Friday, July 03, 2015

Memoirs of a Frivolous Man

Well, this is heartening: "I forget most of what I have read, just as I do most of what I have eaten, but I know that both contribute no less to the conservation of my mind and my body on that account" (Lichtenberg, in Kimball). Therefore, when you keep a book in your library, it's like eating your cake and having it too.

I sometimes think I have too many books, but then it occurs to me that their presence is just a kind of accident of the medium.

For example, think of what your house would look like if you were physically surrounded by every movie and television show you had ever watched. It is a blessing that those generally weightless things disappear, for it would be depressing to be reminded of all that wasted time. It would be a monument to a misspent life, like a Grammy, or a Nobel Peace Prize.

At least my survivors will look at my liberatory and know that I tried, and as mentioned the other day, if you can't surpass even yourself, then you're not trying very hard.

What is a wasted life, anyway? One can only not waste it if it has an actual purpose. If life has no purpose, then the whole thing is just a profligate waste of time and energy, a meaningless blip amidst the entropy. Which is why Camus made that crack about suicide being the only valid philosophical question. If you say No to suicide, it implies a reason for living.

In reading this book about Israel, which followed the book on Churchill, I can't help thinking what a frivolous wastrel I am. It reminds me of Dr. Johnson's crack about how every man thinks badly of himself for not having been a soldier or at sea (I've been adrift, but it wasn't at sea).

I don't so much think about the latter, but when you read about real courage, it helps you understand why the left would vilify the military, the police, and past American heroes in general. Just as they don't understand evil, for the same reason they don't understand courage. Which is why leftists such as John Kerry or Dick Durbin accuse our soldiers of being terrorists and Nazis, while praising the incredible courage of Brucelyn Jenner. One of these is not like the other.

Having said that, there must be a place for the entirely frivolous man, for the same reason there is a place for music, comedy, art, and literature. A long time ago I came up with the brilliant rationalization that someone has to just enjoy life, otherwise what's all this fussing and fighting about?

In other words, assuming we're fighting -- whether militarily or politically -- for a purpose, then what is that purpose? What can it be aside from "living a good life"? If the good life is impossible for man, then why bother fighting for it?

I say, dammit, someone needs to prove that this so-called good life is actually possible, or else we're fighting over an illusion. Call it the Courage to be Frivolous.

Look at the left, for example. They never stop fighting, but are they ever happy? Of course not. Any victory only makes them hungry for more, since you can never get enough of what you don't really need. They won't rest until earth is heaven, which can only occur by turning it into hell. Call it the bad- or heteroparadox of the left.

I just read a biography of Giuliani that shows how he utterly transformed New York from the dangerous and increasingly unlivable hellhole it had become in the early 1990s to a once again thriving necropolis. I won't bore you with statistics, but suffice it to say that this didn't make the left happy. Miserable, rather.

Al Sharpton, for example, called Giuliani the worst mayor in world history -- as if anyone could know that -- because 1) he showed how liberal ideas created and maintained the mess, and 2) threatened to put people like Sharpton and Rangle and Cuomo out of business. Not to mention the thousands of black lives that were spared from black predators because of the incredible drop in crime. The left wants more crime, as in St. Louis and Baltimore.

Job One of the left is always about creating the misery from which they promise to rescue its victims with more of the same. It never works (in the world), but always works (at the polls). If nothing else, it sheds light on the deep structure of man's soul, since every generation falls for the same trick. To put it another way, to expose the trick is to illuminate man, naked and shivering, without so much as a fig leaf of tenure.

But we're getting off track here, because this current train of thought began with the intention of propagating a little joy in these trying times. Remember the reader who emailed me for advice on how to cope with the madness? One excellent way is to go on enjoying life despite the best efforts of these miserable bastards to immiserate us all.

This is what Dávila did, and this is the nonlocal source of the aphorisms. For example, I do not belong to a world that is passing away. I prolong and transmit a truth that does not die. We live in that sacred space into which truth flows like crystal waters, and we mustn't confuse this with the merely gross-physical world of the left.

And Christianity does not solve 'problems'; it merely obliges us to live them at a higher level.

