As I recently mentioned, Saul Bellow's Letters (Viking 2010) have just been published. While browsing through them, I came across this in a brief letter written by Bellow on April 11, 1970: "As for Life -- even at best one feels deprived of something."
A day or so later, I was idly thumbing through Boswell's Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides and happened upon this: "Mr. Johnson observed that it seemed certain that happiness could not be found in this life, because so many had tried to find it in such a variety of ways, and had not found it."
"Sunbeams or Sunshine" (1900)
On the other hand, Ludwig Wittgenstein -- who one might expect to have a sceptical view of the prospect of happiness in life -- offers us hope (albeit in his usual enigmatic fashion):
"The way to solve the problem you see in life is to live in a way that will make what is problematic disappear.
The fact that life is problematic shows that the shape of your life does not fit into life's mould. So you must change the way you live and, once your life does fit the mould, what is problematic will disappear."
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value (translated by Peter Winch) (1984).
Wittgenstein said something similar (and equally enigmatic) in Proposition 6.521 of his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus:
"The solution of the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of the problem.
(Is not this the reason why those who have found after a long period of doubt that the sense of life became clear to them have then been unable to say what constituted that sense?)"
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (translated by D. F. Pears and B. F. McGuinness) (1922).
(I have long felt -- and I am certainly not the first to make this observation -- that Wittgenstein was a Buddhist or a Taoist without knowing it. It is remarkable how many of his gnomic, aphoristic statements echo Chinese and Japanese Buddhist and Taoist writings, both philosophical and poetic. When I read him I often feel that I have stumbled into something written by, for instance, Lao-Tzu, Han Shan, Wang Wei, Saigyo, or Ryokan.)