Schopenhauer needs a Clue

Given Schopenhauer's apparent attitude toward life, one may wonder why he waited as long as he did to die. Why not commit suicide and get it over with? In his own words:

Suicide... differs most widely from the denial of the will-to-live...
[it] is a phenomenon of the will's strong affirmation... The suicide
wills life, and is dissatisfied merely with the conditions on which it
has come to him.

Rather than endure a frustrating life, the will-to-live, that is, the petty will, opts to reject its life all together. Schopenhauer stresses that this is not done out of rejection of life per se, but out of rejection of the conditions of one's life. The petty will never intends to annihilate itself. Rather it seeks to escape to another life which shall be more agreeable. Schopenhauer asserts that this course of action fails to deal with the crux of the problem: the will-to-live is inherently self-contradictory, and so long as it is, its manifestations continue to struggle with each other, individual manifestations experience frustration and unhappiness as their general lot, and the release sought by the petty will is ultimately denied. For him, suicide is an exercise in futility.

According to Schopenhauer, the only way out of this endless cycled of misery is to dispense with the will-to-live all together. He admits this is easier said than done, but maintains it is indeed possible, and, if accomplished, assures the cessation of all the pain of life. It does away with the pleasure, too, but that cannot be helped; they are concomitant with the former and do not even equal the misery, anyway. How is the will-to-live to be disposed of? Schopenhauer states that a man who sees through the principium individuationis becomes repulsed by the will-to-live which is the "inner nature whose expression is his own phenomenon... the essence of the world recognized as full of misery...", and so he renounces it. It is not a hollow resolution, either; if he is serious about it, he

...ceases to will anything, guards against attaching his will to
anything, tries to establish firmly in himself the greatest
indifference to all things.

He will not affirm the will by expressing the sexual impulse manifested in his body by the presence of genitals. For that matter he will do all he can to mortify the will (i.e., act so as to directly oppose the will), and engage in self-starvation and torture to "break down and kill the will that he recognizes... as the source of his own suffering existence and of the world's". Eventually, the pursuit of these mortifications and the constant denial of the will-to-live serve to quiet all conscious willing, and when at last the person dies, that last portion of the will-to-live which is manifested by the physical body is also extinguished.

The solution Schopenhauer proposes reads like a bad joke. If, as he says, the knowledge which results in the denial of the will is more completely expressed in deed than by concepts, then the ascetic's actions affirm the petty will more firmly than the author of this essay ever can by writing about it. It is not a question of whether the petty will exists- Schopenhauer, saints, and most philosophers attest that it does, even if its existence is confined to being an individual phenomena in a world of representation. It exists, but what can be done about it?

First, consider art. If a person pursues art, it is still the petty will that is acting, looking for relief and diversion from its more practical concerns. It is this which gives are its value. Art, especially music, has no practical end; it aims to express the Ideas, or better sill, the Will without regards to how this knowledge may be applied to procuring bread. How this differs from smoking opium Schopenhauer does not explain, but the value of both is the same- respite for the petty will, or rather its appeasement. This is a practical goal as it fulfills a want; the petty will wants relief. Even if rationality is incompatible with the genius which produces art, it does not follow that art is utterly devoid of utility or that its enjoyment as art is wholly divorced from the needs of the will.

Next, consider the attempt to destroy the will-to-live directly. Trying to "establish firmly in [oneself] the greatest indifference to all things" strongly resembles a deliberate attempt to NOT think of an elephant in a pink tutu. It is all very absurd. One can hardly maintain the vigil of a firm, imposed indifference to all things without willing it, and it is the individual which is doing the willing. Deliberate starvation and self mutilation as a means of breaking the petty will can only be imposed on it by the same, and thus it is a means of simultaneously affirming it. In many respects asceticism is a form of slow suicide, and it is as effective.

If one cannot escape his own petty will, does it necessarily follow that he is doomed to eternal misery? Schopenhauer thinks so, but the situation is not so bleak. The will-to-live may be thwarted by others, but since (dis)satisfaction is a process of the feelings, and falls not under the domain of sufficient reason, frustration and misery need not follow when the will is hindered; to insist they must is to make a causal connection between them, a connection from which feeling are supposedly exempt. To find happiness, or at any rate to elude unhappiness, the petty will needs to cultivate resiliency, not resignation. It needs to learn to go around obstacles by one method or another rather than give up and brood over them.