This recording of Alain de Botton’s talk on pessimism posted on vimeo is a refreshing change from the often promulgated notion that happiness and success are within the palm of your hand if only you try hard enough or buy the right book. That if they are not what you are experiencing then something has gone wrong…you have failed… and that those who have the good things have got them solely by their own efforts. He suggests that, in fact, these might not be the worthwhile goals of life; that sadness fully experienced is of value and there is a cheapening of one’s humanity in brushing it aside.
From a deep dharma perspective all experiences are empty therefore they can be fully felt, and their richness experienced, without fear of being overwhelmed. Each experience then naturally dissolves making way for the next.
The greater the range of tolerance to the experiences, the greater the compassion available as this brings a reduction in the ‘turning away’ from the undesirable or desire for fusion with the ‘desirable’. Any attempt to push experience away (avoidance) or to hang on to it (grasping) means a separation from the flow of experience and the creation of a false position (knitted from the experiences – thoughts feelings and sensations) and with that a sense of continuity, of substance, to both experience and experiencer.
It looks like James recommended it and i hope it lifts your… errm… spirits!
P.S The picture is of Sisyphus (see Camus on pessimism)