S: Beautiful Possibilities John Faithful Hamer & Anna-Liisa Aunio
BC: John Faithful Hamer Humanities Department John Abbott College | Anna-Liisa Aunio Sociology Department Dawson College
FC: Beautiful Possibilities A Graphic Introduction to the Examined Life John Faithful Hamer & Anna-Liisa Aunio
1: Beautiful Possibilities: A Graphic Introduction to the Examined Life John Faithful Hamer & Anna-Liisa Aunio | The world is brimming with beautiful things but nevertheless poor, very poor in beautiful moments and in the unveilings of those things. But perhaps this is the strongest magic of life: it is covered by a veil of beautiful possibilities, woven with threads of gold—promising, resisting, bashful, mocking, compassionate, and seductive. —Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, section 339 | The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being. —Socrates, in Plato, Apology 38A
3: Contents Preface - Page 4 Chapter 1: The Sociological Imagination - Page 7 Chapter 2: The Pursuit of Happiness - Page 49 Chapter 3: Love and Friendship - Page 107 Chapter 4: Good and Evil - Page 137 Chapter 5: Philosophy - Page 171 Chapter 6: Religion - Page 205 Chapter 7: Beauty - Page 229 Notes - Page 294
4: Beautiful Possibilities grew out of our love for the particularly human art of good conversation—one which is infused with the desire to share, learn, and debate enduring ideas—as it is transformed by the vicissitudes of the social media landscape. As participants, friends, and teachers to the Facebook generation, we have been chastened by our colleagues’ and students’ surprisingly uniform response to the widening gulf between great thinkers and status updates. Both, it seems, have embraced the necessity of reading great books in the university setting despite the recognition that these books resonate less and less with today's intensely punctuated and visually inundated generation. Though we would of course love to see our students reading more, we don't see their aversion to reading as an insurmountable barrier. In fact, we see the character limit of Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites as providing two tremendous opportunities to revitalize age-old approaches to learning: first, it has given us the opportunity to rekindle the aphoristic form. We need to remember that most ancient philosophers were illiterate. They received and transmitted their ideas via the spoken word. For instance, an Epicurean woman living in second-century Athens would, though illiterate, have memorized a number of key aphorisms (or sayings) which contained—in all their manifold complexity, yet in a highly concentrated form—all of the life-giving truths that guided an intensely philosophical way of life. Beautiful Possibilities is, in part, a collection of aphorisms that constitute a decidedly idiosyncratic introduction to some of our favorite thinkers. | Second, we celebrate the incredible opportunity for creativity and, specifically, the reinvigoration of the amateur artist that the visual and open nature of social media provides. As Lawrence Lessig points out, the amateur nature of “remix” culture is not new—in fact, for most of human history, it has been the norm. It was only with the development of broadcasting technology in the 20th century that we moved from singing and playing on the street corners to purchased and professional art protected by intellectual property rights. Now, every consumer who joins a social media site is also potentially a producer—one who can define, participate in, and share in the creation of culture more than at any other time in recent memory. Remixing media, mingling the aphorism, the status update and the image here for us bridges the divide between the unchanging, the general, the eternal, and the everyday. Art has always been a product of conversation and culture; as such, the quotations and photographs that we used to make this book were all, originally, status updates and profile pictures uploaded to Facebook by one of us (or one of our friends). Beautiful Possibilities is, then, to some extent, a testament to all the lessons we have learned as well as what we continue to learn in ongoing conversation with family, friends and students. Such is the work of a lifetime.
5: Even so, we dedicate this effort not to the past or the present, but to the future—to our children, Tristan & Indie. Though you're too young to realize it now, boys, the adventures detailed in these photographs—most of which were taken of you or in your company—are the beginning of your philosophical education. We hope that, no matter how old you get, you keep searching for salamanders and four-leaf clovers. Looking for four-leaf clovers teaches you how to avoid false patterns and detect exceptions; finding them teaches you that the uncommon is actually quite common. Looking for salamanders teaches you how to slow down and be patient; finding them teaches you that the beautiful things of this world can be fragile, shy, and hidden from plain sight; finding them teaches you, as well, that beauty is often to be found among the little things in life, and that those who find beauty in the world are, more often than not, those who spend a great deal of time looking for it.—John Faithful Hamer & Anna-Liisa Aunio
8: The fool views himself as more unique and others more generic; the wise views himself as more generic and others more unique. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes (2010) | You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else, and we are all a part of the same compost pile. —Tyler Durden in Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club (1996)
9: For a Midwesterner, the son of immigrant parents, I recognized at an early age that I was called upon to decide for myself to what extent my Jewish origins, my surroundings (the accidental circumstances of Chicago), my schooling, were to be allowed to determine the course of my life. I did not intend to be wholly dependent on history and culture. Full dependency must mean that I was done for. The commonest teaching of the civilized world in our time can be stated simply: "Tell me where you come from and I will tell you what you are."—Saul Bellow, in the Foreword to Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind (1987) | Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.—Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852)
10: Nowadays people often feel that their private lives are a series of traps. They sense that within their everyday worlds, they cannot overcome their troubles, and in this feeling, they are often quite correct. What ordinary people are directly aware of and what they try to do are bounded by the private orbits in which they live; their visions and their powers are limited to the close-up scenes of job, family, neighborhood; in other milieu, they move vicariously and remain spectators. And the more aware they become, however vaguely, of ambitions and of threats which transcend their immediate locales, the more trapped they seem to feel. | Underlying this sense of being trapped are seemingly impersonal changes in the very structure of continent-wide societies. The facts of contemporary history are also facts about the success and the failure of individual men and women. When a society is industrialized, a peasant becomes a worker; a feudal lord is liquidated or becomes a businessman. When classes rise or fall, a person is employed or unemployed; when the rate of investment goes up or down, a person takes new heart or goes broke. When wars happen, an insurance salesperson becomes a rocket launcher; a store clerk, a radar operator; a wife or husband lives alone; a child grows up without a parent. Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both. | An excerpt from C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination | Yet people do not usually define the troubles they endure in terms of historical change and institutional contradiction. The well-being they enjoy, they do not usually impute to the big ups and downs of the societies in which they live. Seldom aware of the intricate connection between the patterns of their own lives and the course of world history, ordinary people do not usually know what this connection means for the kinds of people they are becoming and for the kinds of history-making in which they might take part.
11: They do not possess the quality of mind essential to grasp the interplay of individuals and society, of biography and history, of self and world. They cannot cope with their personal troubles in such ways as to control the structural transformations that usually lie behind them. | Surely it is no wonder. In what period have so many people been so totally exposed at so fast a pace to such earthquakes of change? . . . The history that now affects every individual is world history. . . . The very shaping of history now out-paces the ability of people to orient themselves in accordance with cherished values. And which values? Even when they do not panic, people often sense that older ways of feeling and thinking have collapsed and that newer beginnings are ambiguous to the point of moral stasis. Is it any wonder that ordinary people feel they cannot cope with the larger worlds with which they are so suddenly confronted?
12: An excerpt from C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination | That they cannot understand the meaning of their epoch for their own lives? . . . It is not only information that they need - in this Age of Fact, information often dominates their attention and overwhelms their capacities to assimilate it. It is not only the skills of reason that they need . . . . What they need, and what they feel they need, is a quality of mind that will help them to use information and to develop reason in order to achieve lucid summations of what is going on in the world and of what may be happening within themselves. It is this quality, I am going to contend, that journalists and scholars, artists and publics, scientists and editors are coming to expect of what may be called the sociological imagination. | The first fruit of this imagination - and the first lesson of the social science that embodies it - is the idea that the individual can understand her own experience and gauge her own fate only by locating herself within her period, that she can know her own chances in life only by becoming aware of those of all individuals in her circumstances. In many ways it is a terrible lesson; in many ways a magnificent one. We do not know the limits of human capacities for supreme effort or willing degradation, for agony or glee, for pleasurable brutality or the sweetness of reason. But in our time we have come to know that the limits of 'human nature' are frighteningly broad. We have come to know that every individual lives, from one generation to the next, in some society; that he lives out a biography, and lives it out within some historical sequence. By the fact of this living, he contributes, however minutely, to the shaping of this society and to the course of its history, even as he is made by society and by its historical push and shove. . . . | The sociological imagination enables its possessor to understand the larger historical scene in terms of its meaning for the inner life and the external career of a variety of individuals. It enables him to take into account how individuals, in the welter of their daily experience, often become falsely conscious of their social positions. Within that welter, the framework of modern society is sought, and within that framework the psychologies of a variety of men and women are formulated. By such means the personal uneasiness of individuals is focused upon explicit troubles and the indifference of publics is transformed into involvement with public issues.
13: No social study that does not come back to the problems of biography, of history and of their intersections within a society has completed its intellectual journey. Whatever the specific problems of the classic social analysts, however limited or however broad the features of social reality they have examined, those who have been imaginatively aware of the promise of their work have consistently asked three sorts of questions:
14: (1) What is the structure of this particular society as a whole? What are its essential components, and how are they related to one another? How does it differ from other varieties of social order? Within it, what is the meaning of any particular feature for its continuance and for its change? | (2) Where does this society stand in human history? What are the mechanics by which it is changing? What is its place within and its meaning for the development of humanity as a whole? How does any particular feature we are examining affect, and how is it affected by, the historical period in which it moves? And this period - what are its essential features? How does it differ from other periods? What are its characteristic ways of history-making? | (3) What varieties of men and women now prevail in this society and in this period? And what varieties are coming to prevail? In what ways are they selected and formed, liberated and repressed, made sensitive and blunted? What kinds of `human nature' are revealed in the conduct and character we observe in this society in this period? And what is the meaning for 'human nature' of each and every feature of the society we are examining? | An excerpt from C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination
15: Whether the point of interest is a great power state or a minor literary mood, a family, a prison, a creed - these are the kinds of questions the best social analysts have asked. They are the intellectual pivots of classic studies of individuals in society - and they are the questions inevitably raised by any mind possessing the sociological imagination. For that imagination is the capacity to shift from one perspective to another - from the political to the psychological; from examination of a single family to comparative assessment of the national budgets of the world; from the theological school to the military establishment; from considerations of an oil industry to studies of contemporary poetry. It is the capacity to range from the most impersonal and remote transformations to the most intimate features of the human self - and to see the relations between the two. Back of its use there is always the urge to know the social and historical meaning of the individual in the society and in the period in which she has her quality and her being. | That, in brief, is why it is by means of the sociological imagination that men and women now hope to grasp what is going on in the world, and to understand what is happening in themselves as minute points of the intersections of biography and history within society. In large part, contemporary humanity's self-conscious view of itself as at least an outsider, if not a permanent stranger, rests upon an absorbed realization of social relativity and of the transformative power of history. The sociological imagination is the most fruitful form of this self-consciousness. By its use people whose mentalities have swept only a series of limited orbits often come to feel as if suddenly awakened in a house with which they had only supposed themselves to be familiar. Correctly or incorrectly, they often come to feel that they can now provide themselves with adequate summations, cohesive assessments, comprehensive orientations. Older decisions that once appeared sound now seem to them products of a mind unaccountably dense. Their capacity for astonishment is made lively again. They acquire a new way of thinking, they experience a transvaluation of values: in a word, by their reflection and by their sensibility, they realize the cultural meaning of the social sciences.
16: An excerpt from C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination | Perhaps the most fruitful distinction with which the sociological imagination works is between 'the personal troubles of milieu' and 'the public issues of social structure.' This distinction is an essential tool of the sociological imagination and a feature of all classic work in social science. | Troubles occur within the character of the individual and within the range of his or her immediate relations with others; they have to do with one's self and with those limited areas of social life of which one is directly and personally aware. Accordingly, the statement and the resolution of troubles properly lie within the individual as a biographical entity and within the scope of one's immediate milieu - the social setting that is directly open to her personal experience and to some extent her willful activity. A trouble is a private matter: values cherished by an individual are felt by her to be threatened. . . .
17: . . . Issues have to do with matters that transcend these local environments of the individual and the range of her inner life. They have to do with the organization of many such milieus into the institutions of an historical society as a whole, with the ways in which various milieu overlap and inter-penetrate to form the larger structure of social and historical life. An issue is a public matter: some value cherished by publics is felt to be threatened. Often there is a debate about what that value really is and about what it is that really threatens it. This debate is often without focus if only because it is the very nature of an issue, unlike even widespread trouble, that it cannot very well be defined in terms of the immediate and everyday environments of ordinary people. An issue, in fact, often involves a crisis in institutional arrangements . . . .
18: In these terms, consider unemployment. When, in a city of 100,000, only one is unemployed, that is his personal trouble, and for its relief we properly look to the character of the individual, his skills and his immediate opportunities. But when in a nation of 50 million employees, 15 million people are unemployed, that is an issue, and we may not hope to find its solution within the range of opportunities open to any one individual. The very structure of opportunities has collapsed. Both the correct statement of the problem and the range of possible solutions require us to consider the economic and political institutions of the society, and not merely the personal situation and character of a scatter of individuals. | Consider war. The personal problem of war, when it occurs, may be how to survive it or how to die in it with honor; how to make money out of it; how to climb into the higher safety of the military apparatus; or how to contribute to the war's termination. In short, according to one's values, to find a set of milieu and within it to survive the war or make one's death in it meaningful. But the structural issues of war have to do with its causes; with what types of people it throws up into command; with its effects upon economic and political, family and religious institutions, with the unorganized irresponsibility of a world of nation-states. | An excerpt from C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination
19: Consider marriage. Inside a marriage a man and a woman may experience personal troubles, but when the divorce rate during the first four years of marriage is 250 out of every 1,000 attempts, this is an indication of a structural issue having to do with the institutions of marriage and the family and other institutions that bear upon them. | Or consider the metropolis - the horrible, beautiful, ugly, magnificent sprawl of the great city. For many members of the upper-class the personal solution to 'the problem of the city' is to have an apartment with private garage under it in the heart of the city and forty miles out, a house by Henry Hill, garden by Garrett Eckbo, on a hundred acres of private land. In these two controlled environments - with a small staff at each end and a private helicopter connection - most people could solve many of the problems of personal milieu caused by the facts of the city. But all this, however splendid, does not solve the public issues that the structural fact of the city poses. What should be done with this wonderful monstrosity? Break it all up into scattered units, combining residence and work? Refurbish it as it stands? Or, after evacuation, dynamite it and build new cities according to new plans in new places? What should those plans be? And who is to decide and to accomplish whatever choice is made? These are structural issues; to confront them and to solve them requires us to consider political and economic issues that affect innumerable milieu.
20: An excerpt from C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination | In so far as an economy is so arranged that slumps occur, the problem of unemployment becomes incapable of personal solution. In so far as war is inherent in the nation-state system and in the uneven industrialization of the world, the ordinary individual in her restricted milieu will be powerless - with or without psychiatric aid - to solve the troubles this system or lack of system imposes upon him. In so far as the family as an institution turns women into darling little slaves and men into their chief providers and unweaned dependents, the problem of a satisfactory marriage remains incapable of purely private solution. In so far as the overdeveloped megalopolis and the overdeveloped automobile are built-in features of the overdeveloped society, the issues of urban living will not be solved by personal ingenuity and private wealth.
21: Scholarship is a choice of how to live as well as a choice of career; whether he knows it or not, the intellectual workman forms his own self as he works toward the perfection of his craft; to realize his own potentialities, and any opportunities that come his way, he constructs a character which has as its core the qualities of a good workman. What this means is that you must learn to use your life experience in your intellectual work: continually to examine and interpret it. In this sense craftsmanship is the center of yourself and you are personally involved in every intellectual product upon which you work.—C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination | What we experience in various and specific milieu, I have noted, is often caused by structural changes. Accordingly, to understand the changes of many personal milieus we are required to look beyond them. And the number and variety of such structural changes increase as the institutions within which we live become more embracing and more intricately connected with one another. To be aware of the idea of social structure and to use it with sensibility is to be capable of tracing such linkages among a great variety of milieu. To be able to do that is to possess the sociological imagination.
22: Sunset Slowly the west reaches for clothes of new colors which it passes to a row of ancient trees. You look, and soon these two worlds both leave you, one part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth, leaving you, not really belonging to either, not so helplessly dark as that house that is silent, not so unswervingly given to the eternal as that thing that turns to a star each night and climbs— leaving you (it is impossible to untangle the threads) your own life, timid and standing high and growing, so that, sometimes blocked in, sometimes reaching out, one moment your life is a stone in you, and the next, a star. —Rainer Maria Rilke
24: An excerpt from Pierre Bourdieu, "The Forms of Capital" | Depending on the field in which it functions, and at the cost of the more or less expensive transformations which are the precondition for its efficacy in the field in question, capital can present itself in three fundamental guises: | as economic capital, which is immediately and directly convertible into money and may be institutionalized in the forms of property rights; as cultural capital, which is convertible, on certain conditions, into economic capital and may be institutionalized in the forms of educational qualifications; and as social capital, made up of social obligations (‘connections’), which is convertible, in certain conditions, into economic capital and may be institutionalized in the forms of a title of nobility. . . .
25: Cultural capital can exist in three forms: in the embodied state, i.e., in the form of long-lasting dispositions of the mind and body; in the objectified state, in the form of cultural goods (pictures, books, dictionaries, instruments, machines, etc.), which are the trace or realization of theories or critiques of these theories, problematics, etc.; and in the institutionalized state, a form of objectification which must be set apart because, as will be seen in the case of educational qualifications, it confers entirely original properties on the cultural capital which it is presumed to guarantee. . . .
26: This embodied capital, external wealth converted into an integral part of the person, into a habitus, cannot be transmitted instantaneously (unlike money, property rights, or even titles of nobility) by gift or bequest, purchase or exchange. It follows that the use or exploitation of cultural capital presents particular problems for the holders of economic or political capital, whether they be private patrons or, at the other extreme, entrepreneurs employing executives endowed with a specific cultural competence (not to mention the new state patrons). How can this capital, so closely linked to the person, be bought without buying the person and so losing the very effect of legitimation which presupposes the dissimulation of dependence? How can this capital be concentrated-as some undertakings demand-without concentrating the possessors of the capital, which can have all sorts of unwanted consequences? | An excerpt from Pierre Bourdieu, "The Forms of Capital"
27: The Embodied State Most of the properties of cultural capital can be deduced from the fact that, in its fundamental state, it is linked to the body and presupposes embodiment. The accumulation of cultural capital in the embodied state, i.e., in the form of what is called culture, cultivation, Bildung, presupposes a process of embodiment, incorporation, which, insofar as it implies a labor of inculcation and assimilation, costs time, time which must be invested personally by the investor. Like the acquisition of a muscular physique or a suntan, it cannot be done at second hand (so that all effects of delegation are ruled out). . . .
