Lewis Quote

"It is one of the difficult and delightful subtleties of life that we must deeply acknowledge certain things to be serious and yet retain the power and will to treat them often as lightly as a game." CS Lewis, The Four Loves

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The pursuit of happiness

ἡ γὰρ εὐδαιμονία κάλλιστον καὶ ἄριστον ἁπάντων οὖσα ἥδιστον ἐστίν.
Happiness, being most beautiful and best of all, is the sweetest thing.
Aristotle, Eudemian Ethics 1214a

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." US Declaration of Independence

Human beings want to be happy. Happiness then may be described as peculiarly human aim, individually as well as collectively. The question of course is what makes us happy. But even prior to that it is what exactly is happiness. Writers throughout history have tackled the subject. Perhaps all of literature is an attempt to deal with the subject. Perhaps all of life is. So many of us are not happy apparently. So many of us lead lives of quiet desperation as has been said. So many of us think we are aiming at happiness only to miss the mark. Augustine I think once said (I paraphrase) that no matter how much we claim to be aiming for happiness if we are looking in the wrong direction we're missing it (and will never be happy). As Independence Day has recently passed for those who observe it, it's worth quoting the opening lines of the Declaration. To our 21st century ears the Pursuit of happiness may sound funny in the mouth of a founding father. We probably don't know what it means. Aristotle once said something like a preference for sweet or savory is not an indicator of character. Happiness for Aristotle was that ultimate human purpose, what it is we strive for. He answered his own investigation into the topic by stating:

"God is not a superior who issues commands, but is the purpose of the commands that wisdom issues. But 'purpose' is ambiguous, as has been explained elsewhere; this needs saying, since of course God is not in need of anything. To conclude: whatever choice or possession of natural goods - bodily goods, wealth, friends, and the like - will most conduce to the contemplation of God is best; this is the finest criterion. But any choice of living that either through excess or through defect hinders the service and contemplation of God is bad." Aristotle, Eudemian Ethics 1249b

The pursuit of meaning is the natural and supernatural aim of our existence.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Rhetoric of Imitation (Spine Tag Poetry)

The Rhetoric of Imitation
Utopia -
Losing my religion
On free choice of the will?
Vile bodies
The everlasting man.

Check out my wife's spine tag poetry.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Entry-level Francis

I had known about Francis for quite a while. Who doesn't? But he didn't mean much. After all he was the hippy dude with the furry woodland animals. I first truly met him (but of course didn't meet him) when I stumbled across GK Chesterton's St Francis of Assisi. Anyone who has read this little volume knows what the parenthesis above means. Chesterton I first met in Orthodoxy, a perennial favorite among protestant evangelicals. An irony I still find quite amusing. I was led to him by CS Lewis. And I met Lewis while I was a pentecostal. But that was because I had been a part-time Anglican. Go figure. Anyway. Tere and I were at the Rozelle markets about December 2006 or January 2007. I ducked across the road to a second-hand bookstore. Addicts always need their fix. To my delight there is the curious little book on a shelf, perhaps filed under religion. It is an old one. Blue. Hardback. Spine faded more than the cover and back. Slightly shredded at the corners. Musty. Otherwise OK. Immediate joy was crushed by persecutive dismay. $12. ... $12! :( Oh well not today. But... . No be brave. Probably not worthy reading anyway. Certainly not worth $12. Oh OK. So I head out the door crest-fallen. On the way back across the road I convinced myself that I needed it. Well someone or something convinced me that I needed it. Honey there's a book that's $12. What do you reckon? I had only $10 in my pocket and like most of our days when the kids were younger they were days of austerity. Well, she agreed that if I really wanted it. :) So I triumphantly, and with a minimum of nagging guilt, bought what I assumed would be an entry-level intro to Francis.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Thoughts about Youth

"Now the young are by character appetitive and of a kind to do whatever they should desire. ... and they are not sour-natured but sweet-natured through their not having yet observed much wickedness, and credulous though their not having yet been many times deceived, and optimistic ... also because they have not frequently met with failure. And for the most part they live in hope; for hope is of the future and remembrance of the past, and for the young the future is long and the past is short; for on one's first day one can remember nothing but hope for everything. ... and they are magnanimous for they have not yet been humiliated by life, ... . And they prefer doing what is noble to what is in their interest; for they live by character rather than calculation, ... . And they love their friends and comrades more than the other ages through their pleasure in being together and never yet having made judgements in terms of interest, ... . and they think they know everything and are obstinate, ... and they commit their crimes from arrogance rather than mischievousness. And they are prone to pity through their supposing all men to be honest and of the better sort ... and they love laughter, whence also their love of wit; for wit is educated arrogance." Aristotle, Rhetoric 1389a-b

That's what Aristotle has to say about the young. It's part of a treatise on rhetoric so he's stereotyping. But I like the stereotype. Also I have left out some bits; but not much.

"Jesus called a little child, whom he placed among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes a humble place—becoming like this child—is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Gospel according to Matthew 18.2-5 (TNIV)

These are the words of another ancient text. People have long discussed what it means. I like to think it means what it says. Combining both texts produces a nice set of ethics I think. :)