particular form which the littleness, perversity, and baseness of mankind take in every country. If we become disgusted with one, we praise another, until we get disgusted with this too. Every nation mocks at other nations, and all are right. [Likewise for cities, companies, ethnicities, occupations, states, universities, etc. – Dan]

When we see that almost everything men devote their lives to attain, sparing no effort and encountering a thousand toils and dangers in the process, has, in the end, no further object than to raise themselves in the estimation of others; when we see that not only offices, titles, decorations, but also wealth, nay, even knowledge and art, are striven for only to obtain, as the ultimate goal of all effort, greater respect from one’s fellowmen,–is not this a lamentable proof of the extent to which human folly can go? To set much too high a value on other people’s opinion is a common error everywhere; an error, it may be, rooted in human nature itself, or the result of civilization, and social arrangements generally; but, whatever its source, it exercises a very immoderate influence on all we do, and is very prejudicial to our happiness.

There is not much to be got anywhere in the world. It is filled with misery and pain; and if a man escapes these, boredom lies in wait for him at every corner. Nay more; it is evil which generally has the upper hand, and folly makes the most noise. Fate is cruel, and mankind is pitiable. In such a world as this, a man who is rich in himself is like a bright, warm, happy room at Christmastide, while without are the frost and snow of a December night. Therefore, without doubt, the happiest destiny on earth is to have the rare gift of a rich individuality, and, more especially to be possessed of a good endowment of intellect; this is the happiest destiny, though it may not be, after all, a very brilliant one.

Arthur Schopenhauer, The Wisdom of Life