29: Cultural capital can be acquired, to a varying extent, depending on the period, the society, and the social class, in the absence of any deliberate inculcation, and therefore quite unconsciously. It always remains marked by its earliest conditions of acquisition which, through the more or less visible marks they leave (such as the pronunciations characteristic of a class or region), help to determine its distinctive value. It cannot be accumulated beyond the appropriating capacities of an individual agent; it declines and dies with its bearer (with his biological capacity, his memory, etc.). Because it is thus linked in numerous ways to the person in his biological singularity and is subject to a hereditary transmission which is always heavily disguised, or even invisible, it defies the old, deep-rooted distinction the Greek jurists made between inherited properties (ta patroa) and acquired properties (epikteta), i.e., those which an individual adds to his heritage. It thus manages to combine the prestige of innate property with the merits of acquisition. Because the social conditions of its transmission and acquisition are more disguised than those of economic capital, it is predisposed to function as symbolic capital, i.e., to be unrecognized as capital and recognized as legitimate competence, as authority exerting an effect of (mis)recognition, e.g., in the matrimonial market and in all the markets in which economic capital is not fully recognized, whether in matters of culture, with the great art collections or great cultural foundations, or in social welfare, with the economy of generosity and the gift. Furthermore, the specifically symbolic logic of distinction additionally secures material and symbolic profits for the possessors of a large cultural capital: any given cultural competence (e.g., being able to read in a world of illiterates) derives a scarcity value from its position in the distribution of cultural capital and yields profits of distinction for its owner. In other words, the share in profits which scarce cultural capital secures in class-divided societies is based, in the last analysis, on the fact that all agents do not have the economic and cultural means for prolonging their children's education beyond the minimum necessary for the reproduction of the labor. . . . | An excerpt from Pierre Bourdieu, "The Forms of Capital"
30: The Objectified State Cultural capital, in the objectified state, has a number of properties which are defined only in the relationship with cultural capital in its embodied form. The cultural capital objectified in material objects and media, such as writings, paintings, monuments, instruments, etc., is transmissible in its materiality. A collection of paintings, for example, can be transmitted as well as economic capital (if not better, because the capital transfer is more disguised). But what is transmissible is legal ownership and not (or not necessarily) what constitutes the precondition for specific appropriation, namely, the possession of the means of ‘consuming’ a painting or using a machine, which, being nothing other than embodied capital, are subject to the same laws of transmission. . . . | An excerpt from Pierre Bourdieu, "The Forms of Capital"
32: The Institutionalized State By conferring institutional recognition on the cultural capital possessed by any given agent, the academic qualification also makes it possible to compare qualification holders and even to exchange them (by substituting one for another in succession). Furthermore, it makes it possible to establish conversion rates between cultural capital and economic capital by guaranteeing the monetary value of a given academic capital. This product of the conversion of economic capital into cultural capital establishes the value, in terms of cultural capital, of the holder of a given qualification relative to other qualification holders and, by the same token, the monetary value for which it can be exchanged on the labor market (academic investment has no meaning unless a minimum degree of reversibility of the conversion it implies is objectively guaranteed). Because the material and symbolic profits which the academic qualification guarantees also depend on its scarcity, the investments made (in time and effort) may turn out to be less profitable than was anticipated when they were made (there having been a de facto change in the conversion rate between academic capital and economic capital). The strategies for converting economic capital into cultural capital, which are among the short-term factors of the schooling explosion and the inflation of qualifications, are governed by changes in the structure of the chances of profit offered by the different types of capital. . . . | An excerpt from Pierre Bourdieu, "The Forms of Capital"
33: Conversions The different types of capital can be derived from economic capital, but only at the cost of a more or less great effort of transformation, which is needed to produce the type of power effective in the field in question. For example, there are some goods and services to which economic capital gives immediate access, without secondary costs; others can be obtained only by virtue of a social capital of relationships (or social obligations) which cannot act instantaneously, at the appropriate moment, unless they have been established and maintained for a long time, as if for their own sake, and therefore outside their period of use, i.e., at the cost of an investment in sociability which is necessary long-term because the time lag is one of the factors of the transmutation of a pure and simple debt into that recognition of nonspecific indebtedness which is called gratitude. . . . | . . . cultural capital, whose diffuse, continuous transmission within the family escapes observation and control (so that the educational system seems to award its honors solely to natural qualities) and which is increasingly tending to attain full efficacy, at least on the labor market, only when validated by the educational system, i.e., converted into a capital of qualifications, is subject to a more disguised but more risky transmission than economic capital. As the educational qualification, invested with the specific force of the official, becomes the condition for legitimate access to a growing number of positions, particularly the dominant ones, the educational system tends increasingly to dispossess the domestic group of the monopoly of the transmission of power and privileges-and, among other things, of the choice of its legitimate heirs from among children of different sex and birth rank. —Pierre Bourdieu, "The Forms of Capital"
34: I have grown weary of the poets, the old ones and the new ones: superficial are they all to me, and shallow seas. . . . Nor are they cleanly enough for me: they all muddy their waters, that they might appear deep. —Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for Everyone and Nobody | Being deep and seeming deep. — Those who know they are deep strive for clarity. Those who would like to seem deep to the crowd strive for obscurity. For the crowd takes everything whose ground it cannot see to be deep: it is so timid and so reluctant to go in water. —Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, section 173
35: Twofold misjudgment. — The misfortune suffered by clear-minded and easily understood writers is that they are taken for shallow and thus little effort is expended on reading them: and the good fortune that attends the obscure is that the reader toils at them and ascribes to them the pleasure he has in fact gained from his own zeal. —Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human, section 181
36: the secret for harvesting from existence the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment is — to live dangerously! Build your cities on the slopes of Vesuvius! Send your ships into uncharted seas! —Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, section 283
37: Ultimately, nobody can get more out of things — including books — than they already know. You will not have an ear for something until experience has given you some headway into it. —Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo: How You Become What You Are
39: Ode to the Book When I close a book I open life. I hear faltering cries among harbors. Copper ingots slide down sand-pits to Tocopilla. Night time. Among the islands our ocean throbs with fish, touches the feet, the thighs, the chalk ribs of my country. The whole of night clings to its shores, by dawn it wakes up singing as if excited by a guitar. The ocean's surge is calling. The wind calls me and Rodriguez calls, and Jose Antonio-- I got a telegram from the "Mine" Union and the one I love (whose name I won't let out) expects me in Bucalemu.
40: No book has been able to wrap me in paper, to fill me up with typography, with heavenly imprints or was ever able to bind my eyes, I come out of books to people orchards with the hoarse family of my song, to work the burning metals or to eat smoked beef by mountain firesides. I love adventurous books, books of forest or snow, depth or sky but hate the spider book in which thought has laid poisonous wires to trap the juvenile and circling fly.
41: Book, let me go. I won't go clothed in volumes, I don't come out of collected works, my poems have not eaten poems-- they devour exciting happenings, feed on rough weather, and dig their food out of earth and men. I'm on my way with dust in my shoes free of mythology: send books back to their shelves, I'm going down into the streets. I learned about life from life itself, love I learned in a single kiss and could teach no one anything except that I have lived with something in common among men, when fighting with them, when saying all their say in my song. —Pablo Neruda, "Ode to the Book (I)"
42: In addition to the depletion of both private and public resources for care, there is an increasing uncertainty associated with cultural ideas about the proper source of it. . . . And while these changes in the source of care are certainly not to be confused with a depletion of care, the changing culture itself gives rise to uncertainties about it. . . . | An excerpt from Arlie Russell Hochschild, The Commercialization of Intimate Life | Thus, as the market advances, as the family moves from a production to a consumption unit, as it faces a care deficit, as the cultural landscape of care shifts, individuals increasingly keep an anxious eye on what seems like the primary remaining symbol of abiding care—mother.
43: The more the commodity frontier erodes the territory surrounding the emotional role of the wife and mother, the more hypersymbolized the remaining sources of care seem to become. And the more the wife-mother functions as a symbolic cultural anchor to stay the ship against a powerful tide. The symbolic weight of "the family" is condensed and consolidated into the wife-mother, and increasingly now into the mother. . . . The hypersymbolization of the mother is itself partly a response to the destabilization of the cultural as well as economic ground on which the family rests. As a highly dynamic system, capitalism destabilizes both the economy and the family. The more shaky things outside the family seem, the more we seem to need to believe in an unshakable family and, failing that, an unshakable figure of mother-wife. . . . In addition, in the West, capitalism is usually paired with an ideology of secular individualism. As an understanding of life, secular individualism leads people to take personal credit for their economic highs and personal blame for the lows. It leads us to "personalize" social events. It provides an intra-punitive ideology to go with an extra-punitive economic system. The effect of the impact of destabilizing capitalism on one hand and inward-looking individualist ideology on the other is to create a need for a refuge, a haven in a heartless world, as Christopher Lasch has argued, where we imagine ourselves to be safe, comforted, healed. The harsher the environment outside the home, the more we yearn for a haven inside the home. | Like other symbols, the symbol of mother is "efficient." It is not the family farm, local community, or even whole extended family that does the symbolic work. All the meanings associated with these are condensed into the symbol of one person. the mother, and secondarily the immediate family. . . . we entertain a "romance' of family vacations, family homes, and family "rural bliss" and, along with the hypersymbolization of the mother, these have probably grown in tandem with the destabilizing forces to which they are a response.
44: Best-selling advice books for women published in the United States in the later part of the past century offer a glimpse into an important future trend in American popular culture. This trend is a curious, latter-day parallel to the very different cultural shift Max Weber describes in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Just as Protestantism, according to Max Weber, "escaped from the cage" of the church to be transposed into an inspirational "spirit of capitalism" that drove men to make money and build capitalism, so feminism may be "escaping from the cage" of a social movement to buttress a commercial spirit of intimate life that was originally separate from and indeed alien to it. Just as market conditions ripened the soil for capitalism, so a weakened family prepares the soil for a commercialized spirit of domestic life. . . . Cool modern advice books reveal a newly unfolding paradox that is reminiscent of an earlier paradox. In The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Weber describes a set of beliefs held by a variety of Protestant sects—a belief in ascetic self-control, frugality, hard work, and devotion to a calling. He traces the way in which these religious ideas were adapted to a material purpose. The idea of devotion to a calling came to mean devotion to making money. The idea of self-control came to mean careful saving, spending, and capital reinvestment. | The Protestant Ethic "escaped the cage" to become part of a new hybrid "spirit of capitalism." . . . Now, has another set of beliefs jumped another fence? Is a more marginal belief system, feminism, escaping from the cage of a social movement to buttress a commercial spirit of intimate life? . . . Like Calvin, the feminist founders might have worried at the cultural trends weaving themselves around their core ideals. "Equality, yes," they might say were they alive today, "but why allow the worst of capitalist culture to establish the cultural basis of it?" "Autonomy, yes," they might say, "but the stand-alone cowgirl—why?" | An excerpt from Arlie Russell Hochschild, The Commercialization of Intimate Life | . . . Feminism is to commercial spirit of intimate life as Protestantism is to the spirit of capitalism. The first legitimates the second. The second borrows from but also transforms the first. . . . The ascetic self-discipline that the early capitalist applied to his bank account the twenty-first-century woman applies to her appetite, her body, her love. The devotion to a "calling," which early capitalist applied to earning money, the latter-day woman applies to "having it all."
45: . . . Cool modern books prepare the self for a commercial spirit of intimate life by offering as ideal a self well defended against getting hurt. . . . While books like Women Who Love Too Much focus on therapy, ironically the actual process of healing is subtracted from the image of normal family or communal bonds. The women in Norwood's tales seem to live in a wider community strikingly barren of emotional support. Actual healing is reserved for a separate zone of paid professionals where people have Ph.D.s, M.D.s, M.A.s, accept money, and have special therapeutic identities. While psychotherapy is surely a help to many, it is no substitute for life itself. In the picture Norwood paints, there is little power of healing outside of therapy. In the stories Norwood tells, love doesn't heal. When you give it, it doesn't take. When another offers it, it may feel good but it's not good for you. . . . If the word "therapy" conveys the desire to help another to get to the root of a problem, this is a very deep subtraction from our idea of love and friendship. It thins and lightens our idea of love. We are invited to confine our trust to the thinner, once-a-week, "processed" concern of the professional. This may add to our expectations of therapy, but it lightens our expectations of lovers, family, and friends. Cool modern books put a value on this lightness. The idea of liberation and independence that early feminists applied to the right to vote, to learn, and to work, the cool moderns apply to the right to emotionally detach. . . . | The commercial spirit of intimate life is woven with a second cultural tendency—for women to assimilate to male rules of love. . . . They conserve the damage capitalism did to manhood instead of critiquing it, in the tradition set out a century ago by Charlotte Gilman. In recycling male rules of love, modern advice books for women assert that it's a "feminine" practice to subordinate the importance of love, to delay falling in love until after consolidating a career, to separate love from sex, and for married women to have occasional affairs. . . . in the separation of love from sex, in the delay in the "right time" to fall in love, and in the feminization of adultery, advice books of the 1980s propose to women the emotional rules that were part of the gendered cultural capital of white middle-class men of the 1950s.
46: An excerpt from Arlie Russell Hochschild, The Commercialization of Intimate Life | We've moved from living according to two emotional codes—one for men and another for women—to a unisex code based on the old code for men. We've also moved from a warmer code to a cooler one, aspects of which both fit with and exacerbate a move to lighter family bonds. | Many authors of advice books conceive of their books as feminist, but they are in reality an abduction of feminism. Many advice books see their readers as patients. But, could it be that it's the commercial spirit of intimate life that's really sick? | . . . The move of masses of women into the paid workforce has constituted a revolution. But the slower shift in ideas of "manhood," the resistance to sharing work at home, the rigid schedules at work make for a "stall" in this gender revolution. . . . It isn't simply that men are changing too slowly, but that, without quite realizing it, women are also changing in the opposite direction—in the sense of assimilating to old-time male rules—too fast. Instead of humanizing men, we are capitalizing women. If the concept of the stalled revolution raises the question of how to be equal, the concept of the commercial spirit of intimate life raises the question: Equal on what terms?
47: With an American divorce rate of 50 percent, and with 60 percent of marriages formed in the 1980s projected to end, two-thirds of them involving children, many young women today are the single mothers of tomorrow. Given this, we have to ask, isn't it useful for women to know how to meet their emotional needs or their own? Isn't it useful to have a defended "me" hoping to meet a defended "you"? Even if The Cinderella Complex is selling defective psychic armor—these days, sadly enough, we have to ask if we don't need it. Even defective armor, if it helps us get around in a cool world, can be useful. But after we've asked whether being cool is useful, we have to ask whether being cool is good. Is it the best we can do? If we think it's not, then we have to ask the question those advice books do not ask—how can we rewire the broader conditions that make us need the tough armor they provide? On that we could really use good advice.—Arlie Russell Hochschild, The Commercialization of Intimate Life
49: Chapter Two: The Pursuit of Happiness
50: When considering the future, remember that all situations unfold as they do regardless of how we feel about them. Our hopes and fears sway us, not events themselves. Undisciplined people, driven by their personal antipathies and sympathies, are forever on the lookout for signs that build up or reinforce their unexamined views and opinions. . . . Instead of personalizing an event . . . and drawing withering conclusions about yourself or human nature, watch for how you can put certain aspects of the event to good use.—Epictetus, The Art of Living
51: Let the quality of your deeds speak on your behalf. We can't control the impressions others form about us, and the effort to do so only debases our character. So, if anyone should tell you that a particular person has spoken critically of you, don't bother with excuses or defenses. Just smile and reply, "I guess that person doesn't know about all my other faults. Otherwise, he wouldn't have mentioned only these.—Epictetus, The Art of Living
52: Personal Don't take it personal, they said; but I did, I took it all quite personal— the breeze and the river and the color of the fields; the price of grapefruit and stamps, the wet hair of women in the rain— And I cursed what hurt me and I praised what gave me joy, the most simple-minded of possible responses. The government reminded me of my father, with its deafness and its laws, and the weather reminded me of my mom, with her tropical squalls. Enjoy it while you can, they said of Happiness Think first, they said of Talk Get over it, they said at the School of Broken Hearts but I couldn't and I didn't and I don't believe in the clean break;
53: I believe in the compound fracture served with a sauce of dirty regret, I believe in saying it all and taking it all back and saying it again for good measure while the air fills up with I'm-Sorries like wheeling birds and the trees look seasick in the wind. Oh life! Can you blame me for making a scene? You were that yellow caboose, the moon disappearing over a ridge of cloud. I was the dog, chained in some fool's backyard; barking and barking: trying to convince everything else to take it personal too. —Tony Hoagland, Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty
54: Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not. It is only after you have faced up to this fundamental rule and learned to distinguish between what you can and can't control that inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible. —Epictetus, The Art of Living | Life is very short and anxious for those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear the future—Seneca, On the Shortness of Life
56: "The true virtue today is doing something in less time than someone else." —Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1887)
57: Leisure and idleness. — . . . breathless haste in working—the true vice of the new world—is already starting to spread to old Europe, making it savage and covering it with a most odd mindlessness. Already one is ashamed of keeping still; long reflection almost gives people a bad conscience. One thinks with a watch in hand, as one eats lunch with an eye on the financial pages—one lives like someone who might always "miss out on something" . . . | . . . And thus hours in which honesty is allowed are rare; during them, however, one is tired and wants not only to "let oneself go" but also to lay oneself down and stretch oneself out unceremoniously to one's full length and breadth. This is the way people now write letters, the style and spirit of which will always be the true "sign of the times" . . . . How frugal our educated and uneducated have become concerning "joy"! How they are becoming increasingly suspicious of all joy! More and more, work gets all good conscience on its side; the desire for joy already calls itself a "need to recuperate" and is starting to be ashamed of itself. Soon we may well reach the point where one can't give in to the desire for . . . a walk with ideas and friends . . . without self contempt and a bad conscience. —Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, section 329
58: . . . though I know the women he is singing for is dead in a foreign language on the stage beside him, though I know his chain mail is made of silver-painted plastic and his mismanagement of money is legendary, as I know I have squandered most of my own life in a haze of trivial distractions, and that I will continue to waste it. but wherever I was going, I don't care anymore, because no place I could arrive at is good enough for this, this thing made out of experience but to which experience will never measure up and that dark and soaring fact is enough to make me renounce the whole world or fall in love with it forever. —Tony Hoagland, "Honda Pavarotti," Donkey Gospel
59: High spirits. — It seems to me that most people simply do not believe in elevated moods, unless it be for moments or fifteen-minute intervals at most . . . . Nevertheless history might one day beget such people . . . . Perhaps the usual state for these souls would be what has so far entered our souls only as an occasional exception that made us shudder: a perpetual movement between high and low and the feeling of high and low; a continual sense of ascending stairs and at the same time of resting on clouds. —Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, section 288 | When a man who is happy compares his position with that of one who is unhappy, he is not content with the fact of his happiness, but desires something more, namely the right to this happiness, the consciousness that he has earned his good fortune, in contrast to the unfortunate one who must equally have earned his misfortune.—Max Weber, The Sociology of Religion
60: I have discovered a universal rule which seems to apply more than any other in all human actions and words: namely, to steer away from affectation at all costs, as if it were a rough and dangerous reef, and (to use perhaps a novel word for it) to practice in all things a certain nonchalance which conceals all artistry and makes whatever one says or does seem uncontrived and effortless. I am sure that grace springs especially from this, since everyone knows how difficult it is to accomplish some unusual feat perfectly, and so facility in such things excites the greatest wonder; whereas, in contrast, to labour at what one is doing and, as we say, to make bones over it, shows an extreme lack of grace and causes everything whatever its worth, to be discounted. So we can truthfully say that true art is what does not seem to be art. Baldesar Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier
