I suppose I should start by quoting from Spinoza:
… all happiness or unhappiness depends solely on the quality of the object to which we are bound by love.
Love is simply the feeling we have toward someone or something that gives us pleasure. It is not uncommon to hear someone say “I love my car” or some such thing. And of course, people love others that give them pleasure. It would be a very odd situation if someone loved a person who dished out pain.
In one of the few autobiographical parts of his work, Spinoza states very clearly that he saw “the hollowness and futility of everything that is encountered in daily life …”. As a result, he sought something that would deliver “continuous and supreme joy to all eternity.”
What Spinoza proposes to us in his works is that we transcend ourselves. If you think about it, this is not a particularly silly idea. We are born, experience transient pleasures and pains, and eventually grow old, sick, and then die. Only a fool would invest the whole of their attention on a rotting bag of flesh, and yet this is the default way people live their lives.
The question then naturally arises as to where we might invest our attention. For Spinoza, it was on the infinite and eternal, although this doesn’t particularly help us. The starting point is somewhat more modest. So that our attention is not consumed in our day to day dramas and fascinations, we need to understand our emotional nature and how we respond to things. This is not a trivial work, and until we have some understanding and skills in this area any additional work will simply be in the imagination. The real power is always in the emotions, and as Spinoza states, someone who does not have a handle on their emotional nature is in bondage.
But let’s imagine that someone has worked to understand their emotions and has developed the ability to consume their emotions instead of being consumed by them. Such a person will have established just a little bit of space between their emotional nature and their understanding. This is not the goal, but it is what happens. This leaves the attention and intelligence free to consider other things. As such we can start to look at the world beyond our own immediate concerns. Gurdjieff said that objective reason requires that we extend our vision and understanding beyond our subjective experience and embrace as much understanding of the totality of existence as we can. This needs to happen in a way that brings pleasure because if we experience pleasure we will love our understanding. And guess what? We have now identified with something much larger than us and can leave our temporal, pain-ridden existence to do what it does. We also get a perspective on human existence; described by Spinoza as nothing more than a speck.
So in summary, if all your attention is directed toward yourself you will suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. However if your pleasure is found in things beyond your own insignificant existence, you will be less prone to the fate of a tiny finite creature. You will of course die, but a quote from Einstein sums the whole thing up very nicely:
The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mystical. It is the power of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the rank of devoutly religious men