Montaigne promises that if we know how to attend to it properly, life simply — not the philosophic life or the holy life or the heroic life, but simply life — can be enough to satisfy the longings of the human heart.

— Benjamin and Jenna Storey, Why We Are Restless: On the Modern Quest for Contentment


Nietzsche’s pessimism advises each of us individually to cobble together a meaning for life out of lesser goals, to organize small portions of the world ourselves — but with the ultimate result that, when these are gathered together, “the world might be far more valuable than we used to believe.” Finding the will to live is not a problem that admits of a universal solution — but the individual solutions we each can arrive at may, in any case, be more credible for us than a set of prefabricated values we are instructed to reenact.

Nietzsche’s inspiration here, as in so many other matters, is the example of a certain kind of art. Of course, his is not the romantic idea that art puts us in touch with greater truths or the Schopenhauerian belief in the artist’s “objectivity.” Rather art represents that organization of a small portion of an otherwise meaningless world that gives purpose to an individual existence. Art is the attempt to impose a temporary form on the inevitable transformation of the world; since the world must acquire some particular forms in its metamorphoses, art is “repeating in miniature, as it were, the tendency of the whole” — only now by an effort of will.

— Joshua Foa Dienstag, Pessimism: Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit