‘Life swings like a pendulum – backward and forward between pain and boredom.” Wrote our beloved German poodle-lover: Schopenhauer.
At the center of this depressing picture is desire. Your feelings of desire will lead either to suffering, if they are not fulfilled, or boredom, once they have been fulfilled.
This sentence actually goes further: it exemplifies quite nicely the Marxist dual-class struggle. The rich, the bourgeois, will live mostly a life of boredom as money can buy everything, while the masses will have to endure a whole life of pain for they will never be able to reach their goals…
When I first stumbled upon Schopenhauer’s metaphorical definition of life, I could not help but wonder if his reasoning could be applied towards being a mother.
The desire of becoming a mother
I have felt my reproductive clock ticking away since I was 25, accompanied by some moments of sadness as I doubted if I would ever fulfill that specific desire.
A woman who wants a child and is without one, endures terrible distress. In this case, the sentiment of emptiness is so substantial that it can even manifest itself physically.
And as for us, the lucky ones, once we have had our desired child, do we then become bored?
Hmmm we do yawn… a lot! Constantly, actually! However, we cannot say it is caused by boredom. We do experience moments of ennui, but for the most part, a feeling of tiredness dominates.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not always think that everything I do with my bébé is thrilling – for instance watching her shove a square into a round hole…shoot me! It’s the second most tedious activity I’ve ever had to bear witness to, right behind filling up someone else’s Excel sheet. But like most mothers, boredom is not how we would qualify motherhood.
Spinoza to the rescue
Contrary to Schopi’s delightful vision that a satisfied desire can bring us only boredom or suffering, another philosopher, Spinoza, has a much more categorical and positive spin on desire: once one’s desire has been fulfilled, the next logical step is to go for another one. It is the ambition of continuance.
Spinoza would love to hear that as mothers we are always in movement, going from one project to another. Therefore, if we follow his reasoning we mothers should always feel and exude joy.
This would be true if we were cartoon characters on “happy pills”, like the Care Bears. Some of the biggest moments of joy as a mother come when we are not doing anything. Just watching our sleeping baby. Ah !
These two intellectuals and their diametrically opposed viewpoints on joy nevertheless agree that life is all about movement. They do not believe in the status quo. And if life becomes unbearably boring because all of our desires have been fulfilled, Schopenhauer does remind us a supposedly comforting thought: we will all be free again once we return to our initial states, the one before and after life, the void.
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