Saturday, September 12, 2015

"the schopenhauer cure"

This book by Irvin Yalom was referenced here on September 4th as his book "Creature of a Day" was the focus of a comment.  "the schopenhauer cure" is certainly not of the stature of Yalom's other major novel "When Nietzsche Wept".  That was a brilliant work of historical fiction published in 1992 that could make the reader feel as if late 19th century Vienna was alive now. With that said,  "the schopenhauer cure" still is an exceptional book.  It is set in the early 2000's Palo Alto area and was published in 2005.

There are three parts to this book that are interwoven.  One is the story and thoughts of psychiatrist and therapy group leader, the 66 year old Julius, who learns that he has terminal cancer and maybe only a good year to live.  Then there is the seven member group itself, run by dexterity and serious thought by Julius, the only part of the book that can become a slight bit tedious. The other piece is an ongoing view of the work of Arthur Schopenhauer, a predecessor of the thought of Neitzsche and Freud.

The book begins with the thought from Neitzsche that one should live life"in such a way as to be willing to live the same life eternally".  That seems like an opening for an afterlife but that is never the message of this book.  One of the main characters laments " why can't I do what I really want to do?", rather than fall into a pattern of addiction(take your pick, sex in this instance) that is all encompassing.  When that doesn't work out, he falls into his hotel bedroom reading, relaxed and for once lets it pass.

There were many personal aspects of this book.  I quote, "Though everyone agrees that life is one goddamned loss after another, few know that one of the most aggravating losses awaiting us in later decades is that of a good night's sleep.  Julius knew that lesson all too well.  His typical night consisted of tissue-thin dozing which almost never entered the realm of deep, blessed delta-wave slumber, a sleep that was interrupted by so many awakenings that he often dreaded going to bed."

One could wonder "why read such a book?".  For this reader it was an amazing source of insight. That does not mean happiness, but it does mean a great sense of relief.  It helped with the understanding of past compulsions.  It highlighted the role of "consequences" to all actions.

For those with the time, patience, and maybe the pathology required, this book is exceptional.

The comment on this book is by no means complete.  There is so much there.  Each to his own.

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