Imagine how much happier the left would be if they aspired to this instead of scouring the world for imaginary microaggressions. What a recipe for misery! Not only that, but they ignore the macroaggressions, like, I don't know, A GLOBAL FUCKING RELIGIOUS MOVEMENT THAT WANTS TO SHOVE YOUR GENITALS DOWN YOUR THROAT BEFORE CUTTING OFF YOUR HEAD.

When he died, Christ did not leave behind documents, but disciples.

In other words, what he left behind were dramatically and permanently changed individuals. The subsequent book is a consequence of the people, not vice versa. Or, its purpose is not so much to "learn" as to recapitulate the Personal Change -- the metanoia -- that brought it about. Thus, The Bible is not the voice of God, but of the man who encounters him.

About my abject cowardice alluded to above: just how would one go about proving one is not a coward? That is what Dr. J. means by the regret over having not been a soldier. Ultimately, the only way to prove one's courage is to look death straight in the eye without flinching.

Likewise, how would one express truly selfless love, in which there is nothing in it for the lover? Yes, by dying. Anything short of this might be suspected of self-interest, which is why Jesus in principle transcends any such self-interest.

Which is also why, as Dávila says, Man is only important if it is true that a God has died for him.

Wo. That is deep. For The importance it attributes to man is the enigma of Christianity.

So, cheer up. Life has a point and you actually matter. And remember,

Whoever is not ready to prefer defeat in certain circumstances sooner or later commits the very crimes he denounces. Or just say GOP, the Gratuitous Old Pussies.


Gagdad Bob said...

Re the impossible-to-please-left, from today's Taranto:

"Last week saw a huge victory for gay rights at the U.S. Supreme Court, which left Takei infuriated. Specifically, he objected to Justice Clarence Thomas’s observation, in a dissenting opinion, that human dignity is innate."

julie said...

"If the good life is impossible for man, then why bother fighting for it?"

That's one I've been considering quite a bit recently, inasmuch as there is a strong current in Christianity (and other religions too, if I'm not mistaken) which seems to take offense at the idea that anybody should live in material success. Or rather, should live what we in the First World call "middle class," but which the rest of the world sees as "the One-Percenters." They rail against the evils of poverty while simultaneously railing against the evils of success. But if God really hated wealth that much, he never would have taught the Jews how to be successful. And if everyone were poor, who would help the impoverished?

Of course, all of that is a side issue inasmuch as the point of the good life is not only to live it here as much as possible by, well, being good, it is to place our true treasure on the other side. That is where courage comes in - to be willing to die here for whatever is Good, and trusting that on the other side will be a reward that makes everything about that "good life" herebelow seem like so much dust. Which is what it really is, anyway. Looked at that way, the dying part doesn't seem quite so terrible; rather, it is the living that becomes a challenge, as we must daily remember What's At Stake, regardless of our present circumstances. Even, or perhaps especially, when things are good.

If that makes any sense. I'd offer to sell some pot, but that was my last spliff...

ted said...

Christianity does not solve 'problems'; it merely obliges us to live them at a higher level.

Ah yes, if we could just get this across those social justice Christian (in name only) types.

Kurt said...

Seems to me Our Lord had some pretty good one-liners, too (not sure if they qualify as aphorisms, though):

Let the dead, bury the dead.

Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and unto God was is God's.

What profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul?

...among many others. A fascinating subject all around, seeing how truth can just explode from a very few words, and comparing that with the flood of verbiage and obfuscation that invariably accompanies falsehood.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"When he died, Christ did not leave behind documents, but disciples."

This high lights (again) how important personal relationships are to God.

Anonymous said...

Grandpa tried to lie into WW1, but just a baby. Tried again in WW2, too old. Ran moonshine through the hills and hollers, and helped invent NASCAR.

I watched the Cold War get negotiated away. Lost nukes, and submarines.

My Father rolled a tank over in Germany. He got drafted in Point Pleasant, WV. Very full of the War.

It is interesting how the older taboos of combination of the dead and the living really do not address those that are neither.
Probably staying in school, and not getting drafted. I wish sometimes the children of this had more real stuff to work with.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Likewise, how would one express truly selfless love, in which there is nothing in it for the lover? Yes, by dying. Anything short of this might be suspected of self-interest, which is why Jesus in principle transcends any such self-interest."

