by Scott London
Schopenhauer, in a wonderful essay titled “On an Apparent Intention in the Fate of the Individual,” observed that when you reach an advanced age and look back over your life, it can appear as if it had a consistent order and plan, as though composed by some novelist. Events that seemed random, accidental, or of no more than fleeting significance turn out to be indispensable factors in the composition of a consistent plot. So who composed that plot? Schopenhauer suggested that just as our dreams are composed by an aspect of ourselves of which we’re unconscious, or only dimly aware, so too our entire lives our composed by the will within us. And just as chance encounters can turn into lucky breaks and change the course of our lives, so too do we serve as unwitting agents of change in the lives of others. The whole thing works together like a great big symphony, with everything unconsciously structuring everything else. As Schopenhauer saw it, our lives are like the features of the one great dream of a single dreamer in which all the dream characters dream, too, so that everything links to everything else, moved by the one will to life that is the universal will in nature.