Sunday, February 08, 2009

Choices: The Schopenhauer Cure

My next item on the reading list was "The Schopenhauer Cure" by Irvin Yalom. Aside from a Psych text book here or there I haven't read any of Yalom's literary work thus far (and I probably should). This is also the case with Schopenhauer, a 19th century German philosopher, the absent but very dominant character and force throughout the book.

In short, the book tells the story of an aging psychiatrist, focusing on his final year of leading a relationships working therapy group, as he is slowly dying from cancer. He introduces a new participant to the group, a former patient (or is it client?) that while under his care failed to show any improvement in his sex addiction, but now claims he's been cured by the philosophical insights of Schopenhauer.

The real crux of the tale, I think, is the desired nature of relationships, if one exists. According to Philip, the new participant in the group, life is full of suffering and pain, and similarly to Buddhist thought, some of these hurts are born out of attachments (such as relationships). Therefore, one has to cultivate himself and withdraw from life, living as an observer without taking an active part of life (as it will only lead to more pain).

Opposite of this misanthropic view (of philosophy), Yalom places psychology, almost horrified at the idea of the normal view of man's relations to himself and those around him would be challenged. But such a challenge does take place (to Yalom's credit), even if very subtly and in a somewhat watered down and biased way. While the obvious engineered outcome is clear from the start, there are some moments of hesitations and doubt, enriching the psychological starting point view with new perspectives, for those willing to listen and learn.

This post's songs are about the quest for a cure, from all sorts of pains and ailments. The first is from avant-garde jazz band The Bad Plus, and the other is from indie rock band Dawn Chorus. Both tracks will be hosted for a very limited time and are intended for an introductory purpose only.

Check out The Bad Plus on their website, blog, MySpace and pages. Buy their album here.
Also give Dawn Chorus a listen on their MySpace and pages.

The Bad Plus - Radio Cure {MP3} (from For All I Care, originally by Wilco)
Dawn Chorus - I'm Cured! {MP3} (from Florida St. Serenade)

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