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Saturday, August 2, 2014


The great German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) stresses the importance of being happy, echoing the words of the Hindu Avatar Krishna, who 5,000 years ago advised Arjuna to above all else "Be of good cheer."

Cheerfulness, Schop says, is a direct and immediate gain. "The very coin, as it were, of happiness, and not, like all else, merely a check upon the bank; for it alone makes us immediately happy in the present moment, and that is the highest blessing for beings like us, whose existence is but an infinitesimal moment between two eternities."

Being cheerful should be the supreme aim of all our endeavors. According to Schopenhauer, nothing contributes so little to cheerfulness as money, or so much, as health. Consequently we should try as much as possible to maintain a high degree of health; for cheerfulness is the very flower of it.

What does Schopenhauer advise as the key to health, and therefore cheerfulness? In his words: "Avoid every kind of excess, all violent and unpleasant emotion, all mental overstrain, take a cold bath every now and then, and be sure to take daily exercise in the open air." 

Without a proper amount of daily exercise no one can remain healthy. As Aristotle rightly says, "Life is movement; it is its very essence."

Schopenhauer continues: "Ceaseless and rapid motion goes on in every part of the organism. The heart, with its complicated double systole and diastole, beats strongly and untiringly; with twenty-eight beats it has to drive the whole of the blood through arteries, veins and capillaries; the lungs pump like a steam-engine, without intermission; the intestines are always in peristaltic action; the glands are all constantly absorbing and secreting; even the brain has a double motion of its own, with every beat of the pulse and every breath we draw.

"When people can get no exercise at all, as is the case with the countless numbers who are condemned to a sedentary life, there is a glaring and fatal disproportion between outward inactivity and inner tumult. For this ceaseless internal motion requires some external counterpart, and the want of it produces effects like those of emotion which we are obliged to suppress. Even trees must be shaken by the wind, if they are to thrive."

He goes on to write in his Wisdom of Life: "Men are not influenced by things, but by their thoughts about things. And, in general, nine-tenths of our happiness depends upon health alone. With health, everything is a source of pleasure; without it, nothing else, whatever it may be, is enjoyable; even the other personal blessings,—a great mind, a happy temperament—are degraded and dwarfed for want of it. It follows from all this that the greatest of follies is to sacrifice health for any other kind of happiness, whatever it may be, for gain, advancement, learning or fame, let alone, then, for fleeting sensual pleasures. Everything else should rather be postponed to it."

So don't postpone the opportunity to exercise today and tomorrow and always thereafter. Your very happiness, the supreme aim of life and your innate nature, depends on it!

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