62: Think things through and fully commit! Otherwise, you will be like a child who sometimes pretends he or she is a wrestler, sometimes a soldier, sometimes a musician, sometimes an actor in a tragedy. . . . Unless we fully give ourselves over to our endeavors, we are hollow, superficial people and we never develop our natural gifts. We've all known people who, like monkeys, mimic whatever seems novel and flashy at the moment. But then their enthusiasm and efforts wane; they drop their projects as soon as they become too familiar and demanding. A half-hearted spirit has no power. Tentative efforts lead to tentative outcomes.—Epictetus, The Art of Living
63: Those who belong to a certain order of society—people who make big decisions that affect all of us—don't seem to have much sense of their own fallibility. Being unacquainted with failure, the kind that can't be interpreted away, may have something to do with the lack of caution that business and political leaders often display in the actions they undertake on behalf of other people. . . . the experience of failure seems to have been edited out of the educational process, at least for gifted students. Those who struggle academically experience failure all the time, and probably write off attempts to sugar-coat it with "self-esteem" as another example of how deranged adults can be. But the praising of gifted students for being smart, by parents and teachers, has a far more pernicious effect, especially when such praise is combined with the grade inflation and soft curriculum that are notorious at elite schools. . . . | A student can avoid hard sciences and foreign languages and get a degree without ever having the unambiguous experience of being wrong. Such an education dovetails with the pedagogical effects of the material culture inhabited by the well-to-do, which insulates them from failed confrontations with hard reality. Such failures often force you to ask a favor of someone else, like when your car breaks down somewhere and you have no cell phone, and you have to flag down a motorist or knock on a door. Such an experience of dependence makes you humble, and grateful. There may be something to be said, then, for having gifted students learn a trade, if only in the summers, so that their egos will be repeatedly crushed before they go on to run the country.—Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work
65: Other people's views and troubles can be contagious. Don't sabotage yourself by unwittingly adopting negative, unproductive attitudes through your associations with others. If you encounter a downhearted friend, a grieving parent, or a colleague who has suffered a sudden reversal of fortune, be careful not to be overcome yourself . . . . It is not a demonstration of kindness or friendship to the people we care about to join them in indulging in wrongheaded, negative feelings. We do a better service to ourselves and others by remaining detached and avoiding melodramatic reactions. Still, if you find yourself in conversation with someone who is depressed, hurt, or frustrated, show them kindness and give them a sympathetic ear; just don't allow yourself to be pulled down too.—Epictetus, The Art of Living | What would it mean in practice to eliminate all the "negative people" from one's life? It might be a good move to separate from a chronically carping spouse, but it is not so easy to abandon the whiny toddler, the colicky infant, or the sullen teenager. And at the workplace, while it's probably advisable to detect and terminate those who show signs of becoming mass killers, there are other annoying people who might actually have something useful to say: the financial officer who keeps worrying about the bank's subprime mortgage exposure or the auto executive who questions the company's overinvestment in SUVs and trucks. Purge everyone who "brings you down," and you risk being very lonely or, what is worse, cut off from reality. The challenge of family life, or group life of any kind, is to keep gauging the moods of others, accommodating to their insights, and offering comfort when needed.—Barbara Ehrenreich, Bright-Sided
66: Of all the things in the world that need changing, metaphysics may not be high on your list of priorities. But to understand how metaphysics circumscribes your life, consider what you mean when you tell someone: Be realistic. A good translation would be: Decrease your expectations. It's a sentence you use on someone who is younger than you are, or someone you want to feel that way. He still has dreams and goals you've given up, or never had in the first place, and they are a standing challenge to the limits on life you have long since accepted. He wants more of the world than the world tends to give. Realizing his plans would require changing pieces of reality you believe to be fixed. And so you meet him with a palette of platitudes about human and other sorts of nature, the most harmless of which seems to be the well-meant advice to be realistic.—Susan Neiman, Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-Up Idealists
67: Whatever combination of nature and nurture gave rise to your stance toward the world, there is a metaphysics that grounds it. Whether or not you acknowledge it is immaterial; indeed, the tendency to overlook metaphysical dependencies only makes them deeper. For they determine, among other things, what you hold to be self-evident and what you hold to be possible; what you think has substance and what you can afford to ignore. People who resist cynicism are called idealists because they don't believe the world as it's given to us exhausts reality as a whole; they are convinced that ideas, too, have force and consequences. Hope is based on, or undermined by, a metaphysical standpoint. —Susan Neiman, Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-Up Idealists | We know, or can know, the first point from which each of us starts in order to get to the common level of understanding. But who knows the outer limit? Each advances more or less according to his genius, his taste, his needs, his talents, his zeal, and the occasions he has to devote himself to them. I know of no philosopher who has yet been so bold as to say: this is the limit of what man can attain and beyond which he cannot go. We do not know what our nature permits us to be.—Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Émile: Or, On Education (1762)
68: If helping is based on what we feel, or how we connect with the victim, doesn't it boil down to helping ourselves? If we feel a "warm glow," a pleasurable feeling, at improving the plight of others, doesn't this in fact make our assistance selfish? The problem is that if we call this "selfish," then literally everything becomes selfish, and the word loses its meaning. A truly selfish individual would have no trouble walking away from another in need. If someone is drowning: Let him drown. If someone is crying: Let her cry. If someone drops his boarding pass: Look away. These are what I'd call selfish reactions, which are quite the opposite of empathetic engagement. Empathy hooks us into the other's situation. Yes, we derive pleasure from helping others, but since this pleasure reaches us via the other, and only via the other, it is genuinely other-oriented. —Frans de Waal, The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society
69: Human beings are the giraffes of altruism. We're one-of-a-kind freaks of nature who occasionally—even if rarely—can be as selfless and team-spirited as bees. If your moral ideal is the person who devotes her life to helping strangers, well then, OK—such people are so rare that we send film crews out to record them for the evening news. But if you focus, as Darwin did, on behavior in groups of people who know each other and share goals and values, then our ability to work together, divide labor, help each other, and function as a team is so all-pervasive that we don't even notice it. You'll never see the headline "Forty-five Unrelated College Students Work Together Cooperatively, and for No Pay, to Prepare for Opening Night of Romeo and Juliet." —Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (2012)
70: You are not an isolated entity, but a unique, irreplaceable part of the cosmos. Don't forget this. You are an essential piece of the puzzle of humanity. Each of us is a part of a vast, intricate, and perfectly ordered human community. But where do you fit into this web of humanity? To whom are you beholden? Look for and come to understand your connections to other people. We properly locate ourselves within the cosmic scheme by recognizing our natural relations to one another and thereby identifying our duties. Our duties naturally emerge from such fundamental relations as our families, neighborhoods, workplaces, our state or nation. Make it your regular habit to consider your roles—parent, child, neighbor, citizen, leader—and the natural duties that arise from them. Once you know who you are and to whom you are linked, you will know what to do.—Epictetus, The Art of Living
71: . . . Do the opposite. Grasp the situation by the handle of familial ties. In other words, focus on the fact that this is your brother or sister, that you were brought up together, and thus have an enduring, unbreakable bond. Viewing the situation that way, you understand it correctly and preserve your equilibrium.—Epictetus, The Art of Living | Everything has two handles: one by which it may be carried, and the other by which it can't. If, for example, your brother or sister treats you poorly, don't grasp the situation by the handle of hurt or injustice, or you won't be able to bear it and you will become bitter . . .
72: How little time has passed since public execution by torture, and the sale of men and women on auction blocks, were ordinary sights in ordinary cities throughout the civilized world. To stop at these signposts of moral development is not to forget how far we have to go. But these examples remind us that historical analysis needn't be a vehicle for skepticism or an argument for relativism. It also reminds us that humankind, on occasion, makes moral progress —and sustains our attempts to make more.—Susan Neiman, Evil in Modern Thought | A world where everything makes sense would be a world without desire —in any case, without desire that is distinctly human. This is not just a problem for political activists who might be bored or lost if they found themselves in the utopia they devote their lives to achieving. In the best of all possible worlds, any creative activity is hardly conceivable. —Susan Neiman, Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-Up Idealists
73: Stoics and Epicureans. — The Epicurean seeks out the situation, the persons, and even the events that suit his extremely sensitive intellectual constitution; he forgoes the rest—that is, almost everything—because it would be too strong and heavy a diet. The Stoic, by contrast, trains himself to swallow stones and worms, glass shards and scorpions without nausea; he wants his stomach to be ultimately insensible to everything the chance of existence pours into him . . . . Stoicism may well be advisable for those with whom fate improvises and who live in violent times and depend upon impulsive and changeable people. But someone who more or less expects fate to allow him to spin a long thread does well to take an Epicurean orientation; people engaged in work of the spirit have always done so! For it would be the loss of all losses, for them, to forfeit their subtle sensitivity in exchange for a hard Stoic skin with porcupine spines. —Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, section 306
74: Recognizing that reason has a need to find a connection between virtue and happiness, both Epicureans and Stoics sought to make that connection analytic. The former postulated the identity of happiness and virtue by supposing that furthering one's own happiness is all there is to virtue; the latter postulated the identity of happiness and virtue by insisting that the consciousness of one's virtue is the only genuine happiness. Although each posited a different principle as the fundamental one, their approaches were equally reductionistic. By insisting on the identity of happiness and virtue, they attempt to deny the possibility that the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of virtue could conflict with one another, a possibility whose confirmation hardly requires the authority of a moral philosopher. In a word, both seek to deny that duty is hard. If the Epicurean seeks to deny this by refusing to acknowledge a duty which exists independently of our own exercises in prudence while the Stoic assures us that we are missing no real happiness if we are certain we have done our duty, both are equally flying from the central fact of moral experience. This fact, the permanent threat of conflict between being happy and doing one's duty, is what Kant designates by the expression "the heterogeneity of the two concepts of the highest good"; and he is surely correct in accusing both the Stoics and the Epicureans of attempting to reduce a genuine conflict to a conflict of words. Kant does not hold Epicureanism even to qualify as a candidate for a possible moral theory; his criticism of the principle of happiness is virtue is clear and brief. Less well known and much more interesting is his criticism of Stoicism. . . .
75: The Stoics, Kant holds, were correct in naming virtue as the first principle of the highest good. Yet in making it the sole principle of the highest good, they not only presuppose a degree of human virtue that is belied by all experience. More important, they posited a moral psychology that cannot—and Kant implies, should not—apply to human beings; for it contains a denial of our own (sensuous) nature, which has its own claims and needs. The sage described by the Stoics, "wholly independent of nature," is "like a god." Now God, Kant tells us, has no need of an ethics at all, since his will is determined automatically to the good. But this is to say that God is not subject to the conflict between the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of virtue that constitutes the human moral struggle. In denying the existence of this struggle by attempting to define it away, the Stoics run the risk of blasphemy. They do not, in any case, produce a doctrine that could or should by of relevance to the human moral situation. For if, as we saw, it is precisely this struggle that constitutes moral value itself, the sage of the Stoics is not even an appropriate human ideal.—Susan Neiman, The Unity of Reason: Rereading Kant
76: One thing is needful. — To ‘give style’ to one's character—a great and rare art! It is practiced by those who survey all the strengths and weaknesses that their nature has to offer and then fit them into an artistic plan until each appears as art and reason and even weaknesses delight the eye. —Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, section 290
77: Epicurus. — Yes, I am proud to experience Epicurus' character in a way unlike perhaps anyone else and to enjoy, in everything I hear and read of him, the happiness of the afternoon of antiquity: I see his eye gaze at a wide whitish sea, across shoreline rocks bathed in the sun, as large and small creatures play in its light, secure and calm like the light and his eye itself. Only someone who is continually suffering could invent such happiness—the happiness of an eye before which the sea of existence has grown still and which now cannot get enough of seeing the surface and this colorful, tender, quivering skin of the sea: never before has voluptuousness been so modest.—Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, section 45
78: People don't have the power to hurt you. Even if someone shouts abuse at you or strikes you, if you are insulted, it is always your choice to view what is happening as insulting or not. If someone irritates you, it is only your own response that is irritating you. Therefore, when anyone seems to be provoking you, remember that it is only your judgment of the incident that provokes you. Don't let your emotions get ignited by mere appearances. Try not to merely react in the moment. Pull back from the situation. Take a wider view; compose yourself. —Epictetus, The Art of Living
79: Except for extreme physical abuse, other people cannot hurt you unless you allow them to. And this holds true even if the person is your parent, brother, sister, teacher, or employer. Don't consent to be hurt and you won't be hurt—this is a choice over which you have control.—Epictetus, The Art of Living
80: Never depend on the admiration of others. There is no strength in it. Personal merit cannot be derived from an external source. It is not to be found in your personal associations, nor can it be found in the regard of other people. It is a fact of life that other people, even people who love you, will not necessarily agree with your ideas, understand you, or share your enthusiasms. Grow up! Who cares what other people think about you! Create your own merit.—Epictetus, The Art of Living
81: Whether . . . a shared domain of emotion and fantasy exists may of course be contested; but any possibility of cross-cultural understanding . . . depends on something like this being available. We are all dark to one another; a sister to a brother, a parent to a child. Understanding across differences of time and/or place is difficult, but so, too, is understanding across differences of personality or profession, or across jealousies and angers such as inhabit any close-knit group. If it is really true that no "outsider" may understand the myths and longings of a group, no matter how much learning and good-faith effort he or she expends, then we are all doomed to mutual incomprehension. Perhaps even self-understanding would then be impossible, since we all frequently feel like outsiders in relation to our own childhoods, or our previous relationships, or even some of our current longings and strivings.—Martha C. Nussbaum, The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future
82: Most people dislike vanity in others, whatever share they have of it themselves; but I give it fair quarter wherever I meet with it, being persuaded that it is often productive of good to the possessor, and to others that are within his sphere of action; and therefore, in many cases, it would not be altogether absurd if a man were to thank God for his vanity among the other comforts of life.—Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin | No matter how you feel, you have to act like you are very popular with yourself; very relaxed and purposeful, very unconfused and not like you are walking through the sunshine singing in chains. —Tony Hoagland, "Here in Berkeley," Donkey Gospel
83: Oh, those Greeks! They knew how to live: what is needed for that is to stop bravely at the surface, the fold, the skin; to worship appearance, to believe in shapes, tones, words—in the whole Olympus of appearance! Those Greeks were superficial—out of profundity! —Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, preface to the second edition
84: we should often withdraw into ourselves; for mixing with persons of dissimilar natures throws into disorder our settled composure and wakens our passions anew, exacerbating whatever is weak in the mind and not properly healed. It is, however, necessary to combine the two things, solitude and the crowd, and to have recourse to them alternately: the former will make us long for people, the latter for ourselves, and the one will be a cure for the other: our distaste for the crowd will be cured by solitude, our boredom with solitude by the crowd.—Seneca, Dialogues and Essays
85: The book is the only medium left that hasn't been corrupted by the profane: everything else on your eyelids manipulates you with an ad. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes
86: Empty is that philosopher's argument by which no human suffering is therapeutically treated. For just as there is no use in a medical art that does not cast out the sicknesses of bodies, so too there is no use in philosophy, if it does not throw out suffering from the soul.—Epicurus
87: If a little doesn't satisfy you, then nothing will satisfy you —not even a lot; if enough isn't enough, then nothing will be enough. —Epicurus
88: Read nothing from the past one hundred years; eat no fruits from the past one thousand years; drink nothing from the past four thousand years (just wine and water); but talk to no ordinary man over forty. A man without a heroic bent starts dying at the age of thirty. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes
89: Live in ignorance of what seems most important to your age! Lay at least the skin of three hundred years between you and today! And let the clamor of today, the noise of war and revolutions, be but a murmur to you. —Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, section 338
90: For everything, use boredom in place of a clock, as a biological wristwatch, though under constraints of politeness. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes | wisdom is the whispering of the solitary to himself in the crowded marketplace. —Friedrich Nietzsche, Assorted Opinions and Maxims, section 386
91: Someone who says “I am busy” is either declaring incompetence (and lack of control of his life) or trying to get rid of you. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes | Decomposition, for most, starts when they leave the free, social, and uncorrupted college life for the solitary confinement of professions and nuclear families. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes
92: My only measure of success is how much time you have to kill. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes | Procrastination is the soul rebelling against entrapment. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes
93: What fools call "wasting time" is often the best investment. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes | As at all times, so now too, men are divided into the slaves and the free; for he who does not have two-thirds of his day to himself is a slave, let him be what he may otherwise be: statesman, businessman, official, scholar. —Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human, section 283
94: You will be civilized on the day you can spend a long period doing nothing, learning nothing, and improving nothing, without feeling the slightest amount of guilt. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes
95: you have to get used to your circumstances, complain about them as little as possible, and grasp whatever advantage they have to offer: no condition is so bitter that a stable mind cannot find some consolation in it. . . . We are . . . seeking how the mind can follow a smooth and steady course, well disposed to itself, happily regarding its own condition and with no interruption to this pleasure, but remaining in a state of peace with no ups and downs: that will be tranquility.—Seneca, On Tranquility of Mind | What they call "play" (gym, travel, sports) looks like work; the harder they try, the more captive they are. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes | You exist if and only if you are free to do things without a visible objective, with no justification and, above all, outside the dictatorship of someone else's narrative. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes
96: To see if you like where you are, without the chains of dependence, check if you are as happy returning as you were leaving. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes
97: You will have a real life if and only if you do not compete with anyone in any of your pursuits. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes
98: The Word Down near the bottom of the crossed-out list of things you have to do today, between "green thread" and "broccoli," you find that you have penciled "sunlight." Resting on the page, the word is beautiful. It touches you as if you had a friend and sunlight were a present he had sent from someplace distant as this morning—to cheer you up, and to remind you that, among your duties, pleasure is a thing that also needs accomplishing. Do you remember? that time and light are kinds of love, and love is no less practical than a coffee grinder or a safe spare tire? Tomorrow you may be utterly without a clue,
99: but today you get a telegram from the heart in exile, proclaiming that the kingdom still exists, the king and queen alive, still speaking to their children, —to any one among them who can find the time to sit out in the sun and listen. | —Tony Hoagland, Sweet Ruin (1992)
100: In nature we never repeat the same motion; in captivity (office, gym, commute, sports), life is just repetitive-stress injury. No randomness.—Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes
101: Only in recent history has “working hard” signaled pride rather than shame for lack of talent, finesse, and, mostly, sprezzatura. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes | For most, work and what comes with it have the eroding effect of chronic injury. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes
102: From the latter part of the eighteenth century to the present day, art and literature and philosophy, and even politics, have been influenced, positively or negatively, by a way of feeling which was characteristic of what, in a large sense, may be called the romantic movement. . . . The romantic movement was not, in its beginnings, connected with philosophy, though it came before long to have connections with it. With politics, through Rousseau, it was connected from the first. But before we can understand its political and philosophical effects we must consider it in its most essential form, which is as a revolt against received ethical and aesthetic standards. . . . The first great figure in the movement is Rousseau, but to some extent he only expressed already existing tendencies. Cultivated people in eighteenth-century France greatly admired what they called la sensibilité, which meant a proneness to emotion, and more particularly to the emotion of sympathy. To be thoroughly satisfactory, the emotion must be direct and violent and quite uninformed by thought. The man of sensibility would be moved to tears by the sight of a single destitute peasant family, but would be cold to well-thought-out schemes for ameliorating the lot of peasants as a class. | Romanticism
