We who thrive get used to being alive, and forget we have our lives on loan, a loan that can be called on the spot without advance notice. Compare James 4:13-17 (NIV):
13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
He who is ever on the make will never have it made. He will never be a 'made man.' There is a time to strive, and a time to be. Is the universe trying to get somewhere? It already is everywhere. Are you any less cosmic? If you think you have a Maker, is he not a 'made man'? And aren't you a chip off the old block?
The dignity of the king allows no such thing. He never leaves the board during the game. When the game is over, however, he goes into the same box with the lowly pawns. Which is to say: all earthly dignity is as naught before the tribunal of the Great Equalizer.
Appreciate what you have while you have it. An actual shack is better than a remembered or merely imagined or expected or merely possible palace. Do not allow the present and actual good to suffer diminution by comparison to the modally and temporally and spatially elsewhere.
This is it. This is your life. Right here and right now. If it is good, appreciate it. If it needs improving, act right here and right now to improve it, but without failing to appreciate the good that is here and now yours.
We patzers can sport with Caissa and her charms without too much harm. It is the very strong players, who yet fall short of the highest level, who run the greatest risk. Chess sucks them in then leaves them high and dry. The goddess Caissa becomes the she-devil Impecunia.
Our relations with our relatives are too often like the relations of Arabs and Israelis: too much past, no future. But with the Arabs and Israelis it is even worse: too much history, not enough geography.
You are free to psychologize your opponent when his position is demonstrably false or incoherent. If his reasons are worthless, then you are justified in exposing the motives that drive his commitments.
It can happen that as a man becomes weaker, he is better able to weaken the grip of his weaknesses. Having less energy for their implementation, he now masters what mastered him. Vices vitiate until the body they have vitiated vitiates them in turn.
A mark of intellectual maturity is the ability to tolerate uncertainty without fleeing to dogmas that make false certainties of objective uncertainties, but also without falling into a self-vitiating relativism. The ideal is a love of truth that does not flag but also accepts no substitutes.
We are 'reminded' (Plato) of the eternal both by the most transient and the least transient of things. The most transient teaches the ultimate ephemerality of all things finite. The least transient teaches that it is no substitute for the eternal.
The weak invite attack. That is a law of nature. Nations are in the state of nature with respect to each other. Talk of international law is empty verbiage without an enforcement mechanism. There is none. Or at least there is none distinct from every extant state. The same goes for diplomacy. There needs be a hard fist behind the diplomat's smiling mask. There had better be iron and the willingness to shed blood back of that persona.
Or as Herr Blut-und-Eisen himself is reported to have said, "Diplomacy unbacked by force is like music without instruments."
We are measurable by the nature of our regrets. What do you regret? Not having drunk enough good wine? Not having amassed more wealth? Not having given in to the temptation to commit adultery with willing women or men in faraway places? Or is it rather your intellectual mistakes and moral failures that you regret?
We can be measured by the nature of our regrets as much as by the altitude of our aspirations.
We should look past useless memories to present realities in the way we look past the floaters in our visual field. To concentrate on the detritus of memory is only to enliven what ought to be left to slumber.
We who are obscure ought to be grateful for it. It is wonderful to be able to walk down the street andbe taken, and left, for an average schlep. A little recognition from a few high-quality individuals is all one needs. Fame can be a curse. The unhinged Mark David Chapman, animated by Holden Caulfield's animus against phoniness, decided that John Lennon was a phony, and so had to be shot.
The value of fame may also be inferred from the moral and intellectual quality of those who confer it.
The mad pursuit of empty celebrity by so many in our society shows their and its spiritual vacuity.
UPDATE: By this metric, however, I count as famous. Well, we live in an age of low standards.
We are ignorant about ultimates and we will remain ignorant in this life. Perhaps on the Far Side we will learn what we cannot learn here. But whether there is survival of bodily death, and whether it will improve our epistemic position, are again things about which -- we will remain ignorant in this life.
It is admittedly strange to suppose that death is the portal to knowledge. But is it stranger than supposing that a being capable of knowledge simply vanishes with the breakdown of his body?
The incapacity of materialists to appreciate the second strangeness I attribute to their invincible body-identification.
The soldier's operations in the field are often encumbered by the presence of civilians and considerations of 'collateral damage.' The seaman's is a purer form of combat. Ships far out at sea. All hands combatants. No civilians to get in the way. Less worry over environmental degradation. The 'purity' of naval over land warfare. Bellicosity in the realm of Neptune must breed a brand of brotherhood among the adversaries not encountered on terra firma.
And then there are the conservatives (liberals) for whom a refusal to demonize liberals (conservatives) makes you one.
Here is the first stanza of "The Second Coming" by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939):
Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.