Weight lifters and body builders in their advanced states of muscular development appear ridiculous to us. All that time and money spent on the grotesque overdevelopment of one's merely physical attributes ___ when in a few short years one will be dust and ashes. But isn't the intellectual equally unbalanced who overdevelops his logical and analytical skills to the neglect of body, emotions, and spirit? Is the intellectual wrestler all that superior to the physical one? Is one kind of hypertrophy better than another? What good is discursive hypertrophy if it is paid for in the coin of mystical and moral and physical atrophy?
Years ago an acquaintance wrote me about a book he had published which, he said, had "made quite a splash." The metaphor is unfortunately double-edged. When an object hits the water it makes a splash. But only moments later the water returns to its quiescent state as if nothing had happened. So it is an apt metaphor. It captures both the immediate significance of an event and its long-term insignificance.
We must learn to accept people's love, good wishes, and benevolence as gifts without worrying whether we deserve these things or not, and without worrying whether we will ever be in a position to compensate the donors. Similarly, we must learn to accept people's hate and malevolence as a sort of reverse gratuitous donation whether we deserve them or not.
We are often unjustly loved and admired. So why should it bother us that we are often unjustly hated and contemned? Try to see the latter as balancing the former.
It may be that moral and intellectual progress is possible only here. After death it may be too late, either because one no longer exists, or because one continues to exist but in a state that does not permit further progress.
It is foolish to think that believers in post-mortem survival could have no reason to value their physical health and seek longevity. Even a Platonist who believes that he is his soul and not a composite of soul and body has reason to prolong the discipline of the Cave. For it may be that the best progress or the only progress is possible only in the midst of its speluncarchiaroscuro.
Philosophia longa, vita brevis. It is precisely because philosophy is long that one ought to extend one's earthly tenure for as long as one can make progress intellectually and morally. And this, whether or not one has the hope that Vita mutatur non tollitur.
Desire leads to the gratification of desire, which in turn leads to the repetition of the gratification. Repeated gratification in turn leads to the formation of an intensely pleasurable habit, one that persists even after the desire wanes and disappears, the very desire without whose gratification the habit wouldn't exist in the first place. Memories of pleasure conspire in the maintenance of habit. The ancient rake, exhausted and infirm, is not up for another round of debauchery, but the memories haunt him, of pleasures past. The memories keep alive the habit after the desire has fled the decrepit body that refuses to serve as an engine of pleasure.
And that puts me in mind of Schopenhauer's advice. "Abandon your vices before they abandon you."
Although the state under leftism is totalitarian and demands conformity and submission in matters of moment, it tolerates and indeed encourages the cultivation of a politically inconsequential individualism of private self-absorption. A people given bread (food stamps and other forms of infantilizing dependency), circuses (mass sporting events), dope (legalization of marijuana), pornography, politically correct propaganda, and such weapons of mass distraction as Twitter and Facebook is kept distracted, enervated, and submissive.
Nowadays it is not religion that is the opiate of the masses, but the dope of Big Government.
Schadenfreude at the death of an enemy presupposes that being dead is an evil state of affairs. The decedent, however, might express, if he could, Schadenfreude of his own: "I have been released from all evils while you remain trapped."
Can one learn all about human sexuality by studying the human organs of generation? The very notion is risible. Can one learn all about human affectivity by studying that most reliable and indefatigable of pumps, the human heart? Risible again. It is similarly risible to think that one can learn all about the mind by studying that marvellously complex hunk of meat, the brain.
But if one needs institutionalized religion, one could do far worse, assuming one can stomach the secular-humanist liberal namby-pambification and wussification that the post-Vatican II church can't seem to resist, the dilution of doctrine and tradition that empties into the nauseating Church of Nice.
There was something profoundly stupid about the Vatican II 'reforms' even if we view matters from a purely immanent 'sociological' point of view. Suppose Roman Catholicism is, metaphysically, buncombe to its core, nothing but an elaborate human construction in the face of a meaningless universe, a construction kept going by human needs and desires noble and base. Suppose there is no God, no soul, no post-mortem reward or punishment, no moral world order. Suppose we are nothing but a species of clever land mammal thrown up on the shores of life by blind evolutionary processes, and that everything that makes us normatively human and thus persons (consciousness, self-consciousness, conscience, reason, and the rest) are nothing but cosmic accidents. Suppose all that.
Still, religion would have its immanent life-enhancing role to play, and one would have to be as superficial and ignorant of the human heart as a New Atheist to think it would ever wither away: it inspires and guides, comforts and consoles; it provides our noble impulses with an outlet while giving suffering a meaning. Suffering can be borne, Nietzsche says somewhere, if it has a meaning; what is unbearable is meaningless suffering. Now the deep meaning that the Roman church provides is tied to its profundity, mystery, and reference to the Transcendent. Anything that degrades it into a namby-pamby secular humanism, just another brand of liberal feel-goodism and do-goodism, destroys it, making of it just another piece of dubious cultural junk. Degrading factors: switching from Latin to the vernacular; the introduction of sappy pseudo-folk music sung by pimply-faced adolescents strumming gut-stringed guitars; leftist politics and political correctness; the priest facing the congregation; the '60s obsession with 'relevance.'
People who take religion seriously tend to be conservatives and traditionalists; they are not change-for-the-sake-of-change leftist utopians. The stupidity of the Vatican II 'reforms,' therefore, consists in estranging its very clienetele, the conservatives and traditionalists. The church should be a liberal-free zone.
Man is godlike and therefore proud. He becomes even more godlike when he humbles himself.
The central thought of Christianity, true or not, is one so repellent to the natural human pride of life that one ought at least to entertain the unlikelihood of its having a merely human origin. The thought is that God humbled himself to the point of entering the world in the miserably helpless and indigent way we in fact do, inter faeces et urinam, and to the point of leaving it in the most horrendous way the brutal Romans could devise, and from a most undistinguished spot, a hill in an obscure desert outpost of their empire.
If hell is separation from God, why wouldn't a body held in thrall by sensuous pleasure do as well as a body wracked with pain? Absorbed in sensuous pleasure, one is arguably farther from God than when in pain.
Memory compensates us for the passage of time, but it also ensures that we will never forget that we are subject to it. Yet better to be a man than an animal held hostage to the passing moment but oblivious of the fact.
Wherein resides the dignity of the king? At every time in every possible game, the king is on the board. He cannot be captured: he never leaves the board while the game is on. He alone is 'necessary,' all other pieces are 'contingent.'
But at game's end, he too goes into the box with the lowliest of the pawns, as if to demonstrate that the high and mighty in life are equalized in death.
Our incarnation is a fact, mysterious though it may be. Eating and sleeping are concessions to it. The animals we are are also social and so a bit of socializing is a necessary concession to that part of our mix. These concessions are not to be begrudged and may in moderate measure be enjoyed. Earthly man does not live by spirit alone.