Thursday, May 22

"Yossarian Lives"... (Part II)

“BUT HOW DO WE KNOW THEY ARE MISERABLE? Who is to say? I see it all the time. Very old people in nursing homes who many think are worthless and have no value to their lives...but who are we to say? Maybe they don’t see themselves as worthless. Maybe life still has some value for them, after all; or, they wouldn’t cling to it tooth and nail ... To be alive at all! Can that ever be totally worthless? Can life ever cease to be a gift? No matter even if one is conscious of it mostly through pain!”

And if one is not conscious of it at all — what then? An unprofitable line of thinking which leads nowhere — or precisely to the kind of state of affairs so common nowadays and which makes it so difficult to make a moral claim. Man is not a worm, nor are his values that of a worm. (And even a worm must find at least some value to its life — which it doubtlessly has — and no doubt clings to it “tooth and nail.”) Man creates his own “value.” He defines who he is and who he is not, and what it is to be a man and what is not. And it is not about the body and about living forever. It is about living well, virtuously, without fear, and overall in such a manner that wherever one goes people cry out, “Ecce homo!


Saturday, May 17

"Yossarian Lives"...on and on

A STRANGE HUMANISM, which seems to think that it is not how you live but the number of years you live that matter most; which does everything in its power to protract a miserable existence  forever, if it were possible  but should somebody refuse to buy into this cult of longevity because he does not think it proper that a man should be afraid of death or take excessive care of the body, a thing of earth and clay” — naturally dead  it scoffs and mocks him and thinks him fit for the loony bin; which is moved to tears and bitter compassion to see a man knocked down by a misfortune, but has no eyes for "yonder man" who bears his with courage and fortitude; which sees and understands suffering, but neither sees nor understands virtue.

Friday, May 16

When one day he [Diogenes of Sinope] was gravely discoursing and nobody attended to him, he began whistling, and as people clustered about him, he reproached them with coming in all seriousness to hear nonsense, but slowly and contemptuously when the theme was serious. He would say that men strive in digging and kicking to outdo one another, but no one strives to become a good man and true. And he would wonder that the grammarians should investigate the ills of Odysseus, while they were ignorant of their own. Or that the musicians should tune the strings of the lyre, while leaving the dispositions of their own souls discordant; that the mathematicians should gaze at the sun and the moon, but overlook matters close at hand; that the orators should make a fuss about justice in their speeches, but never practice it; or that the avaricious should cry out against money, while inordinately fond of it. He used also to condemn those who praised honest men for being superior to money, while themselves envying the very rich. [Life of Eminent Philosophers. Diogenes Laeritus.]

Sunday, May 11

Of Paupers and Kings: The Pauper King

The amethyst on my sister’s finger. When i asked her why she bought it, she told me it was with her own money. A truly bourgeois reply. For a bourgeoisie there is no higher virtue than work. If he only works and makes money, then he has attained to every possible felicity, every possible good, and all his striving is at an end. Like taking a dip in the river Ganga, it absolves him of every sin past and future. It is the same with her. Just because she has worked for it, and it is her own money, she thinks she can spend it as she pleases, on whatever she pleases, and no one can call her greedy, no one can call her vain, as no one has a better claim on it than herself. And if you try and tell her that hospitality is said to be the highest virtue to which the householder can attain, so that her money would have been better spent on a simple beggar than a mere bauble, she will scoff at you. She will not understand that those two stations are complementary to each other and that one is placed as spies upon the other, upon their greed, their pride; moreover, that sometimes kings and gods move about amongst men dressed as ordinary beggars, watching over them and feeling their pulses, like a physician, so that they apply to them “not for alms, but for repayment of his due.” She will say, What due? What kings? What gods?

Friday, May 9

Felicity

Thoughts are strange fellows. Like gawky teenagers, if you try to shut them out, they will force themselves in. But offer them a seat and a drink and make them generally comfortable and they will leave one by one. I realized this today after i returned from my walk. As i was feeling a little worn out and wanted to rest, i lay down with that purpose in my mind, but the thoughts wouldn't let up...my mind felt overactive. And the more i tried to empty it out, the more vehement the thoughts became, until i developed a slight headache and was beginning to despair. But then i had a brainwave. I realized that i was going about it the wrong way, that instead of trying to keep it tightly shut, i should leave the door slightly open, and that in order to have rest one doesn’t need to be alone so much as alone with one’s thoughts in peace; like two sparring partners or old foes who have grown weary of fighting and offer only a token resistance, often they lay together in each other's arms in a close embrace ... And lo! No sooner i realized this than i had not a thought in my mind and, though it is questionable if i had any rest, i still got up well refreshed.

Even at that hour when the grey sky of St. Petersburg is shrouded in total darkness and all its race of officials have dined and sated the...