103: The poor were supposed to possess more virtue than the rich; the sage was thought of as a man who retires from the corruption of courts to enjoy the peaceful pleasures of an unambitious rural existence. . . . The romantics were not without morals; on the contrary, their moral judgments were sharp and vehement. But they were based on quite other principles than those that had seemed good to their predecessors. The period from 1660 to Rousseau is dominated by recollections of the wars of religion and the civil wars in France and England and Germany. Men were very conscious of the danger of chaos, of the anarchic tendencies of all strong passions, of the importance of safety and the sacrifices necessary to achieve it. Prudence was regarded as the supreme virtue; intellect was valued as the most effective weapon against subversive fanatics; polished manners were praised as a barrier against barbarism. Newton's orderly cosmos, in which the planets unchangingly revolve about the sun in law-abiding orbits, become an imaginative symbol of good government. Restraint in the expression of useless, destructive, and violent. This change seems to be more or less permanent: almost everybody, nowadays, prefers Niagara and the Grand Canyon to lush meadows and fields of waving corn. Tourist hotels afford statistical evidence of taste in scenery.—Bertrand Russell, History of Western Philosophy
104: If you know, in the morning, what your day looks like with any precision, you are a little bit dead —the more precision, the more dead you are. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes | We are hunters; we are only truly alive in those moments when we improvise; no schedule, just small surprises and stimuli from the environment. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes
105: Preoccupation with efficacy is the main obstacle to a poetic, noble, elegant, robust, and heroic life. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes
107: Chapter Three: Love and Friendship
108: Of all the things that wisdom provides for living one's entire life in happiness, the greatest by far is the possession of friendship.—Epicurus, Principal Doctrines | Here and there on earth there is probably a kind of continuation of love in which this greedy desire of two people for each other gives way to a new desire and greed, a shared higher thirst: for an idea above them. But who knows such love? Who has experienced it? Its true name is friendship.—Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, section 14
109: It is also not possible to be a friend to many, at least not when it comes to complete friendship, just as it is not possible to be in love with many at the same time either (since such love is akin to an excess, and such a thing naturally arises in relation to one person). It is also not easy for many people to be very pleasing to the same person at the same time or, perhaps, for many to be good. Also, one must acquire experience of the other person and be in the habit of living together, which is altogether difficult. —Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1158a
110: Love and duality. — What is love but understanding and rejoicing at the fact that another lives, feels and acts in a way different from and opposite to ours? If love is to bridge these antitheses through joy it may not deny or seek to abolish them. —Even self-love presupposes an unblendable duality (or multiplicity) in one person. —Friedrich Nietzsche, Assorted Opinions and Maxims, section 75
111: Marriage as a long conversation. — When entering into a marriage one ought to ask oneself: do you believe you are going to enjoy talking with this person up into your old age? Everything else in marriage is transitory, but most of the time you are together will be devoted to conversation. —Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human, section 406
112: The paradigm of philosophical interaction is the quiet conversation of friends who have an intimate knowledge of one another's character and situation. Conversation, writes Seneca, is "more useful" than writing, even intimate letter writing, "because it creeps bit by bit into the soul." Compared with personal conversation, "lectures prepared in advance and poured out to a listening crowd have more volume but less intimacy. Philosophy is good practical advice; nobody gives advice in a loud voice. This means that, for the Stoics as for the Socrates of Plato's Phaedrus, written texts will always be inferior to personal communication. —Martha Nussbaum, The Therapy of Desire | Lies about Love We are all liars, because the truth of yesterday becomes a lie tomorrow, whereas letters are fixed, and we live by the letter of truth. The love I feel for my friend, this year, is different from the love I felt last year. If it were not so, it would be a lie. Yet we reiterate love! love! as if it were coin with a fixed value instead of a flower that dies and opens a different bud. —D. H. Lawrence
113: Learning to love. — We have to learn to love, learn to be charitable, and this from our youth up; if education and chance offer us no opportunity to practice these sensations our soul will grow dry and even incapable of understanding them in others. Hatred likewise has to be learned and nourished if one wants to become a good hater: otherwise the germ of that too will gradually wither away. —Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human, section 601
114: The Victorian cleric, John Henry Newman . . . once preached a sermon, in which he attacked the downgrading of friendship. His critique, in short, was that unless you can love one person in particular, you are hardly likely to be able to love everyone equally, as the Christian ideal demands. Friendship is a school of love: it both teaches you how to love and provides a tangible locus within which to practice loving. This perhaps explains why those who say they love everyone equally, and no one in particular, are often deeply unpleasant people to know. They love only in the abstract, which in a way is no love. Moreover, what is human love if not a lifelong effort and practice, for human beings are flawed. . . . Here's part of what Newman said, from the pulpit of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, in Oxford: "There have been men before now, who have supposed Christian love was so diffusive as not to admit of concentration upon individuals; so that we ought to love all men equally. . . . Now I shall maintain here, in opposition to such notions of Christian love, and with our Saviour's pattern before me, that the best preparation for loving the world at large, and loving it duly and wisely, is to cultivate an intimate friendship and affection towards those who are immediately about us." —Mark Vernon, The Meaning of Friendship
116: Those that go searching for love only make manifest their own lovelessness, and the loveless never find love, only the loving find love, and they never have to seek for it. —D. H. Lawrence
117: True love is the complete victory of the particular over the general, and the unconditional over the conditional. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes | We call narcissistic those individuals who behave as if they were the central residents of the world; those who do exactly the same thing in a set of two we call lovers or, better yet, "blessed by love." —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes
118: We love imperfection, the right kind of imperfection; we pay up for original art and typo-laden first editions. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes
119: Beauty is enhanced by unashamed irregularities; magnificence by a facade of blunder. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes
121: The attraction of imperfection. — I see here a poet who, like some people, exerts a greater attraction through his imperfections than through all that reaches completion and perfection under his hand. I see here a poet who never wholly expresses what he really would like to express, what he would like to have seen: it seems as if he has had the foretaste of a vision, but never the vision itself—yet a tremendous lust for this vision remains in his soul, and it is from this that he derives his equally tremendous eloquence of desire and craving. With it he lifts his listener above his work and all "works" and lends him wings to rise to heights which listeners otherwise never reach, and so, having themselves become poets and seers, they give the creator of their happiness their due admiration. —Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, section 79
122: He who is loved in each case is not loved for himself but only insofar as he is useful or pleasant. And these, then, are friendships incidentally; for it is not for being what he is that the person loved is loved, but only insofar as he provides (in the one case) something good or (in the other) pleasure. These sorts of friendships . . . are easily dissolved when the people involved . . . are no longer pleasant or useful.—Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics | The forms of friendship . . . are three, equal in number to the things that are lovable . . . . Those who love each other on account of utility . . . do not love each other in themselves, but only insofar as they have something good from the other. Similar too is the case of those who love on account of pleasure . . . . those who love on account of utility feel affection for the sake of their own good, just as those who love on account of pleasure feel affection for the sake of their own pleasure.—Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
123: a wish for friendship arises swiftly, but friendship itself does not. —Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics | those who are friends on account of utility dissolve the friendship at the same time as the advantage ceases, for they were friends not to each other but to the profit involved. —Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
124: the two qualities which chiefly inspire regard and affection —that a thing is your own and that it is precious—Aristotle, Politics
125: Love without sacrifice is like theft. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes
126: So let me now, in conclusion, turn to the writings of an author of our own day, Thomas Mann, who already in his earliest novelette, Tonio Kroger, named love the controlling principle of his art. The young North German hero of this story, whose mother was a woman of Latin race, found himself set apart from his blue-eyed blonde companions, not only physically, but also temperamentally. It was with a curiously melancholy strain of intellectual contempt that he regarded them; yet with envy also, mixed of admiration and love. Indeed, in his secret heart, he pledged himself to them all eternally—and particularly a certain charming blue-eyed Hans and beautiful blonde Ingeborg, who represented to him irresistibly the appeal of fresh human beauty and youthful life. | On coming of age, Tonio left the North to seek his destiny as a writer, and, moving to a city of the South, met there a young Russian, Lisaveta by name, and her circle of heavy thinkers. He there found himself no more at home, however, among those critics and despisers of the commonality of the human race, than he had formerly felt among the objects of their scorn. He was thus between two worlds, "a lost burgher," as he termed himself; and departing from this second scene mailed back, one day, to the critical Lisaveta an epistolary manifesto, setting forth his credo as an artist. | The right word—le mot juste—he had recognized, can wound: can even kill. Yet the duty of the writer must be to observe and to name exactly: wounding, even possibly killing. For what the writer must name in describing are inevitably imperfections. Perfection in life does not exist; and if it did, it would be—not lovable but admirable, possibly even a bore. Perfection lacks personality. (All the Buddhas, they say, are perfect: perfect and therefore alike. Having gained release from the imperfections of this world, they have left it, never to return. But the Bodhisattvas, remaining, regard the lives and deeds of this imperfect world with eyes and tears of compassion.) For let us note well (and here is the high point of Mann's thinking on this subject): what is lovable about any human being is precisely his imperfections. The writer is to find the right words for these and to send them like arrows to their mark—but with a balm, the balm of love, on every point. For the mark, the imperfection, is exactly what is personal, human, natural, in the object, and the umbilical point of its life. | "I admire," wrote Tonio Kroger to his intellectual friend, "those proud and cold beings who adventure on paths of great daemonic beauty and despise 'mankind'; but I do not envy them. Because (and here he lets fly his own dart) if there is anything capable of making a poet of a literary man, it is this burgherlike love that I feel for the human, the commonplace. All warmth, goodness, and humor derives from this; and it even seems to me that it must be itself that love of which it is written that one may speak with the tongues of men and of angels and yet, having it not, be as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals."—Joseph Campbell, Myths To Live By
128: One must learn to love. — This happens to us in music: first one must learn to hear a figure an melody at all, to detect and distinguish it, to isolate and delimit it as a life in itself; then one needs effort and good will to stand it despite its strangeness; patience with its appearance and expression, and kindheartedness about its oddity. Finally comes a moment when we are used to it; when we expect it; when we sense that we'd miss it if it were missing; and now it continues relentlessly to compel and enchant us until we have become its humble and enraptured lovers, who no longer want anything better from the world than it and it again. But this happens to us not only in music: it is in just this way that we have learned to love everything we now love. We are always rewarded in the end for our good will, our patience, our fair-mindedness and gentleness with what is strange, as it gradually casts off its veil and presents itself as a new and indescribable beauty. That is its thanks for our hospitality. Even he who loves himself will have learned it this way—there is no other way. Love, too, must be learned.—Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, section 334
129: Nothing delights the mind so much as fond and loyal friendship. What a blessing it is to have hearts that are ready and willing to receive all your secrets in safety, with whom you are less afraid to share knowledge of something than keep it to yourself, whose conversation soothes your distress, whose advice helps you make up your mind, whose cheerfulness dissolves your sorrow, whose very appearance cheers you up!—Seneca, On Tranquility of Mind
130: We should show kindness to the mind and from time to time grant it leisure that serves it for sustenance and strength. We should also take walks out of doors, so that our minds may be energized and refreshed by the open air and deep breathing; sometimes stimulus will be provided by a carriage journey and a change of place and convivial company and generous drinking. Occasionally we should reach the stage even of intoxication, allowing it, not to drown us, but to take over our senses; for it washes away our cares, and rouses the mind from its depths, acting as a cure for its melancholy. —Seneca, "On Tranquility of Mind"
131: We are not among those who have ideas only between books, stimulated by books—our habit is to think outdoors, walking, jumping, climbing, dancing, preferably on lonely mountains or right by the sea where even the paths become thoughtful.—Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, section 366 | At the sea. — I wouldn't build a home for myself (and it is part of my good fortune not to be a home-owner!). But if I had to, I would, like some Romans, build it right into the sea — I certainly would like to share a few secrets with this beautiful monster.—Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, section 240
132: In my entire life I have not had as much pleasure as through our friendship during this past year, not to speak of what I have learned from you. When I hear of your studies, my mouth waters with the anticipation of your company; we have been created for an understanding of one another. —Friedrich Nietzsche to Paul Rée (November 19, 1877)
133: The Time Wars We ourselves aren't thinking about the future anymore. What we want is to calm time down, to get time in a good mood, to make time feel wanted. We just want to give time many homemade gifts, covered with fingerprints and kisses. —Tony Hoagland, What Narcissism Means to Me
134: About your love, I remind you that the only ones who are tortured by love are those who, when he flies into their bosoms, try to clip his wings or bind him. To such, because he is a boy and unsettled, he digs out their eyes, their liver, and their heart. But those who, when he comes, are pleased and caress him, and when he goes away let him go, and when he comes back, receive him gladly, he always honors and holds dear, and under his command they triumph. Therefore, my friend, do not try to regulate one who flies, or to clip one who returns a thousand feathers for one; and you will be happy. —Niccolo Machiavelli to Francesco Vettori (June 10, 1514)
135: Star friendship. — We were friends and have become estranged. But that was right, and we do not want to hide and obscure it from ourselves as if we had to be ashamed of it. We are two ships, each of which has its own goal and course; we may cross and have a feast together, as we did—and then the good ships lay so quietly in one harbor and in one sun that it may have seemed as if they had already completed their course and had the same goal. But then the almighty force of our projects drove us apart once again, into different seas and sunny zones, and maybe we will never meet again—or maybe we will, but will not recognize each other: the different seas and suns have changed us! That we had to become estranged is the law above us; through it we should come to have more respect for each other—and the thought of our former friendship should become more sacred!—Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, section 279
136: "Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering." Wiser words are never spoken in all of Star Wars. Later Yoda tells Luke: "Anger . . . fear . . . aggression. The Dark Side of the Force are they."—Kevin Decker, Star Wars and Philosophy
137: Chapter Four: Good and Evil
139: If children are dazzled by the ought, and adolescents by the is, what stance toward the world should adults adopt? I began this discussion of metaphysics by noting that the advice to be realistic is usually the advice to decrease your expectations, a suggestion designed to insure that you get no more from—and give no more to—the world than those who came before you. It's a view that equates maturity with resignation. It urges you to accept the world you are given, for any other standpoint is just the residue of youthful dreams. Is Kant's insistence that human beings have limits anything other than that? Indeed it is, for in his view the path to maturity is not only formidable, but often tragic. Grown-ups navigate a narrow way between hope and despair . . . . The demand is precisely not to abandon the ideals of your youth. They are no more naive than they ever were; what you must abandon is the naive belief that they can be completely fulfilled. The abyss that separates is from ought is too deep to bridge entirely; the most we can hope to do is narrow it.—Susan Neiman, Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-Up Idealists
140: We want to determine the world, not merely be determined by it; we want to stand above the things we may want to consume. . . . We are born and we die as part of nature, but we feel most alive when we go beyond it. . . . human life gains meaning in opposition to experience: To be human is to refuse to accept the given as given. . . . the urge for transcendence expresses two drives. One is to criticize the present in the name of the future, to keep longing alive for ideas the world has yet to see. The other is to prove our freedom, and dignity, by having a hand in bringing those ideals about through some form of human creativity. —Susan Neiman, Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-Up Idealists
141: Everything is good as it leaves the hands of the Author of things; everything degenerates in the hands of man. He forces one soil to nourish the products of another, one tree to bear the fruit of another. He mixes and confuses the climates, the elements, the seasons. . . . He turns everything upside down; he disfigures everything; he loves deformity, monsters. He wants nothing as nature made it, not even man; for him, man must be trained like a school horse; man must be fashioned in keeping with his fancy like a tree in his garden. —Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile; or, On Education
142: "When Boris entered the room, Prince Andrey was listening to an old general, wearing his decorations, who was reporting something to Prince Andrey, with an expression of soldierly servility on his purple face. “Alright. Please wait!” he said to the general, speaking in Russian with the French accent which he used when he spoke with contempt. The moment he noticed Boris he stopped listening to the general who trotted imploringly after him and begged to be heard, while Prince Andrey turned to Boris with a cheerful smile and a nod of the head. Boris now clearly understood—what he had already guessed—that side by side with the system of discipline and subordination which were laid down in the Army Regulations, there existed a different and more real system—the system which compelled a tightly laced general with a purple face to wait respectfully for his turn while a mere captain like Prince Andrey chatted with a mere second lieutenant like Boris. Boris decided at once that he would be guided not by the official system but by this other unwritten system." | An excerpt from C. S. Lewis's The Inner Ring | May I read you a few lines from Tolstoy's War and Peace?
143: . . . In the passage I have just read from Tolstoy, the young second lieutenant Boris Dubretskoi discovers that there exist in the army two different systems or hierarchies. The one is printed in some little red book and anyone can easily read it up. It also remains constant. A general is always superior to a colonel, and a colonel to a captain. The other is not printed anywhere. Nor is it even a formally organized secret society with officers and rules which you would be told after you had been admitted. You are never formally and explicitly admitted by anyone. You discover gradually, in almost indefinable ways, that it exists and that you are outside it; and then later, perhaps, that you are inside it. There are what correspond to passwords, but they are too spontaneous and informal. A particular slang, the use of particular nicknames, an allusive manner of conversation, are the marks. But it is not so constant. It is not easy, even at a given moment, to say who is inside and who is outside. Some people are obviously in and some are obviously out, but there are always several on the borderline. And if you come back to the same Divisional Headquarters, or Brigade Headquarters, or the same regiment or even the same company, after six weeks’ absence, you may find this secondary hierarchy quite altered. There are no formal admissions or expulsions. People think they are in it after they have in fact been pushed out of it, or before they have been allowed in: this provides great amusement for those who are really inside. It has no fixed name. The only certain rule is that the insiders and outsiders call it by different names. From inside it may be designated, in simple cases, by mere enumeration: it may be called “You and Tony and me.” When it is very secure and comparatively stable in membership it calls itself “we.” When it has to be expanded to meet a particular emergency it calls itself “all the sensible people at this place.” From outside, if you have despaired of getting into it, you call it “That gang” or “they” or “So-and-so and his set” or “The Caucus” or “The Inner Ring.” If you are a candidate for admission you probably don't call it anything. To discuss it with the other outsiders would make you feel outside yourself. And to mention talking to the man who is inside, and who may help you if this present conversation goes well, would be madness.
144: Badly as I may have described it, I hope you will all have recognized the thing I am describing. Not, of course, that you have been in the Russian Army, or perhaps in any army. But you have met the phenomenon of an Inner Ring. You discovered one in your house at school before the end of the first term. And when you had climbed up to somewhere near it by the end of your second year, perhaps you discovered that within the ring there was a Ring yet more inner, which in its turn was the fringe of the great school Ring to which the house Rings were only satellites. It is even possible that the school ring was almost in touch with a Masters’ Ring. You were beginning, in fact, to pierce through the skins of an onion. And here, too, at your University—shall I be wrong in assuming that at this very moment, invisible to me, there are several rings —independent systems or concentric rings—present in this room? And I can assure you that in whatever hospital, inn of court, diocese, school, business, or college you arrive after going down, you will find the Rings—what Tolstoy calls the second or unwritten systems. | An excerpt from C. S. Lewis's The Inner Ring | All this is rather obvious. I wonder whether you will say the same of my next step, which is this. I believe that in all men's lives at certain periods, and in many men's lives at all periods between infancy and extreme old age, one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside. This desire, in one of its forms, has indeed had ample justice done to it in literature. I mean, in the form of snobbery. Victorian fiction is full of characters who are hag-ridden by the desire to get inside that particular Ring which is, or was, called Society. But it must be clearly understood that “Society,” in that sense of the word, is merely one of a hundred Rings, and snobbery therefore only one form of the longing to be inside. | People who believe themselves to be free, and indeed are free, from snobbery, and who read satires on snobbery with tranquil superiority, may be devoured by the desire in another form. It may be the very intensity of their desire to enter some quite different Ring which renders them immune from all the allurements of high life. An invitation from a duchess would be very cold comfort to a man smarting under the sense of exclusion from some artistic or communistic coterie. Poor man—it is not large, lighted rooms, or champagne, or even scandals about peers and Cabinet Ministers that he wants: it is the sacred little attic or studio, the heads bent together, the fog of tobacco smoke, and the delicious knowledge that we—we four or five all huddled beside this stove—are the people who know.
