Delving into the Intangibles

   Le Ressentiment  

In Aesop’s fable, a hungry fox tries to reach some juicy grapes hanging high on a vine. After several failed attempts, however, the fox gives up and declares: “Oh, you aren’t even ripe yet! I don’t need any sour grapes.” The fox will never shed his bitterness or smoldering resentment.

“Ressentiment,” French for “resentment” (made up of the Latin prefix “re,” meaning “again,” and “sentir,” to feel), is a key term in the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. There it means the feeling of hostility toward something a person has identified as the cause of his frustration. Any dark emotion that lingers in the mind such as resentment, jealousy, or envy is always filled with negative Intangible power.

As a small schoolgirl, I kept asking myself, “Why am I poor at numbers? My friends can solve the problems easily. But I don’t think I’m stupid” or “Why is the teacher partial to that particular girl?” My bitter feelings did not go away even after graduation day.  Sometimes childhood traumas persist into adulthood. 

“Why am I the only one to deserve this punishment?” “Why should I have to put up with this problem for such a long time?” Everyone has harbored negative thoughts like these at least once in their lifetime. The nagging sentiment called “ressentiment” wells up not only in the minds of individuals but also in organizations, races, and nations, causing wars, conflicts, or ideological clashes.

Down the centuries, history’s pathway is potholed with episodes of war and conflicts between populations, and not only between neighboring countries but also, as we well know, between old rivals distantly separated.

I want to find the best way to overcome this corrosive sentiment––by dealing with it positively.

Do you drink your cares away? If so, you’ll wake up only to find that nothing has changed. Or do you drive a pin into a straw voodoo doll each day, seeking revenge? Even jealousy seems a lot healthier than the enemy “ressentiment,” which forever smolders, invisible, in a dark and craven mind.

The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-Tse, according to a book I read, dispensed with relative values such as beauty and ugliness, good and evil, high and low rank. His insight reminds us that there is no need to compare oneself with others. I heard that Nietzsche greatly respected the ideas of Lao-Tse. Nietzsche must have suffered much from the negative Intangible power of resentment during his life.

We must learn to make the effort to “forgive and forget”; otherwise happiness will slip between our fingers.

Do you feel weak and insignificant? There is no need to compare yourself with others: they don’t care one bit.

Dump your bulky rubbish as quickly as possible.
Be yourself, and be free.

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