4. What to do about anti-social behaviour

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Schopenhauer with his poodle I must admit that, just like my mother, I hate visitors, dinner parties and other such social gatherings. When guests arrived at our family home Martinshof my mother would always feign to have a headache and retire upstairs to the bedroom where she would happily spend all afternoon reading a book.

I too try to avoid such situations but occasionally find myself in one largely for politeness sake (although my behaviour at such occasions tend to belie that sentiment). I find the conversations invariably inconsequential, trivial and very very boring.
It is reassuring however that my mother and I (and I suspect many other intelligent introverts) are not alone in these anti-social feelings.

Take for example Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), who much preferred the company of his poodle (he had a succession of them throughout his life, and always addressed them as "Sir") instead of people :

"A man of genius can hardly be sociable, for what dialogue could indeed be so intelligent and entertaining as his own monologues?"

Although I certainly do not claim to be a genius, I share exactly Schopenhauer's sentiments and find the meaningless social prattle merely annoying "static" disturbing the flow of my own thoughts and a waste of my time.

Or take Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) who stated

"Really, there is nobody living about whom I care much. The people I like have been dead for a long, long time . . ."

With a few exceptions, I too feel a much greater affinity to some people long dead (Pythagoras, J S Bach, Erik Satie, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, some philosophers, writers, artists : who's achievements have enriched my life or helped me to comprehend my identity in the context of the universe), than most people living today.

I personally also interpret Nietzsche's (above) statement in a more positive and constructive way :

The true worth (to humanity) of an individual becomes often only apparent after his/her death.

Will my life have some worth for future generations? I don't know, but the chance is of course very small at best. Perhaps my ideas on music (much of it displayed on my Website) will survive the passage of time. That would certainly be nice.

Epicurus : logo of the Epicurus.info website Not surprisingly both Schopenhauer and Nietzsche were pessimists and considered life a sustained period of suffering (Schopenhauer : "It is bad today and every day it will get worse, until the worst of all happens".)

This is of course were I am in strong disagreement with both of them. I see life as a unique and wonderful opportunity to experience the world and universe around us. The two pessimists should have listened to Epicurus (341-270 BC) and make some good (living, human) friends in order to become happy.

To reconcile Schopenhauer and Nietzsche's (as well as my) attitude towards socialising with Epicurus's pursuit of happiness through having friends it is necessary to reassess the purpose of a social conversation.

John Gray It is here that I take my advice from John Gray ("Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus").

Contrary to men, for women it is
not important what is being said or discussed,
but that a conversation is taking place.

It is an important form of bonding. (an emotional human interaction)

Although not a woman, I too see most conversations from this perspective. However I prefer (and in fact very much enjoy) to have these exchanges on a one to one basis and avoid larger social groups whenever possible.

(Quotes of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche taken from The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton)

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