146: Often the desire conceals itself so well that we hardly recognize the pleasures of fruition. Men tell not only their wives but themselves that it is a hardship to stay late at the office or the school on some bit of important extra work which they have been let in for because they and So-and-so and the two others are the only people left in the place who really know how things are run. But it is not quite true. It is a terrible bore, of course, when old Fatty Smithson draws you aside and whispers, “Look here, we've got to get you in on this examination somehow” or “Charles and I saw at once that you've got to be on this committee.” A terrible bore ah, but how much more terrible if you were left out! It is tiring and unhealthy to lose your Saturday afternoons: but to have them free because you don't matter, that is much worse. | An excerpt from C. S. Lewis's The Inner Ring:
147: I must now make a distinction. I am not going to say that the existence of Inner Rings is an Evil. It is certainly unavoidable. There must be confidential discussions: and it is not only a bad thing, it is (in itself) a good thing, that personal friendship should grow up between those who work together. And it is perhaps impossible that the official hierarchy of any organization should coincide with its actual workings. If the wisest and most energetic people held the highest spots, it might coincide; since they often do not, there must be people in high positions who are really deadweights and people in lower positions who are more important than their rank and seniority would lead you to suppose. It is necessary: and perhaps it is not a necessary evil. But the desire which draws us into Inner Rings is another matter. A thing may be morally neutral and yet the desire for that thing may be dangerous. . . . | Let Inner Rings be unavoidable and even an innocent feature of life, though certainly not a beautiful one: but what of our longing to enter them, our anguish when we are excluded, and the kind of pleasure we feel when we get in?
148: I have no right to make assumptions about the degree to which any of you may already be compromised. . . I will ask only one question—and it is, of course, a rhetorical question which expects no answer. IN the whole of your life as you now remember it, has the desire to be on the right side of that invisible line ever prompted you to any act or word on which, in the cold small hours of a wakeful night, you can look back with satisfaction? If so, your case is more fortunate than most. | An excerpt from C. S. Lewis's The Inner Ring
149: I have already made it fairly clear that I think it better for you not to be that kind of man. But you may have an open mind on the question. I will therefore suggest two reasons for thinking as I do. | My main purpose in this address is simply to convince you that this desire is one of the great permanent mainsprings of human action. It is one of the factors which go to make up the world as we know it—this whole pell-mell of struggle, competition, confusion, graft, disappointment and advertisement, and if it is one of the permanent mainsprings then you may be quite sure of this. Unless you take measures to prevent it, this desire is going to be one of the chief motives of your life, from the first day on which you enter your profession until the day when you are too old to care. That will be the natural thing—the life that will come to you of its own accord. Any other kind of life, if you lead it, will be the result of conscious and continuous effort. If you do nothing about it, if you drift with the stream, you will in fact be an “inner ringer.” I don't say you'll be a successful one; that's as may be. But whether by pining and moping outside Rings that you can never enter, or by passing triumphantly further and further in—one way or the other you will be that kind of man.
150: It would be polite and charitable, and in view of your age reasonable too, to suppose that none of you is yet a scoundrel. On the other hand, by the mere law of averages (I am saying nothing against free will) it is almost certain that at least two or three of you before you die will have become something very like scoundrels. There must be in this room the makings of at least that number of unscrupulous, treacherous, ruthless egotists. The choice is still before you: and I hope you will not take my hard words about your possible future characters as a token of disrespect to your present characters. | An excerpt from C. S. Lewis's The Inner Ring
151: And you will be drawn in, if you are drawn in, not by desire for gain or ease, but simply because at that moment, when the cup was so near your lips, you cannot bear to be thrust back again into the cold outer world. It would be so terrible to see the other man's face—that genial, confidential, delightfully sophisticated face—turn suddenly cold and contemptuous, to know that you had been tried for the Inner Ring and rejected. And then, if you are drawn in, next week it will be something a little further from the rules, and next year something further still, but all in the jolliest, friendliest spirit. It may end in a crash, a scandal, and penal servitude; it may end in millions, a peerage and giving the prizes at your old school. But you will be a scoundrel. | And the prophecy I make is this. To nine out of ten of you the choice which could lead to scoundrelism will come, when it does come, in no very dramatic colours. Obviously bad men, obviously threatening or bribing, will almost certainly not appear. Over a drink, or a cup of coffee, disguised as triviality and sandwiched between two jokes, from the lips of a man, or woman, whom you have recently been getting to know rather better and whom you hope to know better still—just at the moment when you are most anxious not to appear crude, or naif or a prig—the hint will come. It will be the hint of something which the public, the ignorant, romantic public, would never understand: something which even the outsiders in your own profession are apt to make a fuss about: but something, says your new friend, which “we”—and at the word “we” you try not to blush for mere pleasure—something “we always do.” | That is my first reason. Of all the passions, the passion for the Inner Ring is most skillful in making a man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things.
152: My second reason is this. The torture allotted to the Danaids in the classical underworld, that of attempting to fill sieves with water, is the symbol not of one vice, but of all vices. It is the very mark of a perverse desire that it seeks what is not to be had. The desire to be inside the invisible line illustrates this rule. As long as you are governed by that desire you will never get what you want. You are trying to peel an onion: if you succeed there will be nothing left. Until you conquer the fear of being an outsider, an outsider you will remain. | An excerpt from C. S. Lewis's The Inner Ring
153: This is surely very clear when you come to think of it. If you want to be made free of a certain circle for some wholesome reason—if, say, you want to join a musical society because you really like music—then there is a possibility of satisfaction. You may find yourself playing in a quartet and you may enjoy it. But if all you want is to be in the know, your pleasure will be short lived. The circle cannot have from within the charm it had from outside. By the very act of admitting you it has lost its magic. | Once the first novelty is worn off, the members of this circle will be no more interesting than your old friends. Why should they be? You were not looking for virtue or kindness or loyalty or humor or learning or wit or any of the things that can really be enjoyed. You merely wanted to be “in.” And that is a pleasure that cannot last. As soon as your new associates have been staled to you by custom, you will be looking for another Ring. The rainbow's end will still be ahead of you. The old ring will now be only the drab background for your endeavor to enter the new one.
154: And you will always find them hard to enter, for a reason you very well know. You yourself, once you are in, want to make it hard for the next entrant, just as those who are already in made it hard for you. Naturally. In any wholesome group of people which holds together for a good purpose, the exclusions are in a sense accidental. Three or four people who are together for the sake of some piece of work exclude others because there is work only for so many or because the others can't in fact do it. Your little musical group limits its numbers because the rooms they meet in are only so big. But your genuine Inner Ring exists for exclusion. There'd be no fun if there were no outsiders. The invisible line would have no meaning unless most people were on the wrong side of it. Exclusion is no accident; it is the essence. | An excerpt from C. S. Lewis's The Inner Ring
155: The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it. This group of craftsmen will by no means coincide with the Inner Ring or the Important People or the People in the Know. It will not shape that professional policy or work up that professional influence which fights for the profession as a whole against the public: nor will it lead to those periodic scandals and crises which the Inner Ring produces. But it will do those things which that profession exists to do and will in the long run be responsible for all the respect which that profession in fact enjoys and which the speeches and advertisements cannot maintain.
156: And if in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the centre of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that the secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like. This is friendship. Aristotle placed it among the virtues. It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ring can ever have it. | An excerpt from C. S. Lewis's The Inner Ring
157: We are told in Scripture that those who ask get. That is true, in senses I can't now explore. But in another sense there is much truth in the schoolboy's principle “them as asks shan't have.” To a young person, just entering on adult life, the world seems full of “insides,” full of delightful intimacies and confidentialities, and he desires to enter them. But if he follows that desire he will reach no “inside” that is worth reaching. The true road lies in quite another direction. —C. S. Lewis, "The Inner Ring" (1944) Note: "The Inner Ring" was the annual "Commemoration Oration" given at King's College, University of London, on December 14, 1944.
158: You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative. . . . You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. | An excerpt from Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from Birmingham City Jail" (16 April 1963)
159: Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. . . . We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied." . . . One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."
160: How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. . . . | I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law. | An excerpt from Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from Birmingham City Jail" (16 April 1963)
161: We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country's anti-religious laws. | Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience. | I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
162: Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured. | In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn't this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? | Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. | I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. . . . | An excerpt from Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from Birmingham City Jail" (16 April 1963)
163: I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. | Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity. —Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from Birmingham City Jail" (16 April 1963) | We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.
164: America Then one of the students with blue hair and a tongue stud Says that America is for him a maximum-security prison Whose walls are made of RadioShacks and Burger Kings, and MTV episodes Where you can't tell the show from the commercials, And as I consider how to express how full of shit I think he is, He says that even when he's driving to the mall in his Isuzu Trooper with a gang of his friends, letting rap music pour over them Like a boiling Jacuzzi full of ballpeen hammers, even then he feels Buried alive, captured and suffocated in the folds Of the thick satin quilt of America And I wonder if this is a legitimate category of pain, or whether he is just spin doctoring a better grade, And then I remember that when I stabbed my father in the dream last night, It was not blood but money That gushed out of him, bright green hundred-dollar bills Spilling from his wounds, and—this is the weird part—, He gasped “Thank god—those Ben Franklins were Clogging up my heart— And so I perish happily, Freed from that which kept me from my liberty”—
166: Which was when I knew it was a dream, since my dad Would never speak in rhymed couplets, And I look at the student with his acne and cell phone and phony ghetto clothes And I think, “I am asleep in America too, And I don't know how to wake myself either,” And I remember what Marx said near the end of his life: “I was listening to the cries of the past, When I should have been listening to the cries of the future.” But how could he have imagined 100 channels of 24-hour cable Or what kind of nightmare it might be When each day you watch rivers of bright merchandise run past you And you are floating in your pleasure boat upon this river Even while others are drowning underneath you And you see their faces twisting in the surface of the waters And yet it seems to be your own hand Which turns the volume higher? —Tony Hoagland, What Narcissism Means to Me | It would be nice to believe that we humans were designed to love everyone unconditionally. Nice, but rather unlikely from an evolutionary perspective. Parochial love—love within groups—amplified by similarity, a sense of shared fate, and the suppression of free riders, may be the most we can accomplish. —Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion
167: One cannot pursue one's own highest good without at the same time necessarily promoting the good of others. A life based on narrow self-interest cannot be esteemed by any honorable measurement. Seeking the very best in ourselves means actively caring for the welfare of other human beings. Our human contract is not with the few people with whom our affairs are most immediately intertwined, nor to the prominent, rich, or well educated, but to all our human brethren. View yourself as a citizen of a worldwide community and act accordingly. —Epictetus, The Art of Living
168: We find it to be in extremely bad taste for individuals to boast of their accomplishments; but when countries do so we call it "national pride." —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes | The nation-state: apartheid without political incorrectness. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes | Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind. —Albert Einstein | Hiving comes naturally, easily, and joyfully to us. Its normal function is to bond dozens or at most hundreds of people together into communities of trust, cooperation, and even love. Those bonded groups may care less about outsiders than they did before their bonding—the nature of group selection is to suppress selfishness within groups to make them more effective at competing with other groups. But is that really such a bad thing overall, given how shallow our care for strangers is in the first place? Might the world be a better place if we could greatly increase the care people get within their existing groups and nations while slightly decreasing the care they get from strangers in other groups and nations?—Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion
169: In the terrible days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, I felt an urge so primitive I was embarrassed to admit it to my friends: I wanted to put an American flag decal on my car. The urge seemed to come out of nowhere, with no connection to anything I'd ever done. It was as if there was an ancient alarm box in the back of my brain with a sign on it that said, "In case of foreign attack, break glass and push button." I hadn't known the alarm box was there, but when those four planes broke the glass and pushed the button I had an overwhelming sense of being an American. I wanted to do something, anything, to support my team. Like so many others, I gave blood and donated money to the Red Cross. I was more open and helpful to strangers. And I wanted to display my team membership by showing the flag in some way. But I was a professor, and professors don't do such things. Flag waving and nationalism are for conservatives. Professors are liberal globetrotting universalists, reflexively wary of saying that their nation is better than other nations. . . . After three days and a welter of feelings I'd never felt before, I found a solution to my dilemma, I put an American flag in one corner of my rear windshield, and I put the United Nations flag in the opposite corner. That way I could announce that I loved my country, but don't worry, folks, I don't place it above other countries, and this was, after all, an attack on the whole world, sort of, right? —Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion | Every particular society, when it is narrow and unified, is estranged from the all-encompassing society. Every patriot is harsh to foreigners. They are only men. They are nothing in his eyes. This is a drawback, inevitable but not compelling. The essential thing is to be good to the people with whom one lives. . . . Distrust those cosmopolitans who go to great length in their books to discover duties they do not deign to fulfill around them. A philosopher loves the Tartars so as to be spared having to love his neighbors. —Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile: or, On Education
170: those who practice philosophy in the right way are in training for dying and they fear death least of all men. —Socrates, in Plato's Phaedo, 67e
171: Chapter Five: Philosophy
172: The philosopher's product is his life (which occupies the most important position, before his works). His life is his work of art, and every work of art is first turned toward the artist and then toward other men. —Friedrich Nietzsche, Philosophy in Hard Times, section 48 | We philosophers are not free to separate soul from body . . . we are even less free to separate soul from spirit. We are no thinking frogs, no objectifying and registering devices with frozen innards — we must constantly give birth to our thoughts out of our pain and maternally endow them with all that we have of blood, heart, fire, pleasure, passion, agony, conscience, fate, and disaster. Life — to us, that means constantly transforming all that we are into light and flame, and also all that wounds us; we simply can do no other.—Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, preface
173: A philosopher: this is a person who constantly experiences, sees, hears, suspects, hopes, and dreams extraordinary things; who is struck by his own thoughts as if from outside, from above and below, as if by his type of events and lightning bolts; who is perhaps a storm himself, pregnant with new lightning; a fatal person in whose vicinity things are always rumbling, growling, gaping, and acting in uncanny ways. A philosopher: oh, a being who is frequently running away from himself, frequently afraid of himself, — but too curious not to always come back to himself . . . —Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, section 292
174: Now is the time to get serious about living your ideals. Once you have determined the spiritual principles you wish to exemplify, abide by these rules as if they were laws, as if it were indeed sinful to compromise them. Don't mind if others don't share your convictions. How long can you afford to put off who you really want to be? Your nobler self cannot wait any longer. Put your principles into practice—now. Stop the excuses and the procrastination. This is your life! You aren't a child anymore. The sooner you set yourself to your spiritual program, the happier you will be. The longer you wait, the more you will be vulnerable to mediocrity and feel filled with shame and regret, because you know you are capable of better. From this instant on, vow to stop disappointing yourself. Separate yourself from the mob. Decide to be extraordinary and do what you need to do—now.—Epictetus, The Art of Living
175: True philosophy doesn't involve exotic rituals, mysterious liturgy, or quaint beliefs. Nor is it just abstract theorizing and analysis. It is, of course, the love of wisdom. It is the art of living a good life. As such, it must be rescued from religious gurus and professional philosophers lest it be exploited as an esoteric cult or as a set of detached intellectual techniques or brain teasers to show how clever you are. Philosophy is intended for everyone, and it is authentically practiced only by those who wed it with action in the world toward a better life for all. —Epictetus, The Art of Living
176: My circle of friends talked and laughed together. We took turns helping each other. We gathered to read enjoyable books. We joked often and at other time were serious. We could disagree without offending. We reasoned as a man would with himself, and our occasional moments of disagreement only spiced our usual harmony of thought. Sometimes we would teach, and sometimes we would learn. We would sorely miss the one who was absent and welcome him when he returned. Such were the expressions of our hearts for one another. We loved and were loved by those who knew well our expressions and words, the look in our eyes and all of our individual gestures. This is the fuel that heats souls until they melt together, to make out of many one. —St. Augustine, The Confessions of St. Augustine
177: To my taste the most fruitful and most natural exercise of our minds is conversation. I find the practice of it the most delightful activity in our lives. . . . Studying books has a languid feeble motion, whereas conversation provides teaching and exercise all at once. If I am sparring with a strong and solid opponent he will attack me on the flanks, stick his lance in me right and left; his ideas send mine soaring. Rivalry, competitiveness and glory will drive me and raise me above my own level. In conversation the most painful quality is perfect harmony. —Michel de Montaigne, "On the Art of Conversation"
178: A great deal of what might be called the journeyman's work of our culture—the work of lawyers, editors, engineers, doctors, indeed of some writers and of most professors—though vitally dependent upon ideas, is not distinctively intellectual. A man in any of the learned or quasi-learned professions must have command of a substantial store of frozen ideas to do his work; he must, if he does it well, use them intelligently; but in his professional capacity he uses them mainly as instruments. | As a professional, he has acquired a stock of mental skills that are for sale. The skills are highly developed, but we do not think of him as being an intellectual if certain qualities are missing from his work—disinterested intelligence, generalizing power, free speculation, fresh observation, creative novelty, radical criticism. | The heart of the matter—to borrow a distinction made by Max Weber about politics —is that the professional man lives off ideas, not for them. His professional role, his professional skills, do not make him an intellectual. He is a mental worker, a technician. He may happen to be an intellectual as well, but if he is, it is because he brings to his profession a distinctive feeling about ideas which is not required by his job. | What's an intellectual?
