Schopenhauer Was Right: Part 1

The other evening, I listened to Zen Arcade (Husker Du for those lacking cognizance and/or familiarity with the state of punk circa 1984), and was quickly transported back to my freshman year in college. Zen Arcade came out in July of 84 as did Double Nickels On The Dime (Minuteman for those lacking….oh nevermind). Looking back, July was a remarkable month considering how seminal both of these efforts proved to be.

My freshman year of college saw many transitions in my personal development. I began college as a pre-dental major, but in short time came to a sad realization that molars, incisors and bicuspids were not nearly as compelling as Freud, Sarte and rock and roll. Fast forwarding a bit to 1986, after brief dalliances with history, theology and pastoral studies (I’ll discuss this another time), I finally settled upon philosophy as the major most likely to guarantee my future unemployment.

In 1984, I attended the University of Minnesota. The U of M is split into east and west banks separated by the Mississippi river and connected by a bi-level bridge allowing for car traffic below and pedestrian traffic above. In December of 1984, while crossing this bridge to attend a class on the west bank, I noticed a new piece of graffiti sprayed on a small, square piece of wall lining the enclosure through which students cross back and forth. It was a short message written with white paint that read, “Schopenhauer was right!” I stopped in my tracks, and began staring as if at a newly found form of tropical insect or bird. Just prior to stopping, I had put a cassette of Zen Arcade into my walkman, and so there I was, staring curiously at this unintelligible declaration in front of me while the opening chords of “Something I Learned Today” ripped through my headphones. I’d never heard of Schopenhauer, so I couldn’t attest to the rightness or wrongness of his utterances. I thought to myself, “Who is Schopenhauer, and what does he have to be right about?” I needed to find out.

I remember the air that day was bitterly cold, and my breath rolled from my nostrils like an avalanche of hoarfrost as I stood there transfixed. This was the first of many touchstone moments to come during my collegiate years. I removed a pen and notebook from my backpack, wrote down the inscription, and continued on to class. That night, I went to the Wilson Library on campus, and checked out The World As Will and Representation. A bit overmatched was I given my youth and unfamiliarity with philosophical nomenclature. Nevertheless, I never looked at the world through the same eyes again.

To be continued….

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