Envy is an emotion which occurs when a person lacks another’s superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it.Aristotle defined envy as pain at the sight of another’s good fortune, stirred by
“those who have what we ought to have.”
My latest philosophical ‘crush’, if you haven’t guessed it by now, is Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön.
One of the many, many reasons why she resonates is that she is teaching & guiding me to investigate, and query, with kindness, aspects of my being that I’m either unaware of, or plainly ignoring.
Her methods and advice provide simple, practical tools to not only query ‘self’, but how I can learn to embrace & befriend the parts of me that I’ve kept at arms-length for god knows how long.
To quote the ‘laureate of American lowlife’ Charles Bukowski “we must, must bring our own light to the darkness”...and this is exactly what Pema is gently helping me to do.
Two chapters from her book’s The Wisdom of No Escape and The Places That Scare You discuss the the potential benefits of looking into both our past ‘regrets’ and, ‘what we envy’.
Two things that would of neither crossed my mind to do, or considered worthwhile…thinking like that was the exact reason why I’ve started.
It’s an incredibly interesting process, and at times both confronting & surprising what has ‘come up’…and quite honestly, if someone had asked me if i had regrets, or was ever envious my response would of been, up to only a couple of weeks ago, my most likely cavalier at best.
Anyways, this reflective-process led me to an earlier analysis of envy by another philosopher from another mother Friedrich Nietzsche, which I thought was worth sharing.
So in my best efforts to keep this article to a 5 minute read…over to you Fred
Envy is – Nietzsche recognised – a huge part of life.
Yet we’re generally taught to feel ashamed of our envious feelings. So we hide them from ourselves and others, so much so that there are people who will sometimes say, with all sincerity, that they don’t envy anyone.
Nietzsche insisted that because we live in the modern world, this is logically impossible. Mass democracy and the end of the feudal-aristocratic age created a perfect breeding ground for envious feeling, because everyone was now encouraged to feel that they were equal to everyone else.
In feudal times, it would of never have occurred to the serf to feel envious of a prince.
But now everyone compared themselves to everyone else and was exposed to a volatile mixture of ambition and inadequacy as a result.
However, there is nothing wrong with envy, maintains the philosopher.
What matters is how we handle it.
Greatness comes from being able to learn from our envious cries.
Nietzsche thought of envy as a confused but important signal from our deeper selves about what we really want and need. Everything that makes us envious is a fragment of our true protential, which we disown at our own peril.
We should learn to study our envy forensically, keeping a diary of envious moments, and then sift through episodes to discern the shape of a better futurself.
The envy we don’t own up to will otherwise end up emitting, what Nietzsche called, ‘sulphurous odours.’ Bitterness is envy that doesn’t understand itself. He insists, which I love, that we must become conscious of our true potential, put up a heroic fight to honour it, and only then mourn failure with solemn frankness and dignified honesty.
[Note & Reference: This information was copied from the highly recommended book The School of Life ]
What do you think, agree with the Nietzsche?