179: At home he may happen to be an intellectual, but at his job he is a hired mental technician who uses his mind for the pursuit of externally determined ends. It is this element —the fact that ends are set from some interest or vantage point outside the intellectual process itself—which characterizes both the zealot, who lives obsessively for a single idea, and the mental technician, whose mind is used not for free speculation but for a salable end. The goal here is external and not self-determined, whereas the intellectual life has a certain spontaneous character and inner determination. It has also a peculiar poise of its own, which I believe is established by a balance between two basic qualities in the intellectual's attitude toward ideas—qualities that may be designated as playfulness and piety. To define what is distinctively intellectual it is necessary to be able to determine what differentiates, say, a professor or a lawyer who is an intellectual from one who is not; or perhaps more properly, what enables us to say that at one moment a professor or a lawyer is acting in a purely routine professional fashion and at another moment as an intellectual. The difference is not in the character of the ideas with which he works but in his attitude toward them. I have suggested that in some sense he lives for ideas—which means that he has a sense of dedication to the life of the mind which is very much like a religious commitment. This is not surprising, for in a very important way the role of the intellectual is inherited from the office of the cleric: it implies a special sense of the ultimate value of existence of the act of comprehension. Socrates, when he said that the unexamined life is not worth living, struck the essence of it. —Richard Hofstadter, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life
180: The test of whether you really liked a book is if you reread it (and how many times); the test of whether you really liked someone's company is if you are ready to meet him again and again —the rest is spin, or that variety of sentiment now called self-esteem. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes
181: "But Socrates," Agathon said, "I hope you don't think I'm so obsessed with the theatre that I don't realize that, for anyone with any sense, a small number of intelligent people are more alarming than a crowd of unintelligent ones." —Plato, The Symposium, 194b
182: The person you are the most afraid to contradict is yourself. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes
183: Anyone who knows how to breathe the air of my writings will know that it is the air of high places, a strong air. You need to be made for it or you will catch a cold. The ice is close by, the solitude is tremendous — but how peacefully everything lies in the light! How freely you can breathe! . . . My long experience from these wanderings in the forbidden has taught me to see the reasons why people have been moralizing and idealizing very differently than might be desired: the hidden history of the philosophers, the psychology of its greatest names came to light for me. — How much truth can a spirit tolerate, how much truth is it willing to risk? This increasingly became the real measure of value for me. Error (— the belief in the ideal —) is not blindness, error is cowardice . . . Every achievement, every step forward in knowledge, comes from courage, from harshness towards yourself, from cleanliness with respect to yourself . . . .—Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo: How You Become What You Are
184: If I tell you that this is the greatest good for a human being, to engage every day in arguments about virtue and the other things you have heard me talk about, examining both myself and others, and if I tell you that the unexamined life is not worth living for a human being, you will be even less likely to believe what I am saying. But that's the way it is, gentlemen, as I claim, though it's not easy to convince you of it. —Socrates, in Plato, Apology 38A | The person you are the most afraid to contradict is yourself. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes
185: Philosophy's first and most general task, in the war against anger and fear, is to make things clear —to give the soul an understanding of its own situation and its possibilities. . . . the anxiety that gives rise to strife can be put to flight only by knowledge and self-knowledge . . . . Anxiety is the soul's darkness, philosophy its light. . . . The triumph of philosophy, in short, is a triumph not through political action . . . but within each human soul in relation to itself —as the soul learns . . . to understand and accept the ways in which a human life is necessarily vulnerable and incomplete, to be willing to live as a soft body rather than an armed fortress. —Martha Nussbaum, The Therapy of Desire
186: Small-minded people habitually reproach others for their own misfortunes. Average people reproach themselves. Those who are dedicated to a life of wisdom understand that the impulse to blame something or someone is foolishness, that there is nothing to be gained in blaming, whether it be others or oneself. One of the signs of the dawning of moral progress is the gradual extinguishing of blame. We see the futility of finger-pointing.—Epictetus, The Art of Living
187: To become a philosopher, start by walking very slowly. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes | We must cut down on all this dashing about that a great many people indulge in . . . they intrude into other people's affairs, always giving the impression of being busy. If you ask one of them as he comes out of a house, "Where are you going? What do you have in mind?" he will reply, "I really don't know." —Seneca, On Tranquility of Mind
188: If the real clash of civilizations is, as I believe, a clash within the individual soul, as greed and narcissism contend against respect and love, all modern societies are rapidly losing the battle, as they feed the forces that lead to violence and dehumanization and fail to feed the forces that lead to cultures of equality and respect. If we do not insist on the crucial importance of the humanities and the arts, they will drop away, because they do not make money. They only do what is much more precious than that, make a world that is worth living in, people who are able to see other human beings as full people, with thoughts and feelings of their own that deserve respect and empathy, and nations that are able to overcome fear and suspicion in favor of sympathetic and reasoned debate. —Martha Nussbaum, Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities
189: Radical changes are occurring in what democratic societies teach the young, and these changes have not been well thought through. Thirsty for national profit, nations, and their systems of education, are heedlessly discarding skills that are needed to keep democracies alive. If this trend continues, nations all over the world will soon be producing generations of useful machines, rather than complete citizens who can think for themselves, criticize tradition, and understand the significance of another person's sufferings and achievements. —Martha Nussbaum, Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities
190: I have had the good fortune to know a philosopher. He was my teacher. In his prime he had the happy sprightliness of a youth; he continued to have it, I believe, even as a very old man. His broad forehead, built for thinking, was the seat of an imperturbable cheerfulness and joy. Speech, the richest in thought, flowed from his lips. Playfulness, wit and humor were at his command. His lectures were the most entertaining talks . . . . | The history of men and peoples, natural history and science, mathematics and observation, were sources from which he enlivened his lectures and conversation. He was indifferent to nothing worth knowing. He incited and gently forced others to think for themselves; despotism was foreign to his mind. This man, whom I name with the greatest gratitude and respect, was Immanuel Kant.—Johann Gottfried Herder
191: I've been struck and bitten by the words of philosophy, which cling on more fiercely than a snake when they take hold of a young and talented mind, and make someone do and say all sorts of things. Also I can see here people like Phaedrus, Agathon, Eryximachus, Pausanias, Aristodemus and Aristophanes — I don't need to mention Socrates himself — and the rest of you. You've all shared the madness and Bacchic frenzy of philosophy, and so you will all hear what I have to say.—Alcibiades, in Plato, Symposium, 217e-218b | My experience is that of someone bitten by a snake. They say that someone who's had this experience is only prepared to say what it's like to those who've been bitten themselves, because they're the only ones who'll understand and make allowances if the pain drives you to do and say shocking things. I've been bitten by something more painful still, and in the place where a bite is most painful — the heart or mind, or whatever you should call it,
192: only the mind that is roused can utter something momentous that surpasses the thoughts of other men. When it has despised the vulgar and the ordinary, and, imbued with holy inspiration, has risen far on high, that is the moment when it utters a strain too magnificent for mortal lips. It cannot attain to any sublime and forbidding height as long as it is left to itself: it must quit the common path, it must be driven wild and bite its bit, whirling its rider away and carrying him off to a height it would have feared to scale by itself.—Seneca, On Tranquility of Mind | A medical science for the mind does exist: it is philosophy. And unlike medicine for the body, the help of philosophy is something we need not look to others to gain. Instead, we should make every possible effort to become capable physicians for ourselves.—Cicero, Tusculan Disputations | The leisure time of most men numbs them; activity drives them mad.—Epicurus, "Vatican Sayings"
193: we should learn from artists while otherwise being wiser than they. For usually in their case this delicate power stops where art ends and life begins; we, however, want to be poets of our lives, starting with the smallest and most commonplace details.—Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, section 299
194: Where is this whole philosophy headed with all of its meandering? Does it do anything more than translate a constant strong drive into reason, a drive for gentle sunlight, bright and breezy air, southern vegetation, a breath of the sea, fleeting nourishment with meat, eggs, and fruits, hot water to drink, silent walks that last for days, sparse discussion, infrequent and cautious reading, solitary living, clean, simple, and almost military habits--in short, for all things that taste best to me specifically and are healthiest for me specifically? A philosophy that is essentially the instinct for a personal diet?—Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak, section 553
195: No one is free to live just anywhere. Climactic influences on the metabolism, its inhibition or its acceleration, go so far that a mistake in place and climate can estrange someone from their task. Genius is conditioned by dry air, by clear sky, that is to say, by a rapid metabolism, by the opportunity to take in great, nay, enormous quantities of strength. —Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo: How You Become What You Are | We should . . . make ourselves flexible, so that we do not pin our hopes too much on our set plans, and can move over to those things to which chance has brought us, without dreading a change in either our purpose or our condition, provided that fickleness, that fault most inimical to tranquility, does not get hold of us. For obstinacy, from which Fortune often extorts something, is bound to bring wretchedness and anxiety, and much more serious is the fickleness that nowhere restrains itself. Both are hostile to tranquility, and find change impossible and endurance impossible. . . . When a shipwreck was reported and he heard that all his possessions had sunk, our founder Zeno said, "Fortune bids me be a less encumbered philosopher."—Seneca, Dialogues and Essays
196: The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it. —Karl Marx, Theses on Feuerbach
197: Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.—Karl Marx, Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte | History does nothing, it "possesses no immense wealth", it "wages no battles". It is man, real, living man who does all that, who possesses and fights; "history" is not, as it were, a person apart, using man as a means to achieve its own aims; history is nothing but the activity of man pursuing his aims. —Karl Marx, The Holy Family | all past history was the history of class struggles; that these warring classes of society are always the products of the modes of production and of exchange. —Friedrich Engels, Anti-Dühring | One of the most difficult tasks confronting philosophers is to descend from the world of thought to the actual world. Language is the immediate actuality of thought. Just as philosophers have given thought an independent existence, so they were bound to make language into an independent realm. —Karl Marx, German Ideology
198: The weapon of criticism cannot, of course, replace criticism of the weapon, material force must be overthrown by material force; but theory also becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses. Theory is capable of gripping the masses as soon as it demonstrates ad hominem, and it demonstrates ad hominem as soon as it becomes radical. To be radical is to grasp the root of the matter. But, for man, the root is man himself.—Karl Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right | Morality, religion, metaphysics, all the rest of ideology and their corresponding forms of consciousness, thus no longer retain the semblance of independence. They have no history, no development; but men, developing their material production and their material intercourse, alter, along with this their real existence, their thinking and the products of their thinking. —Karl Marx, German Ideology
199: As Prometheus, having stolen fire from heaven, begins to build houses and to settle upon the earth, so philosophy, expanded to be the whole world, turns against the world of appearance. The same now with the philosophy of Hegel.—Karl Marx, Notebooks on Epicurean Philosophy | The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas.—Karl Marx, German Ideology
200: The premises from which we begin are not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but real premises from which abstraction can only be made in the imagination. They are the real individuals, their activity and the material conditions under which they live, both those which they find already existing and those produced by their activity. These premises can thus be verified in a purely empirical way.—Karl Marx, German Ideology
201: In communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.—Karl Marx, German Ideology | For each new class which puts itself in the place of one ruling before it, is compelled, merely in order to carry through its aim, to represent its interest as the common interest of all the members of society, that is, expressed in ideal form: it has to give its ideas the form of universality, and represent them as the only rational, universally valid ones. —Karl Marx, German Ideology
202: Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, in the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel the first. The people, who, in Mesopotamia, Greece, Asia Minor and elsewhere, destroyed the forests to obtain cultivable land, never dreamed that by removing along with the forests the collecting centers and reservoirs of moisture they were laying the basis for the present forlorn state of those countries. When the Italians of the Alps used up the pine forests on the southern slopes, so carefully cherished on the northern slopes, they had no inkling that by doing so they were cutting at the roots of the dairy industry in their region; they had still less inkling that they were thereby depriving their mountain springs of water for the greater part of the year, and making it possible for them to pour still more furious torrents on the plains during the rainy seasons. Those who spread the potato in Europe were not aware that with these farinaceous tubers they were at the same time spreading scrofula. Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature – but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly. —Friedrich Engels, The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man
203: Economists explain how production takes place in the above-mentioned relations, but what they do not explain is how these relations themselves are produced, that is, the historical movement which gave them birth. M. Proudhon, taking these relations for principles, categories, has merely to put into order these thoughts.—Karl Marx, Poverty of Philosophy | The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working Men of All Countries, Unite! —Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto
205: Chapter Six: Religion
206: If you think about religion as a set of beliefs about supernatural agents, you're bound to misunderstand it. You'll see those beliefs as foolish delusions, perhaps even as parasites that exploit our brains for their own benefit. But if you take a Durkheimian approach to religion (focusing on belonging) and a Darwinian approach to morality (involving multilevel selection), you get a very different picture. You see that religious practices have been binding our ancestors into groups for tens of thousands of years. —Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion | Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.—Karl Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right | When a man who is happy compares his position with that of one who is unhappy, he is not content with the fact of his happiness, but desires something more, namely the right to this happiness, the consciousness that he has earned his good fortune, in contrast to the unfortunate one who must equally have earned his misfortune. —Max Weber, The Sociology of Religion
207: Every art and every philosophy may be regarded as a healing and helping appliance in the service of growing, struggling life: they always presuppose suffering and sufferers. But there are two kinds of sufferers: on the one hand those that suffer from overflowing vitality and require a tragic view and insight into life; and on the other hand those who suffer from reduced vitality, who seek repose, quietness, calm seas, and deliverance from themselves through art or knowledge, or else intoxication, spasm, bewilderment and madness. . . . the greatest sufferer, the man poorest in vitality, would have most need of mildness, peace and kindliness in thought and action: he would need, if possible, a God who is specially the God of the sick, a "Savior" . . . similarly he would have need of logic, the abstract intelligibility of existence, for logic soothes and gives confidence; - in short he would need a certain warm, fear-dispelling narrowness and imprisonment within optimistic horizons. In this manner I gradually began to understand Epicurus . . . in a similar manner also the "Christian," who in fact is only a type of Epicurean . . . . In regard to all aesthetic values I now avail myself of this radical distinction: I ask in every single case, "Has hunger or superfluity become creative here?" —Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, section 370
208: In the horizon of the infinite. — We have forsaken the land and gone to sea! We have destroyed the bridge behind us—more so, we have demolished the land behind us! Now, little ship, look out! Beside you is the ocean; it is true, it does not always roar, and at times it lies there like silk and gold and dreams of goodness. But there will be hours when you realize that it is infinite and that there is nothing more awesome than infinity. Oh, the poor bird that has felt free and now strikes against the walls of this cage! Woe, when homelessness for the land overcomes you, as if there had been more freedom there—and there is no more "land"!—Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, section 124
209: All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned. —Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto
210: Do not underestimate the value of having been religious; discover all the reasons by virtue of which you have still had a genuine access to art. . . . Is it not on precisely this soil, which you sometimes find so displeasing, the soil of unclear thinking, that many of the most splendid fruits of more ancient cultures grew up? One must have loved religion and art like mother and nurse—otherwise one cannot grow wise. But one must be able to see beyond them, outgrow them; if one remains under their spell, one does not understand them.—Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human, section 292 | If you can't spontaneously detect (without analyzing) the difference between sacred and profane, you'll never know what religion means. You will also never figure out what we commonly call art. You will never understand anything. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes
211: The fate of our times is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization and, above all, by the disenchantment of the world. Precisely the ultimate and most sublime values have retreated from public life either into the transcendental realm of mystic life or into the brotherliness of direct and personal human relations. It is not accidental that our greatest art is intimate and not monumental. —Max Weber, Science as a Vocation | Those who think religion is about "belief" don't understand religion, and don't understand belief. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes
212: The madman. — Haven't you heard of that madman who in the bright morning . . . jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. "Where is God?" he cried; "I’ll tell you! We have killed him—you and I! We are all his murderers. But how did we do this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Where is it moving to now? Where are we moving to? Away from all suns? Are we not continually falling? And backwards, sidewards, forwards, in all directions? Is there still an up and a down? Aren’t we straying as though through an infinite nothing? Isn’t empty space breathing at us? Hasn’t it got colder? Isn’t night and more night coming again and again? —Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, section 125
214: What then are these churches now if not the tombs and sepulchers of God?" —Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, section 125
215: Christianity is anti-wisdom: wisdom tells us that our efforts are in vain, that everything ends in chaos, while Christianity madly insists on the impossible. Love, especially a Christian one, is definitely not wise. This is why Paul said: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise" ("Sapientiam sapientum perdam," as his saying is usually known in Latin). We should take the term "wisdom" literally here: it is wisdom (in the sense of "realistic" acceptance of the way things are) that Paul is challenging, not knowledge as such. With regard to social order, this means that the authentic Christian tradition rejects the wisdom that the hierarchic order is our fate, that all attempts to mess with it and create another egalitarian order have to end up in destructive horror. Agape as political love means that unconditional, egalitarian love for one's neighbor can serve as the foundation for a new order.—Slavoj Zizek, "Soul of the Party," New Statesman (April 1, 2010)
216: You cannot express the holy in terms made for the profane, but you can discuss the profane in terms made for the holy. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes
217: Our old atheism had a better grasp of religion than does this new respect for the sacred. Atheists took religion seriously and recognized that it is a real force, costs something and requires difficult choices. These sociologists who talk so facilely about the sacred are like a man who keeps a toothless old circus lion around the house in order to experience the thrills of the jungle.—Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students
218: Only the Bad Die Young | there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. . . . the mariners were afraid . . . . And they said everyone to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. . . . the lot fell upon Jonah. . . . So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: -Jonah 1:4-15 (King James Version) | Magic fish aside, what strikes the modern reader as odd about the Jonah story is the mariners' unthinking assumption: that human behavior was to blame for the storm. The idea that the weather could be altogether indifferent to their welfare was foreign to these ancient mariners. The storm had to have a meaning because they inhabited a world that was in every respect meaningful, a world without mere coincidence, a world that was yet to be disenchanted. A romantic longing for that meaningful, enchanted world—where bad things only happen to bad people—has been a hallmark of health-conscious America for well over a century. In The Laws of Health (1857), for example, nineteenth-century health reformer William Alcott declared that there were at least two things that we could all be sure of: namely, "that, if the wicked do not live out half their days, it is because of their wickedness"—and, that "if the infirmities of age come upon us, it is because we have disobeyed, either intentionally or ignorantly, the Divine laws." Alcott was here articulating one of his Judeo-Christian culture's most fundamental assumptions. Philosopher Susan Sontag correctly stressed that in "the world envisaged by Judaism and Christianity, there are no free-standing arbitrary events. All events are part of the plan of a just, good, providential deity . . . . Every disaster or calamity must be seen either as leading to a greater good or else as just and adequate punishment fully merited by the sufferer." "Sicknesse comes not by hap or chance," as one seventeenth-century New England Puritan put it, "but from mans wickednesse."
219: It took the West centuries to move away from this moralistic Judeo-Christian worldview toward a scientific one that recognizes the often accidental and arbitrary nature of human suffering. Anthropologist Lucien Lévy-Bruhl maintained that "our distinctive achievement," as moderns, "was to invent the idea of natural death and actually believe in it." For Lévy-Bruhl, "the defining feature of primitive mentality is to try to nail a cause for every misfortune; and the defining feature of modernity, to forbear to ask." Continuing this thought, Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildavsky emphasized that the "concept of the accident rate and the normal chances of incurring disease belongs to the modern, scientific way of thinking. Faced by statistical averages there is no point in my asking why a particular illness should have struck me." Douglas and Wildavsky suggested that had Lévy-Bruhl lived to see the 1970s, he would have been astonished to see moderns "asking those famous primitive questions as if there were no such thing as natural death, no purely physical facts, no regular accident rates, no normal incidence of death." In health-conscious America, the older way of thinking—"the primitive mentality"—made a spirited comeback in the twentieth century. | Humans are probably the only creatures that can see death coming for them, so to speak, years before it arrives. The human brain has evolved a capacity for foresight that is, to the best of our knowledge, unrivaled in the animal kingdom. We can anticipate problems and opportunities long before they happen and plan accordingly. In some parts of the world, for instance, people plant and tend to trees whose fruits will be tasted only by their grandchildren. Foresight is an evolutionary adaptation that has given the human species a tremendous competitive advantage. Even so, foresight has its costs. Humans are perhaps the only intelligent animals that fret about death when they are in perfect health and safety. Most people fear death. Often, they also fear the mental and physical decline that so frequently precedes it. Unorthodox health reformers have consistently taken advantage of these fears. They have informed people that decline is not inevitable and that the human lifespan can be vastly extended. | The Meaning of Death in Health-Conscious America
220: William Alcott went so far as to claim that the mortal life of a human being needs not ever come to end. All death was failure, as far as he was concerned, even that of the famously long-lived patriarch Methuselah, who, according to the Book of Genesis, met his end at the ripe old age of 969. Alcott maintained that if "Methuselah suffered from what we call the infirmities of age, it was his own fault. God, his Creator, never intended it. The very common belief," added Alcott, "that old age must necessarily bring with it infirmities, besides being a great mistake, reflects dishonor to God." Twentieth-century health reformers were, for the most part, considerably more reasonable than Alcott. Still, they set unrealistic longevity standards that few people, if any, have been able to achieve. For instance, Gayelord Hauser (1895-1984), bestselling author of Look Younger, Live Longer (1950), claimed that if we took care of ourselves we could all live to be 140 years old. Adolphus Hohensee (1901-1967), always prone to hyperbole, believed 180 more accurate. Prevention writers, with relative restraint, usually pegged the "normal" human lifespan at 120. Proclamations such as these gave graying Americans a kind of hope that doctors could not in good conscience provide. | Harvard nutritionists Elizabeth Whelan and Fredrick Stare maintained that licensed medical professionals were in this instance, as in so many others, competing at a distinct disadvantage. As men and women of science they were obliged to tell their aging patients the unpleasant truth: namely, that some diseases thus far cannot be cured and some suffering cannot yet be alleviated; "that popping vitamin pills every few hours, or avoiding white bread and refined sugar, is not going to either cure or prevent degenerative disease;" that "there simply are no wonder supplements or magic potions;" and that until "medical science advances far beyond its present state, humans will necessarily continue to die from something." Although reasonable, this analysis proved a bitter pill that many Americans refused to swallow. Instead, more and more people came to believe that one could bargain with death. They were encouraged in this belief by the remarkable promises made by health reformers.
