It was in the autumn of 1826. I was in a dull state of nerves, such as everybody is occasionally liable to; unsusceptible to enjoyment or pleasurable excitement; one of those moods when what is pleasure at other times, becomes insipid or indifferent; the state, I should think, in which converts to Methodism usually are, when smitten by their first “conviction of sin.” In this frame of mind it occurred to me to put the question directly to myself: “Suppose that all your objects in life were realized; that all the changes in institutions and opinions which you are looking forward to, could be completely effected at this very instant: would this be a great joy and happiness to you?” And an irrepressible self-consciousness distinctly answered, “No!” At this my heart sank within me: the whole foundation on which my life was constructed fell down. All my happiness was to have been found in the continual pursuit of this end. The end had ceased to charm, and how could there ever again be any interest in the means? I seemed to have nothing left to live for.
*The passage above comes from the Autobiography of John Stuart Mill.
I’ve been on a hiatus from writing. But I have prepared a ready made rationalization for you, my dear reader. I’ve been busy with mind-numbing and intellectually-crippling academic rites de passage. And it’s not getting pretty any time soon. I have still plenty of work left to do before I get accepted into the next stage of this bizarre initiation ceremony. Indeed, that would be true, if only this beautiful day had not come about. For today is the big day in my short lifespan on this dusty rock. I have made a choice, which still awaits its potential celebration and its final culmination. But I have a good gut feeling about it, and as you know, in life (concerning questions existentielles), it is not the dry logical arguments or sophisticated rhetoric but your gut that matters. I don’t know exactly what will happen next and where this choice leads me, but from now on I will walk comfortably in my shoes. I will play the hand I received, even if it lacks the quality of aces and kings. In the game of life where the rules are negotiated “on the spot” and the trumps are largely unknown, only a joker can succeed. I believe it was the great lawmaker Solon who has been quoted by Herodotus as saying: “But mark this: until he is dead, keep the word “happy” in reserve. Till then, he is not happy, but only lucky… No one while he lives is happy.”
Perhaps a little too pessimistic in this age of endless optimism and pursuit of happiness, is it not?