I am allowed to be a hypocrite, but you are not. You could say this is hypocritical of me, but, like I said ..
When all the dust had settled down,
And the crater revealed itself
— a crusty bullet-entry wound
the size of an adolescent heart —
Only simple forms remained;
Bacteria, Philosophy, and Art.
A Poem For The End Of The Century
By Czeslaw Milosz
When everything was fine
And the notion of sin had vanished
And the earth was ready
In universal peace
To consume and rejoice
Without creeds and utopias,
I, for unknown reasons,
Surrounded by the books
Of prophets and theologians,
Of philosophers, poets,
Searched for an answer,
Waking up at night, muttering at dawn.
What oppressed me so much
Was a bit shameful.
Talking of it aloud
Would show neither tact nor prudence.
It might even seem an outrage
Against the health of mankind.
Alas, my memory
Does not want to leave me
And in it, live beings
Each with its own pain,
Each with its own dying,
Its own trepidation.
Why then innocence
On paradisal beaches,
An impeccable sky
Over the church of hygiene?
Is it because that
Was long ago?
To a saintly man
–So goes an Arab tale–
God said somewhat maliciously:
“Had I revealed to people
How great a sinner you are,
They could not praise you.”
“And I,” answered the pious one,
“Had I unveiled to them
How merciful you are,
They would not care for you.”
To whom should I turn
With that affair so dark
Of pain and also guilt
In the structure of the world,
If either here below
Or over there on high
No power can abolish
The cause and the effect?
Don’t think, don’t remember
The death on the cross,
Though everyday He dies,
The only one, all-loving,
Who without any need
Consented and allowed
To exist all that is,
Including nails of torture.
Better to stop speech here.
This language is not for people.
Blessed be jubilation.
Vintages and harvests.
Even if not everyone
Is granted serenity.
I’ve always rejected the idea that one should, or even could, find consolation in being better off than “those less fortunate.” It’s, at best, superficial and sedating; and at worst, invalidating and guilt-inducing.
On the other hand, there is –unquestionably– some solace in regarding the pain of others with empathy and solidarity: Helps one appreciate the proper weight of grief, and better coexist and cope with the pain.
I measure every Grief I meet
by Emily Dickinson
I measure every Grief I meet
With narrow, probing, Eyes –
I wonder if It weighs like Mine –
Or has an Easier size.
I wonder if They bore it long –
Or did it just begin –
I could not tell the Date of Mine –
It feels so old a pain –
I wonder if it hurts to live –
And if They have to try –
And whether – could They choose between –
It would not be – to die –
I note that Some – gone patient long –
At length, renew their smile –
An imitation of a Light
That has so little Oil –
I wonder if when Years have piled –
Some Thousands – on the Harm –
That hurt them early – such a lapse
Could give them any Balm –
Or would they go on aching still
Through Centuries of Nerve –
Enlightened to a larger Pain –
In Contrast with the Love –
The Grieved – are many – I am told –
There is the various Cause –
Death – is but one – and comes but once –
And only nails the eyes –
There’s Grief of Want – and grief of Cold –
A sort they call “Despair” –
There’s Banishment from native Eyes –
In Sight of Native Air –
And though I may not guess the kind –
Correctly – yet to me
A piercing Comfort it affords
In passing Calvary –
To note the fashions – of the Cross –
And how they’re mostly worn –
Still fascinated to presume
That Some – are like My Own –
Love has a lot in common with Faith.
According to a certain worldview, Faith is not real –in the physical sense– except so far as certain chemicals and certain connections exist in one’s brain. Deities do not exist, because they are not observable.
Somewhat related is the claim that faith is not rational, in the sense that there are no irrefutable logical arguments for believing in said non-observable deities.
You could argue the same for Love — chemicals, for sure, as you might have seen in one scientific report or another. As well, and I don’t think I need to elaborate, Love is not very rational.
More to the point, unspeakable acts (as well as great acts of sacrifice and generosity) have been committed in both their names.
How come, then, we don’t hear battle cries, from people upholding the aforementioned worldview, calling for the abolishment of Love?
(*I would say this is inspired by Rebecca Goldstein’s reading at this meeting, but inspiration is probably a weaker and more indirect link than actually is.)
Life is a lot like that game on wait wait don’t tell me where you hear a number of equally preposterous stories and your job is to tell truth from fiction.
From Epicurus’ letter to Menoeceus (emphasis mine):
Let no one be slow to seek wisdom when he is young nor weary in the search thereof when he has grown old, for no age is too early or too late for the health of the soul. And to say that the season for studying philosophy has not yet come or that it is passed and gone is like saying that the season for happiness is not yet or that it is now no more. Therefore, both old and young ought to seek wisdom. The former, in order that as age comes over him he may be young in good things because of the grace of what has been. And the later, in order that while he is young he may at the same time be old because he has no fear of the things which are to come. So we must exercise ourselves in the things which bring happiness, since if that be present, we have everything. And if that be absent, all our actions are directed toward obtaining it.
An interesting conversation, indeed. Notwithstanding that I got lost about half-way through despite my numerous tries — lack of appropriate background, maybe. I am going to have to revisit later, but here are two points that I think are worth recording:
1. On the history of philosophy, D.D:
It really is important to know the history of philosophy if you’re going to do philosophy, and the reason is actually very simple. The history of philosophy is a history of very tempting mistakes, and the people that we study in the history of philosophy—Plato and Aristotle and Kant and all the rest—they were not dummies. They were really smart people and they made stunning errors. These are very tempting mistakes. So you really have to learn the history of philosophy if you’re going to do it well. Or you have to learn some of it. Because otherwise you just reinvent the wheel. You end up falling in the same old traps.
2. On evolution; on the rarity of sociality (as a study case for the rarity of creativity), E.W:
Evolutionary theory is unique in all of science in that it’s a theory of things that almost never happen. Every birth in every lineage is a potential speciation event, but almost none of them are. The whole biosphere depends on these things that almost never happen. Mutations are almost never good. But it’s the ones that are advantageous that do all the work. So it’s tempting to ask a question like the one that you’ve just asked about what sociality doesn’t emerge more often. Well, I think they answer may just be, don’t think there is a reason why more of them don’t, because like everything else in evolution, this is a case of something that almost never happens. But when it does, amazing things result, and one should simply get used to the fact that you don’t have to explain why it doesn’t happen. You only have to show the sufficient conditions, and then every now and then they arise.
“Originality exists in every individual because each of us differs from the other. We are all prime numbers divisible only by ourselves.”
With all due respect to Monsieur Guitton–who was a philosopher for a good part of 98 years–I beg to differ.
“We are all prime numbers divisible only by ourselves,” is a failing metaphor. Which is not so bad considering that the statement, “Originality exists in every individual because each of us differs from the other,” is a failing argument to start with.
My point is this:
We are not prime! We are not even–like–relatively prime, since we have stuff in common–common factors, if you will. Maybe, maybe, maybe, none of us is divisible by some other, but we’re definitely not prime.
Take for example the numbers 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. They’re all different, but only the 5 and 7 are prime. 6 and 8 have 2 as a common factor, and 6 and 9 have 3 as a common factor.
The metaphor fails.
Not only that, but:
“Each of us differs from the other” doesn’t imply that “originality exists in every individual.” It simply isn’t enough. We might well each be original (which I doubt) but it sure doesn’t follow from uniqueness–not in any sense I can make of “originality.”
6 is unique, but it follows 2 and 3, has a bit of 8 and a bit of 9, and is contained in 12 and 60.
Nothing original here… I might be anal; but I–surely–didn’t invent it.