221: For better or for worse, the ideology of natural health has permeated virtually every facet of American society in the last four decades: health-food stores and health clubs have proliferated; antismoking campaigns have won astounding victories; breastfeeding and vegetarianism have become much more common; and the demand for organic food, herbal remedies, vitamin and mineral supplements, exercise gear and alternative health care has created massive industries. The ideology has resonated particularly well in the United States because its emphasis upon individual responsibility is, at bottom, largely a secular restatement of deeply-rooted Judeo-Christian assumptions about the meaning of suffering and the capacity for choice. Health gurus such as Jerome Rodale, Adelle Davis, Carlton Fredericks, and the editors of Prevention—"America's Leading Health Magazine"—promised much to the health-conscious Americans. They maintained, for instance, that aging—a human experience so thoroughly fraught with danger and uncertainty—could be controlled by the right mixture of vitamins, exercise, organic food, dietary restrictions, and positive thinking. Although the natural health movement provided new choices and a sense of self-mastery to many, especially women, its success has spread a new orthodoxy across America, with a harsh and unforgiving approach toward aging, obesity, motherhood, disease and death. Health reformers such as Robert Rodale helped redefine tragedies such as cancer, heart disease, depression, schizophrenia, crib death and miscarriage as punishments meted out to those who failed to obey the natural laws of health. They promised to free the American people from the tyranny of Western Medicine. Yet they replaced Doctor God with an equally demanding deity: Mother Nature.
222: Every so often, the promises propounded by the preachers of prevention proved problematic. Freshly published results based on a well-designed scientific study might, for instance, demonstrate that a beloved supplement like vitamin C or echinacea does not, in fact, cure the common cold. Still, nothing has proven more problematic than the death of a leader. The death of Jim Fixx is a case in point. In the early 1980s, Jim Fixx was the most well-known fitness promoter in America. His best-known work, The Complete Book of Running (1977), broke numerous records for non-fiction sales. More than perhaps anyone else, Fixx popularized running as sport, religion, and lifestyle. His sinewy physique was legendary. And his superior health was assumed. Indeed, that is why his early death came as such a shock. Fixx was running along a quiet tree-lined street in Vermont on a sunny July day in 1984 when he dropped dead of a heart attack. He was just 52 years old. Remarking upon the intrinsic irony of Fixx's death proved irresistible for irreverent late-night comedians such as Denis Leary. In the comedy routine No Cure for Cancer (1993), Leary maintained that Fixx's death was a refutation of the health-conscious lifestyle. Health enthusiasts were always telling Americans, he claimed, that if they would only give up their bad habits and replace them with good ones they could add an extra ten or twenty years to their lives. "Hey," Leary retorted, "I got two words for you, okay. Jim Fixx. Remember Jim Fixx? The big famous jogging guy? Jogged fifteen miles a day. Did a jogging book. Did a jogging video. Dropped dead of a heart attack. When? When he was fucking jogging, that's when!" In 2004, twenty years after Fixx's death, famed running instructor Hal Higdon posted an editorial on his website that took issue with those critics of long-distance running who characterized Fixx's death as an indictment of the sport. Jim Fixx's father, Higdon observed, died of a heart attack when he was just 43 years old. Had he not taken up running when he did, it is likely, Higdon argued, that Jim Fixx would have died of a heart attack at 43, too. Running, he maintained, probably added nine years to Fixx's life. In 1987, three years after Fixx's death, health writer Carlton Fredericks, famous for his syndicated radio show "Good Health," also died of a heart attack. He was 76 years old, which is not a particularly good score for a health reformer. But it was an open secret by then that he had been smoking heavily on the sly for years, so his death was fairly easy to explain away. The death of Prevention magazine's founder Jerome Rodale was, by contrast, much more problematic. | When Bad Things Happen to Good People
223: Jerome Rodale once argued that all of the teachings of health guru Horace Fletcher (1849-1919) were inherently suspect because of his untimely demise. Fletcher, famous for his advocacy of extreme mastication, was 70 years old when he died. "To be proof of his system," Rodale maintained, "he should not have died before 90." Thinking along similar lines, Prevention's executive editor claimed in 1974 that the teachings of 80-year-old health promoter Gayelord Hauser were to be heeded because his longevity and vitality were "a superb testimonial to the value of the nutritional principles he has been writing and lecturing about for over 50 years." "If more of us followed his simple advice," he added, "we might also find ourselves as ageless and vital as Gayelord Hauser." Jerome Rodale said that he intended to live until the ripe old age of 102, so that he could say that he had lived in three different centuries (he was born in 1898). He insisted that his healthy lifestyle would allow him to achieve this goal. Alas, he suffered a massive heart attack, in 1971, while he was being interviewed on the Dick Cavett Show.
224: Though the episode was never aired, Cavett recalls that Rodale was a splendid guest: "He was extremely funny for half an hour, talking about health foods, and as a friendly gesture he offered me some of his special asparagus, boiled in urine. I think I said, 'Anybody's we know?' while making a mental note to have him back." Among the many remarkable things that Rodale said on the show, Cavett remembers these as the most startling: "'I'm in such good health . . . that I fell down a long flight of stairs yesterday and I laughed all the way.' 'I've decided to live to be a hundred.' And the inevitable 'I've never felt better in my life!'" Rodale slumped over slightly to one side while Cavett was interviewing another guest—Pete Hamill, a columnist for The New York Post. Initially, Cavett thought that Rodale had fallen asleep. With characteristic wit, Cavett exclaimed: "Are we boring you, Mr. Rodale?" The studio audience burst into laughter. Of course it soon became clear that Rodale was not sleeping. Like Robert Atkins, Jerome Rodale was 72 years old when he died. His passing sent shockwaves through health-conscious America. "Rodale," as one panicked follower put it, "has ruined the health-food industry by dying."
225: The death of Adelle Davis three years later was even more problematic. At the time of her death, Davis was by far the most well-known health guru in America. As with Jim Fixx, her superior health was assumed. Even so, Davis died of bone cancer at the age of 70—in 1974, when the life expectancy of a white woman in America was 76.7 years. Mean-spirited critics were quick to note that not only did Davis fail to improve upon her expected longevity; she barely even made it into her seventies. Detractors of the natural health movement had a field day with the deaths of Jerome Rodale and Adelle Davis. These deaths were a public relations disaster that required a great deal of energy to explain away. In much the same way that Hal Higdon defended Jim Fixx in 2004, defenders of Jerome Rodale insisted in the wake of his death that he had in fact lived a virtuous life, but that the congenitally weak heart that he was born with could only take him so far. The argument had merit. Rodale's father, Michael Cohen, died of a heart attack at fifty-one. Eerily, his oldest brother, Archie Cohen, also died of a heart attack at fifty-one. Cardiac arrest claimed his brother Solomon at sixty-two, his brother Joe at fifty-six, his sister Tina at sixty-four, and his sister Sally at fifty-eight. Given this dismal family history, Prevention writers maintained that Rodale would have in all likelihood died in his early fifties, had he not taken such good care of himself. He had added twenty years to his life. This was cause for celebration. Rodale's death at seventy-two, they argued, was nothing that the health conscious need be ashamed of. | Explaining Adelle Davis's death was more difficult. She had died at the relatively early age of seventy, more than six years below the national average. How could someone who lived such a healthy life develop bone cancer? Davis was initially shocked when she received the diagnosis in 1973. But she soon came up with an explanation that left her belief system intact. True to form, Davis blamed herself. Her cancer had come about, she argued, as a result of two important lapses in judgment. The first was acquiescing in numerous x-rays over the years. Insurance companies required them for periodic examinations, but, she reasoned, they were carcinogenic and she should have known better. Davis claimed that the second transgression took place long ago in her youth. She maintained that she had eaten well on the Indiana farm where she grew up, but that she had turned to junk foods when she left home for college. She had continued upon this nutritionally unsound path for much of her twenties. She insisted that her life since then had been thoroughly virtuous. But clearly, she lamented, the damage was already done. Davis concluded that she was now paying for the sins of her youth. Prevention magazine accepted her analysis and praised "the great lady of the natural health movement" for battling it out better than most. In her death, Adelle Davis maintained the principle of personal responsibility, appropriately so because she was one of the health reformers most insistent on placing it on individuals. As luck would have it, health-conscious America's nemesis Fredrick John Stare managed to outlive all of his lifelong enemies. He died in 2002 at the ripe old age of 91.
226: Uncertainty and the Moral Imagination | A healthy respect for uncertainty has been conspicuously absent in health-conscious America. And it is here, I think, that the psychological origins of the movement's heartlessness are to be found. To put it plainly: If you don't believe in luck, you probably don't believe in compassion either. True compassion stems from an awareness of your own limitations, and from a careful assessment of the limitations of the person you wish to judge; it stems, as well, from an honest appreciation of the good fortune that has helped you achieve whatever it is that you have achieved. "To respond with compassion," philosopher Martha Nussbaum rightly observes, "I must be willing to entertain the thought that this suffering person might be me"; viz., compassion requires "a sense of one's own vulnerability to misfortune." Thinking along similar lines, Jean-Jacques Rousseau argues, in Emile (1762), that the moral imagination of a child ought to be shaped by an awareness of "the vicissitudes of fortune": "Make him understand well that the fate of these unhappy men can be his . . . . Unsettle and frighten his imagination with the perils by which every man is constantly surrounded." Only thus, avers Rousseau, can a man be made humane. Yet this is precisely the kind of moral reasoning that has been consistently opposed by the leaders of the natural health movement. | Luminaries like Adelle Davis and the Rodales claimed, time and again, that good health is not a matter of luck or fate; it is a decision—a decision made by self-disciplined individuals. A healthy physique is, in health-conscious circles, an accurate indicator of a person's moral worth. Conversely, a diseased body is seen as fundamentally aberrant; "it is foolish to be ill," thunders Adolphus Hohensee. "We can have health," declared another, "or we can have disease. It's all up to us." Of course it's not all up to us. Things fall apart. People get sick and die, often for no apparent reason. The world we inhabit can be an unpredictable place. This horrifies most of us. So we ignore it when we can, and deny the evidence of experience when we cannot. When all else fails, we embrace illusions of total control. Health consciousness is just one of those illusions. There have been others in the past, and so long as our desire to control the capricious revolutions of the Wheel of Fortune remains intact, there will be others in the future.
227: In The Future of an Illusion (1927), Freud argues that our colossal attempts to make sense of suffering and death are ultimately fueled by a childish fear of growing up. We are afraid of leaving the home where we "felt so warm and cozy." We do not wish to come to terms with the arbitrary nature of existence. Illusions fulfill this wish. They coddle us, stunt our psychological growth, and allow us to prolong our childish fantasies well into adulthood. All of this renders us, at least as far as Freud is concerned, pretty pathetic: "A person cannot remain a child for ever; eventually the child must go out into what has been called 'hostile life'. The process might be termed 'education for reality'." The resigned realists of the future would, Freud hoped, resolutely reject all infantilizing illusions. Like St. Paul, they would "put away childish things." This widespread cultural maturation would lead, in turn, to the dawning of a more enlightened age led by sober scientists. But alas, the somber souls that Freud idealized remain—especially in the United States—little more than a melancholy morbid minority. Freud's adults cannot help but feel like misfits and outsiders in 21st-century America. Even in these difficult economic times, their pessimistic worldview places them at odds with the morals and mores of the mainstream. The same could manifestly not be said about health-conscious Americans. Their ideas are, at present, a central feature of our shared experience. Between 1970 and 2010, millions of Americans embraced concerns that were once the exclusive province of a quirky subculture. Throughout this vast country, on the blessed isles of health-conscious America, aging Americans are quixotically asserting their freedom over fate and fortune. Freud would be horrified by their optimism. Rousseau would be horrified by their lack of compassion. -John Faithful Hamer, "Only the Bad Die Young," Death: A Magazine for the Enthusiast and Non-Enthusiast Alike (September 2010)
229: Chapter Seven: Beauty
230: Beauty When the medication she was taking caused tiny vessels in her face to break, leaving faint but permanent blue stitches in her cheeks, my sister said she knew she would never be beautiful again. After all those years of watching her reflection in the mirror, sucking in her stomach and standing straight, she said it was a relief, being done with beauty, but I could see her pause inside that moment as the knowledge spread across her face with a fine distress, sucking the peach out of her lips, making her cute nose seem, for the first time, a little knobby. I'm probably the only one in the whole world who actually remembers the year in high school she perfected the art of being a dumb blond, spending recess on the breezeway by the physics lab, tossing her hair and laughing that canary trill which was her specialty, while some football player named Johnny with a pained expression in his eyes wrapped his thick finger over and over again in the bedspring of one of those pale curls.
231: Or how she spent the next decade of her life auditioning a series of tall men, looking for just one with the kind of attention span she could count on. Then one day her time of prettiness was over, done, finito, and all those other beautiful women in the magazines and on the streets just kept on being beautiful everywhere you looked, walking in that kind of elegant, disinterested trance in which you sense they always seem to have one hand touching the secret place that keeps their beauty safe, inhaling and exhaling the perfume of it— It was spring. Season when the young buttercups and daisies climb up on the mulched bodies of their forebears to wave their flags in the parade. My sister just stood still for thirty seconds, amazed by what was happening, then shrugged and tossed her shaggy head as if she was throwing something out, something she had carried a long ways, but had no use for anymore, now that it had no use for her. That, too, was beautiful. -Tony Hoagland, Donkey Gospel
232: Just as dyed hair makes older men less attractive, it is what you do to hide your weaknesses that makes them repugnant. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes | Beauty is enhanced by unashamed irregularities; magnificence by a facade of blunder. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes
233: The weak shows his strength and hides his weaknesses; the magnificent exhibits his weaknesses like ornaments. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes
234: I can dissolve it into a number, into a pure relation between numbers, and eternalize it. Throughout all of this the tree remains my object and has its place and its time span, its kind and condition. But it can also happen, if will and grace are joined, that as I contemplate the tree I am drawn into a relation, and the tree ceases to be an It. The power of exclusiveness has seized me. This does not require me to forego any of the modes of contemplation. There is nothing that I must not see in order to see, and there is no knowledge that I must forget. Rather is everything, picture and movement, species and instance, law and number included and inseparably fused. Whatever belongs to the tree is included: its form and its mechanics, its colors and its chemistry, its conversation with the elements and its conversation with the stars—all this in its entirety. The tree is no impression, no play of my imagination, no aspect of a mood; it confronts my bodily and has to deal with me as I must deal with it—only differently.—Martin Buber, I and Thou | I contemplate a tree. I can accept it as a picture: a rigid pillar in a flood of light, or splashes of green traversed by the gentleness of the blue silver ground. I can feel it as movement: the flowing veins around the sturdy, striving core, the sucking of the roots, the breathing of the leaves, the infinite commerce with earth and air—and the growing itself in its darkness. I can assign it to a species and observe it as an instance, with an eye to its construction and its way of life. I can overcome its uniqueness and form so rigorously that I recognize it only as an expression of the law—those laws according to which a constant opposition of forces is continually adjusted, or those laws according to which the elements mix and separate.