Which helps explain why so many people fail to understand Jesus on a basic, fundamental level, let alone any higher ones.
Because one cannot even begin to comprehend Jesus if they have a heart blackened by envy and pride.
In truth, it's because they cannot relate to Jesus that so many believe they know everything about Him, for they only relate to Him as a reflection of themselves.

Hence they believe Jesus was a pacifist or a social justice warrior, or that He was/is only defined by physical love/lust. No, He was and is not.

julie said...

Yes. Therein, too, lies the terrible wonder of Christian martyrdom.

julie said...

Job One of the left is always about creating the misery from which they promise to rescue its victims with more of the same. It never works (in the world), but always works (at the polls). If nothing else, it sheds light on the deep structure of man's soul, since every generation falls for the same trick.

Yes, just so. Looking again to the Old Testament, it's a lesson that had to be learned over and over again; forty or so years of the good life, followed by a period where it all went to hell because everyone forgot to teach their kids why the good life was so good, and why they ought not to act like their asshole neighbors. Zoom up to the recent past, and I was thinking yesterday of some of the tales of the cultural decadence that was happening in the late 1800s through the early 1900s. There's a reason it was often called the Gilded Age. It took a couple of world wars to turn things around for a while; one might say we had, oh, forty good years or so where America was still on the "good life" side of the ledger, and now, true to form, we are back on the downswing. Strangely, that gives me a little hope because it suggests that a new generation will come up that has learned, however harshly, that there is a right way to live.

On a tangent, I was watching some documentary on National Geographic yesterday about life in Africa, focused on a swiftly growing village with a paved road and a couple of ramshackle shops. Most of the villagers still live in mud huts, though, and the town has no running water, much less electricity. So they go to the local crocodile-infested river every day, where livestock and people are occasionally eaten. It dawned on me that that is exactly where leftist policies would send the whole world, to an idiocracy where it apparently occurs to nobody living there that it might be a good idea to set up, at the absolute minimum, a rudimentary pipeline or aqueduct to divert some of the river water into the center of town and away from the crocs. One might argue that here would be a good place for some well-meaning group to swoop in and install a water system for them; a fine idea, to be sure, except that (so I've heard) towns that receive such systems often fail to maintain them. They often can't produce even one person to do the most rudimentary maintenance. Except that by having been "helped," they are now that much less inclined to do something on their own initiative, and that much more inclined to blame others for not giving them what would make their lives better.

The mind boggles.

Thank God for America. I hope we can keep it.

Anonymous said...

For some reason, this brings to mind the saying that there are none so blind as those who refuse to see.

An acquaintance of mine, a sixty-something former hot shot lawyer in New York City, lost his entire, substantial fortune some years ago and needed something like $22,000 to get back on his feet in a specific way. Just days before this opportunity would have been lost and he would have been in truly dire straits, he got a check in the mail for the exact amount he needed, an inheritance from a relative he scarcely knew he had.

To this day, he says that if he were religious, it might have been a miracle, but he refuses to actually admit The Truth. Doing so would blow his mind in ways that would change everything, and so far, he just can't do it.

Thanks to this and other resources, my mind has been blown and is still out there somewhere, shimmering in the One Cosmos Under God and seeking to reflect His light in this dark and darkening world.

Gagdad Bob said...

It's easier to be an atheist, just as it is easier to be unhappy than happy.

There is a nonlocal order, but discerning it is analogous to perceiving the deeper order in an outwardly chaotic free jazz composition.

julie said...

Quite often, when the "worst" that could happen in our lives comes to pass, it is actually a blessing if only we will see it. At least, that has been my experience thus far. I hope your friend comes around, Anonymous.

ted said...

Roaming the internet and got a nice find for the long weekend: Father Bede Giffiths. Things really get going at the 7 minute mark on the discussion on the Trinity.

Magister said...

Great post, Bob. All true.

I suppose every old man in human history comes toward the end of his life, surveys the contemporary scene, and feels a mixture of disgust and resignation. It's in our nature, that our old orders will pass away. Humanity is restless and impatient.

These days, I just shrug. My hedges need a trim. The new doors in the entry hall won't paint themselves. The boy still needs a kick in the pants sometimes. It's time to harvest more peas. And so on.

The only thing necessary is to be a man that God, in that indiscernible end, will see and say, "hey, I remember that guy."