Sunday 12 January 2020

From Bertrand Russell's "The Conquest of Happiness"


External discipline is the only road to happiness for those unfortunates whose self-absorption is too profound to be cured in any other way. 

To all the talented young men who wander about feeling that there is nothing in the world for them to do, I should say: ‘Give up trying to write, and, instead, try not to write. Go out into the world; become a pirate, a king in Borneo, a labourer in Soviet Russia; give yourself an existence in which the satisfaction of elementary physical needs will occupy all your energies.’ I do not recommend this course of action to everyone, but only those who suffer from the disease that Mr Krutch diagnoses. I believe that, after some years of such an existence, the ex-intellectual will find that in spite of his efforts he can no longer refrain from writing, and when the time comes his writing will not seem to him futile. 

If you ask any man in America, or any man in business in England, what it is that interferes most with his enjoyment of existence, he will say: “The struggle for life”. He will say this in all sincerity; he will believe it. In a certain sense it is true; yet in another, and that a very important sense, it is profoundly false.....What people mean, therefore, by the struggle for life is really the struggle for success. What people fear when they engage in the struggle is not that they will fail to get their breakfast next morning, but that they will fail to outshine their neighbours. 

My own belief is that a concious thought can be planted into the unconscious if a sufficient amount of vigour and intensity is put into it… I have found for example, that if I have to write upon some rather difficult topic the best plan is to think about it with very great intensity – the greatest intensity with which I am capable – for a few hours or days, and at the end of that time give orders, so to speak, that the work is to proceed underground.After some months I return conciously to the topic and find that the work has been done…

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