235: What I like about the trees is how they do not talk about the failure of their parents and what I like about the grasses is that they are not grasses in recovery and what I like about the flowers is that they are not flowers in need of empowerment or validation. They sway upon their thorny stems as if whatever was about to happen next tonight was sure to be completely interesting— —Tony Hoagland, "Social Life," What Narcissism Means to Me
236: I want to learn more and more how to see what is necessary in things as what is beautiful in them —thus I will be one of those who make things beautiful. —Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, section 276 | Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.—Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History (1952)
237: Asked by a religious magazine what I would change about the human species "if I were God," I had to think hard. . . . We have seen in Romanian orphanages what happens when children are subjected to the baby-factory ideas of behaviorist psychology. I remain deeply suspicious of any "restructuring" of human nature even though the idea has enjoyed great appeal over the ages. . . . Marxism foundered on the illusion of a culturally engineered human. It assumed that we are born as a tabula rasa, a blank slate, to be filled in by conditioning, education, brainwashing, or whatever we call it, so that we're ready to build a wonderfully cooperative society. . . . Our species has behavioral tendencies that no culture has ever been able to do away with. . . . Have you ever noticed how the worst part of someone's personality is often also the best? You may know an anally retentive, detail-oriented accountant who never cracks a joke, nor understands any, but this is in fact what makes him the perfect accountant. Or you may have a flamboyant aunt who constantly embarrasses everyone with her big mouth, yet is the life of every party. The same duality applies to our species. . . . So, strange as it may sound, I'd be reluctant to radically change the human condition. But if I could change one thing, it would be to expand the range of fellow feeling. . . . If I were God, I'd work on the reach of empathy. —Frans de Waal, The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society
238: If you can't spontaneously detect (without analyzing) the difference between sacred and profane, you'll never know what religion means. You will also never figure out what we commonly call art. You will never understand anything. —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes
239: We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them. . . . We always have a choice about the contents and character of our inner lives. Outside our control, however, are such things as what kind of body we have, whether we're born into wealth or strike it rich, how we are regarded by others, and our status in society. We must remember that those things are externals and are therefore not our concern. Trying to control or to change what we can't only results in torment. Remember: The things within our power are naturally at our disposal, free from any restraint or hindrance; but those things outside our power are weak, dependent, or determined by the whims and actions of others. Remember, too, that if you think that you have free rein over things that are naturally beyond your control, or if you attempt to adopt the affairs of others as your own, your pursuits will be thwarted and you will become a frustrated, anxious, and fault-finding person.—Epictetus, The Art of Living
240: Human maturity: this means rediscovering the seriousness we had towards play when we were children.—Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, section 94
241: In all by which praise is won, Leon Battista was from childhood the first. . . . And all that he had and knew he imparted, as rich natures always do, without the least reserve, giving away his chief discoveries for nothing. But the deepest spring of his nature has yet to be spoken of—the sympathetic intensity with which he entered into the whole life around him. At the sight of noble trees and waving cornfields he shed tears; handsome and dignified old men he honoured as "a delight of nature," and could never look at them enough.—Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy
242: Last night she came, livid, night-blue, wine-red: the tempest with her hair of water, eyes of cold fire- last night she wanted to sleep on earth. She came all of a sudden newly unleashed out of her furious planet, her cavern in the sky; she longed for sleep and made her bed: sweeping jungles and highways, sweeping mountains, washing ocean stones, and then as if they were feathers, ravaging pine trees to make her bed. She took the lightning from her quiver of fire, dropped thunderclaps like great barrels. All of a sudden there was a silence: a single leaf gliding on air like a flying violin- | Pablo Neruda, "Ode to the Storm"
243: then, before it touched the earth, you took it in your hands, great storm, put all your winds to work blowing their horns, set the whole night galloping with its horses, all the ice whistling, the wild trees groaning in misery like prisoners, the earth moaning, a woman giving birth, in a single blow you blotted out the noise of grass or stars, tore the numbed silence like a handkerchief- the world filled with sound, fury and fire, and when the lightning flashes fell like hair from your shining forehead, fell like swords from your warrior's belt and when we were about to think that the world was ending,
244: then, rain, rain, only rain, all earth, all sky, at rest, the night fell, bleeding to death on human sleep, nothing but rain, water of time and sky: nothing had fallen except a broken branch, an empty nest. With your musical fingers, with your hell-roar, your fire of volcanoes at night, you played at lifting a leaf,
245: gave strength to rivers, taught men to be men, the weak to fear, the tender to cry, the windows to rattle- but when you prepared to destroy us, when like a dagger fury fell from the sky, when all the light and shadow trembled and the pines devoured themselves howling on the edge of the midnight sea,
246: you, delicate storm, my betrothed, wild as you were, did us no wrong: but returned to your star and rain, green rain, rain full of dreams and seeds, mother of harvests rain, with you. world-washing rain, draining it, making it new, rain for us men and for the seeds, rain for the forgetting of the dead and for tomorrow's bread- only the rain you left behind, water and music,
247: for this, I love you storm, reckon with me, come back, wake me up, illuminate me, show me your path so that the chosen voice, the stormy voice of man may join and sing your song. —Pablo Neruda, "Ode to the Storm"
249: The slow arrow of beauty. — The noblest kind of beauty is not that which suddenly transports us, but that which slowly infiltrates us, which we bear away with us almost without noticing and encounter again in dreams, but which finally, after having long lain modestly in our heart, takes total possession of us, filling our eyes with tears and our heart with longing.—Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human, section 149
250: . . . there is a solitude which each and every one of us has always carried within him, more inaccessible than the ice cold mountains, more profound than the midnight sea, —the solitude of self! Our inner being, which we call our self, no eye nor touch of man nor angel has ever pierced. It is more hidden than the caves of the gnome, the sacred adytum of the oracle, the hidden chamber of Eleusinian mystery: for to it only omniscience is permitted to enter. Such is individual life. Who, I ask you, can take, who dare take on himself the responsibility of deciding the rights, the duties, the limitations of another human soul? —Elizabeth Cady Stanton, "The Solitude of Self" (1881)
252: The world is brimming with beautiful things but nevertheless poor, very poor in beautiful moments and in the unveilings of those things. But perhaps this is the strongest magic of life: it is covered by a veil of beautiful possibilities, woven with threads of gold—promising, resisting, bashful, mocking, compassionate, and seductive. —Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, section 339
254: The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister, is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me, and I to them. —Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature”
255: The ability to be small. — One has still to be as close to the flowers, the grass and the butterflies as is a child, who is not so very much bigger than they are. We adults, on the other hand, have grown up high above them and have to condescend to them; I believe the grass hates us when we confess our love for it. — He who wants to partake of all good things must know how to be small at times.—Friedrich Nietzsche, The Wanderer and His Shadow, section 51 | Verily I say unto you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. —Matthew 18:3
256: You need a story to displace a story. Metaphors and stories are far more potent (alas) than ideas; they are also easier to remember and more fun to read. If I have to go after what I call the narrative disciplines, my best tool is a narrative. Ideas come and go, stories stay.—Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
257: 'I beseech you, my brothers, stay true to the earth and do not believe those who talk of over-earthly hopes! They are poison-mixers, whether they know it or not. They are despisers of life, moribund and poisoned themselves, of whom the earth is weary: so let them pass on! Once sacrilege against God was the greatest sacrilege, but God died, and thereby the sacrilegious died too. Sacrilege against the earth is now the most terrible thing, and to revere the entrails of the unfathomable more than a sense of the earth! —Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for Everyone and Nobody
258: Nature I miss the friendship with the pine tree and the birds I had when I was ten. And it has been forever since I pushed my head under the wild silk skirt of the waterfall. What I had with them was tender and private. The lake was practically my girlfriend. I carried her picture in my front shirt pocket. Even in my sleep, I heard the sound of water. The big rock on the shore was the skull of a dead king whose name we could almost remember. Under the rooty bank you could dimly see the bunk beds of the turtles. Maybe twice had I said a girl's name to myself; I had not yet had my weird first dream of money.
259: Nobody I know mentions these things anymore. It's as if their memories have been seized, erased, and relocated among flow charts and complex dinner party calendars. Now I want to turn and run back the other way barefoot into the underbrush, getting raked by thorns, being slapped in the face by branches. Down to the muddy bed of the little stream where my cupped hands make a house, and I tilt up the roof to look at the face of the frog. —Tony Hoagland, Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty
260: You have chosen to take a mountain for your park, but, in truth, a mountain barely worthy of the name. You would call it a hill if it stood a few miles further away from the broad, flat, river valley. . . . Let it be borne always in mind that your mountain of less than a thousand feet of elevation is royal only by courtesy, and that if you attempt to deal with it as if it had the impregnable majesty of an Alpine monarch, you only make it ridiculous. —Frederick Law Olmsted, Mount Royal, Montreal (1881) | I have been urging you to regard the work to be done in your behalf on the mountain as primarily a work of art . . . . I have used the term with some reluctance, because there is so much quacking and silly affectation afloat about art, that with many sensible people the simplest mention of it kindles prejudice. I know also that to speak of the work before you on the mountain as a work of art will again seem "unpractical," as looking to something above the heads of the people . . . . I beg all who feel about it at all in this way to let me ask, first, are you sure that if you oppose art ever so much you are going to get on without it? . . . Second, please reflect also whether it may not be a teaching of snobbishness and vulgarity against which every true man should rebel, that good art is above the heads of the common people. Those whom all accept as the highest authority regard the highest art to be that which was made for public places and for the use of all.—Frederick Law Olmsted, Mount Royal, Montreal (1881)
261: There are hundreds of little places on the mountain within which, if you can but persuade yourselves to regard them as sacred places and save them from sacrilegious hands and feet, the original Gardener of Eden will delight your eyes with little pictures within greater pictures of indescribable loveliness. And remember that it is the lilies of the field, not the lilies of the garden we are bid to consider. —Frederick Law Olmsted, Mount Royal, Montreal (1881)
262: I love my native city more than my own soul. —Niccolo Machiavelli to Francesco Vettori (April 16, 1527)
263: I have no reason to suppose that any one in Montreal has been dissatisfied with my work. No one has spoken of it, as far as I know, but with praise. —Frederick Law Olmsted, Mount Royal, Montreal (1881) | Beware of what comes out of Montreal, especially during winter. It is a force corrosive to all human institutions. It will bring everything down. It will defeat itself. It will establish the wilderness in which the Brightness will manifest again —Leonard Cohen, "Montreal," Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs
264: Now Suzanne takes your hand And she leads you to the river She is wearing rags and feathers From Salvation Army counters And the sun pours down like honey On our lady of the harbour And she shows you where to look Among the garbage and the flowers There are heroes in the seaweed There are children in the morning They are leaning out for love And they will lean that way forever While Suzanne holds the mirror And you want to travel with her And you want to travel blind And you know that you can trust her For she's touched your perfect body with her mind. —Leonard Cohen, "Suzanne," Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs
265: Yes, and thanks, for the trouble you took from her eyes I thought it was there for good so I never tried. —Leonard Cohen, "Famous Blue Raincoat," Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs
270: In the woods . . . a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child. In the woods, is perpetual youth. Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years. —Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature"
271: In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life,—no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground,—my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space,—all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God. —Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature"
272: . . . at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. I am glad to the brink of fear. —Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature"
273: Who looks upon a river in a meditative hour, and is not reminded of the flux of all things? Throw a stone into the stream, and the circles that propagate themselves are the beautiful type of all influence. Man is conscious of a universal soul within or behind his individual life, wherein, as in a firmament, the natures of Justice, Truth, Love, Freedom, arise and shine. —Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature"
274: Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchers of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs? Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe? The sun shines to-day also. There is more wool and flax in the fields. There are new lands, new men, new thoughts. Let us demand our own works and laws and worship.—Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature"
275: we philosophers and 'free spirits' feel illuminated by a new dawn; our heart overflows with gratitude, amazement, forebodings, expectation—finally the horizon seems clear again, even if not bright; finally our ships may set out again, set out to face any danger; every daring of the lover of knowledge is allowed again; the sea, our sea, lies open again; maybe there has never been such an 'open sea'.—Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, section 343
276: Marcie ran her moistened fingers along the smooth, soft surface of the soapstone adorning her kitchen as a new countertop. It had been well oiled and set in the manner of her very specific direction—soapstone needed, after all, very careful handling and tending to serve its sophisticated appeal. Marcie especially relished the thought, at this moment, of its sleek, renewed visage each month following similar requisite oil treatments. Of course, now the more direct and immediate problem was that Mexican ceramic sink, purchased in a fit of inspiration and despair from a kindly fellow on the avenue for a fraction of what those idiots downtown paid at the boutique import store. Marcie half smiled—yes, half. Once the soapstone was installed she realized the sink was all wrong and quite desperately needed replacing. She would have to search the avenues for the whole day tomorrow, in fact, for a chance at finding something even remotely approaching the right fit. | Tonight's the Night
277: Enough, she told herself, enough. Time to face the evening. Such difficulties would look better through the morning panes of sunlight and with coffee in tow. For now, she was behind schedule. One whole hour, to be exact. After neatly sweeping up the crumbs and remnants of her evening snack (never a meal, especially on weekends), Marcie gently guided her manicured forefinger along the oily surface, finding comfort in knowing that its perfection would more than make up for spending money on her (now unusable) quaint, and thus trite, Mexican basin. While she didn't like to dwell on such things, it did occur to her (if only vaguely) that the Mexican business was altogether a very bad decision and thus not entirely her fault—the salesman was rather pushy, wasn't he? No matter, she thought; not worth the complaint. Stress is horrible, absolutely horrible for the skin. | She was still in stockings from work and tread rather carefully up the carpeted stairs to avoid tears in the toes and heels. Even the slightest hole brought great discomfort and disappointment; she was always careful to avoid them and almost never failed in the effort. | Tonight promised to be a rather lofty affair: lots of fantastic views, good friends, and a phenomenal number of young men to audition as potential suitors. She and Dave broke up two months ago, but it was never very serious. It was really his nose and that particular nasally laugh that got in the way in the end, which could have been overlooked save for the fact that he punctuated every meal with his “good sense of humor” and trademark self-congratulatory snorts. Two and half months it lasted. Marcie had dutifully traveled through the seven steps her therapist recommended, learned about herself in the process, and was more fully realized, more fully capable, and more fully ready for the prospect of someone new and interesting in her cards as a result. Spotlight on tonight, thank you. She was ready.
278: The foundational and thus very often trying part of the process was selecting the dress. Once the outfit, shoes and stockings were decided, makeup would be a far easier affair. Marcie loved to look that perfect combination of “je ne sais quoi” her sister always seemed to pull off with ease. While it was more difficult for her, Marcie won her fair share of attention from a series of appropriate men in her adult dating life, and, as such, tended to have her fair share of confidence in her choices. Indeed, though a bit older now, she was far more confident, far more sophisticated, and thus a better model in her 30-year-old skin than her 22-year-old self could have ever wished for. She had even, she thought, this evening, finally succeeded in supplanting her older sister as the family beauty—particularly in light of those few extra pounds her sister seemed to have permanently adopted in the process of baby bearing and rearing. She made a mental note to self to never let such things happen when she crossed that threshold and purposively moved on.
279: The dress, of course, was black. Nude stockings were traded in for silky black darlings, and super sexy red heels finished off the job. Makeup? Easy. Minimal, smoky, and only slightly red on the lips. Marcie hated those painted jobs and gauche chicas who favored a full palette of colors, including especially those who seemed to embrace the unnatural and thus truly distasteful paints in turquoise or gold. Her hair was always easy; straightened and then curled and styled in fettered waves, pinned up underneath, and sporting carefully selected sexy wisps she would nonchalantly blow and tuck away from her face as the night proceeded.
280: Marcie liked this version of herself and lingered, appreciatively, in front of the full length mirror. She knew, however, that the most difficult job was next. To make things easier, her friend Brenda said that it was helpful to find the right inspiration—a sitcom, or perhaps a comedy routine—first. Marcie liked that guy on Saturday Night Live and recorded his stand-up show as well as that new, hot family sitcom just for this purpose. Both were funny, lively, but not too vulgar. Just the choices Brenda would have made in her single days, Marcie thought. She decided ultimately on the shorter sitcom this evening because of the time. After clicking the TV remote to exactly the right place, Marcie remembered to turn up the vanity lights and, for 10 minutes, practiced laughing and looking beautiful at exactly all the right times and in the right ways to accord with the steady stream of jokes. This was her most difficult part of preparation; her laugh could sound too out of control, high-pitched, and ultimately, her mom had been telling her since she was five, unattractive. She practiced until it was just right: musical, light, and full of appreciation. Finally, she switched to playing a few dance tunes and practiced turning to them to get in the right mood, making sure to flash a charming, natural smile into the mirror each time she turned. Deep breath, and yes, she was out the door right on time, even with the delay. The only finishing touch was to push the right dress strap down slightly in the car or when approaching the bar to achieve the ultimate carelessly sexy look. Tonight was going to be a damned good night.
281: She was meeting the girls at that new martini bar, which was a bit further away but made up for it by boasting a selective clientèle. They were on the guest list and could bypass the line-up, thanks to her sister's husband who had connections in the bar world. It was indeed crowded, and she smiled to herself as she passed the line-up at the velvet rope, went directly to the door and was ushered into the bar.
282: Tonight was girls’ night. Marcie loved the girls from work, especially Gina, who managed to make everyone, including herself, laugh and seemed to care little that her face contorted into wild dimensions as she did so. What she liked about these girls is that they always seemed to draw an appreciative crowd when they went out, especially when they went dancing. Tonight was no exception. Gina particularly seemed to revel in the dance lights and was soon enough flirting with a cute financial planner who, she whispered to Marcie when she had the chance, had two offices downtown. Though it was still early, it was hard not to succumb to a slight twinge of jealousy at Gina's good fortune—he did, after all, have fantastically sexy black curls that spilled into his line of sight and gave off an ever so naughty edge to his suit attire. Marcie, however, was not given to such unbecoming expressions; she quickly and efficiently pushed any petty emotions aside and decided, then and there, to focus on enjoying her small collection of exclusive, single friends that evening.
283: They were, after all, so much fun on the dance floor and so obviously and easily won attention from anyone in their vicinity. She had, she told herself, finally arrived and should enjoy it. With that small shift in demeanor, Marcie tossed her head back and ventured the laugh, then laughed again because she got it right, exactly right. Her mom would be proud, after all. She danced with that one strap draped down her shoulder, with her friends, into the night. Drinks came their way; they sport-flirted with some hangers-on, and, by all accounts, looked like they were having a damn good time. Of course, Marcie made sure to toss her sexy tendrils, turn and smile a few times on the dance floor, and laugh successfully all night long, just in case. By the night's end, she had rebuffed a few undesirable suitors who were too old, too poorly dressed, or just too plain to merit consideration. Perhaps this place wasn't as selective as she was led to believe.
284: Finally, and amidst a fit of girlish laughter as well as a round of complimentary champagne, last call sounded. They took stock of the evening. They teased each other about a few, particularly embarrassing efforts by some of the failed suitors. Gina went home with the financial guy and Rose disappeared at some point (which she often did), leaving three of the friends in the gang—including Marcie—to bid goodnight to the bartender and help one another home. Marcie, truth be told, hated this part; she liked to drive on alone. She had, however, become quite good at giving the girls the slip and navigating her car out of the parking lot without an entourage.
285: As on so many of these nights, Marcie coveted her secret stop at the river and the route 7 bridge on the way home. It was a suspension bridge, though fairly short by such standards, and modeled on some old British wrought iron job. Marcie loved stopping the car in the same spot every weekend, just off to the side of the road and just out of view. There, she could slide under the wire cables and slip between two railings to peer, unabated, into the deep, black waters. Merely the thought of it would stir butterflies in her, and tonight they seemed particularly spirited.
286: Once her eyes were trained on the river, however, Marcie could exhale all of it. Why those dark waters seemed so comforting was, at times, a mystery to her. She hated muddy banks, the dull colors they tinted the fast flowing water, and, well, the unpredictability of it all. Still, the river had been in her life for as long as she could remember; her earliest and elementary years were punctuated by memories of picnics with her parents along its banks near the state park. They were all of a postcard picture in that space—a fact confirmed by the park employee's request to photograph them for a very real, ultimately very popular, set of postcards promoting the park 20 years ago which, her mother believed, succeeded in part because of her perfect smile. Perhaps it was for this reason that, in the company of the river, exactly at that spot, her sister was able to stage her perfect wedding, complete with her very own Prince Charming, five years ago. Marcie, for her part, looked fantastically supportive in that golden yellow dress. Although she had to admit the state park view of the river played just the right backdrop to her sister's lacy and nostalgic affair, she decided on the very first night she found this spot that this view, above and removed from the banks and icy waters, felt far more like home to her. Here, she loved the way the muddy tint turned a dramatically darker, deeper, and unspoiled hue. Here, she could take it all in, and it was all hers. Remembering the happy, bubbly champagne courtesy of the bartender at the bar, Marcie thought it would be possible for her to achieve that effervescent glow in this place, then hiccupped and, embarrassed, smiled at her own lack of politesse.
287: Of course, she was reassured, as always, by her place among the wires and tough foundations that dominated the dark waters. As on so many nights, she had already jettisoned her red heels to more easily climb the steel structure and, as she did so, feel its cool, unforgiving solidity under her feet. She ran her foot along that same, familiar welding seam that was not, with all of its bubbles, even remotely perfect. First the right foot, then the left, holding that same notch in the wire cables for security. And, as if for the first time, Marcie gave in to the cool breeze of the evening and acknowledged, above all else, its chilly perfection. The breeze responded in kind with another chilled rush that pushed the carefully tended tendrils away from her face. She took a deep breath and felt, for a moment, ready to take on everything, but stopped short when she caught sight of a nascent, quickly blooming hole in her new black pantyhose. A slight frown darkened her lips. She continued on her way in the gentle passes, though, again and again, over that same cool and unforgiving steel. Then, seemingly distracted, Marcie pushed her painted big toe further through that expanding black hole. She peered into the depths of the dark waters, which always smiled back at her. And, this time, she finally jumped. -Anna-Liisa Aunio, "Tonight's the Night," Sunday@6mag: Magazine for the literary arts (October 2012)
288: What I thought was an end turned out to be a middle. What I thought was a brick wall turned out to be a tunnel. What I thought was an injustice turned out to be a color of the sky. —Tony Hoagland, "A Color of the Sky," What Narcissism Means to Me
289: Always at home. — One day we reach our goal—and now we point with pride to the long journeys we took to reach it. In truth we did not notice we were traveling. But we got so far because at each point we believed we were at home. —Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, section 253
290: Books. — What good is a book that does not even carry us beyond all books? —Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, section 248
291: When I close a book I open life. —Pablo Neruda, "Ode to the Book"