Skip to comments.The Meaning of Life According to Me
Posted on 10/28/2003 11:45:20 PM PST by marron
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Which is why we appreciate Homer, who certainly gives us an understanding of this particular man as he is "among others."
Homer, who delights in the confusion of the barbarian who thinks Odysseus is a nobody, who plays up the error of those that mistake him for a god or treat him like a beast, who in many ways is already way ahead of Socrates--that first intellectualist who conceived himself in a movement toward individuality as when divorced from land, friends, son, wife, and body--Homer, who gives Odysseus his most profound individuality as unmistakably Odysseus,--not a anqrwpoV but the anhr--whose namelessness is exorcised by the token of industry, a cloak woven by his wife.
Book Eight and especially the irony of King Alcinoos trying to be civil makes sense as long as Odysseus is the true name of him who weeps and not the onomatopoeic gurgle of an outiV--no one in particular--of the one whose existence is in doubt, even by Odysseus himself, whose name pains and prides him.
To which you said: Which is why we appreciate Homer, who certainly gives us an understanding of this particular man as he is among others.
The conception of man as a particular man as he is among others has certainly been given short-shrift in the modern imagination. That is, the tendency to accentuate the individual aspect of man comes at the expense of viewing man as the social being he clearly is.
The human individual and the human community cannot be isolated and held apart, as in an intellectual exercise or designed experiment. The relations are organic, dynamic; and thus unavoidably inseparable. In the process of segregating the two, we lose the idea of what is common to all men. Concentration on the part leaves us blind to the whole. And thus we are left with no way to make human existence intelligible, to ourselves or to each other.
May I here interject that historically, science has been predicated on the isolation and study of parts, the assumption being that this is the best way to understand the wholes that the several parts collectively constitute. And that more recently, along came quantum theory, which places this heretofore reliable assumption in doubt.
Ive been thinking about this part (e.g., human individual) vs. whole (e.g., human community) tension a lot lately. And I find I have been having recourse to Bohrs complementarity principle, inspired by actual observations of a certain fundamental duality in physical nature, expressing as particle/wave, position/velocity, quanta/field constructs their relation specified in the terms of the uncertainty principle. On their face, such relations seem mutually exclusive.
Bohrs point was, however, that neither side of the divide can give a complete description of the physical system of which they are modes, or parts. If you want to understand the whole, you need to understand both.
But I digress. Cornelis, I thought this was simply beautiful:
Homer, who delights in the confusion of the barbarian who thinks Odysseus is a nobody, who plays up the error of those that mistake him for a god or treat him like a beast, who in many ways is already way ahead of Socrates--that first intellectualist who conceived himself in a movement toward individuality as when divorced from land, friends, son, wife, and body--Homer, who gives Odysseus his most profound individuality as unmistakably Odysseus [sorry cornelis; I have no Koine, and neither does my present character set] -- whose namelessness is exorcised by the token of industry, a cloak woven by his wife.
Book Eight and especially the irony of King Alcinoos trying to be civil makes sense as long as Odysseus is the true name of him who weeps and not the onomatopoeic gurgle of [...] no one in particular -- of the one whose existence is in doubt, even by Odysseus himself, whose name pains and prides him.
I imagine your specification of onomatopoeic gurgle to pertain to the faceless mass man of our current era. Never in a million years could a personality such as Odysseus be understood in such terms. He was distinct; he was enormously potent, ingenious, and strenuously active in his disposition towards and engagement with the world outside himself. But at the end of the day, his power resided, not merely in personal intelligence, ingenious/industrious applications of personal judgment and will, and courageous, glorious personal acts, but in the perduring, faithful, and wise industry of a loving other his beloved wife, Penelope. And also to his connections with his native soil, community, and culture.
As the poet says: No man is an island.
Very nice of you to say so cornelis. I do what I can, but to be honest I wish I was a better writer.
Marron, I prefer the usage of "person" myself. For "person" seems better able to mediate seeming contradiction than "individual"; for "person" has cultural resources to help him that "individual" perhaps does not.
It seems to me a separation of individual apart from culture -- the separation of part from whole -- is unnecessay in principle. For man lives in the "in between" -- as Plato put it, in the "metaxy" -- of "two worlds," mediating time and the timeless, of correleating actual experience with timeless principle, in the modes of existence and being.
Man can neither be separated from the human community, nor from transcendent reality, and still be man. It seems the good order of the human person cannot be effected in isolation from such "competing" claims.
Man was created to express both modes in himself -- and yet be himself in the process, as the "site and sensorium" of the process/project. For the "process" cannot occur in the first place, absent the action of the human mind and spirit.
I cannot express how very much I admire your work.
Man can neither be separated from the human community, nor from transcendent reality, and still be man. It seems the good order of the human person cannot be effected in isolation from such "competing" claims. Man was created to express both modes in himself -- and yet be himself in the process, as the "site and sensorium" of the process/project. For the "process" cannot occur in the first place, absent the action of the human mind and spirit.
You said: Man can neither be separated from the human community, nor from transcendent reality, and still be man. It seems the good order of the human person cannot be effected in isolation from such "competing" claims.
The lectionary passage reads (from the ESV): And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, "Which commandment is the most important of all?" Jesus answered, "The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these." [snip]
The only change I would offer to your comment, in keeping with the hierarchy of the commandments, is that the transcendent is first; otherwise the community relationship loses its "rightness".
Odd, that ... you may very well end up in tomorrow's sermon... :)
Oh, I absolutely agree with you logos -- that the transcendent is primary! It must come first, and for the reason you state: otherwise the community relationship -- our relation with the neighbor -- has no basis for "rightness." Transcendent truth is the basis of both personal and social order. It is what draws us to be what God intended us to be, what He created us for. Or so it seems to me.
Thank you so much for writing, logos. It's so good to see you!
Meine Seele wartet auf den Herrn
- J.S. Bach BWV 131 Aus der Tiefe rufe ich, Herr, zu dir.
Maybe your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a bad example !!! ;-))
It is really that simple.
Fascinating, MHGinTN! Trying to imagine what the quantum world looks like is an amazing exercise. Did I read on another thread that you suspect there are 7 dimensions? Do you see this as a hierarchical arrangement?
Myself, I don't know how many different types of fields there are, but I suspect whatever number they may be, they are intimately coupled in some fashion. As for the number of dimensions, I think there may be 5: 3 of space plus 1 of time - 4D space-time; and a 5th, which is temporal....
But who knows, really? I mean, how would we go about verifying our conceptions? Still, it's great fun to speculate! Thanks so much for writing!
As you know, I am keenly interested in Geometric Physics!
I assert that the duality of space/time and gravity is not a fluke any more than wave/particle duality is a fluke. The mirror imaging is the point of Vafas article linked above.
Your speculation of an extra time dimension really captured my attention, betty boop, and as you know has been the framework whereby I now see potential solutions for a host of issues in physics and philosophy. I was delighted to discover that Vafa is exploring extra time dimension theory at great length!
It has been presumed for many years that the extra spatial dimensions would be curled up into tiny vibrating strings (string theory) based on Kaluza-Klein compactification. I believe you agree with me that this is not a necessity for extra dimensions and the alternative non-compactified theory has much greater explanatory power.
As a final point, I would like to suggest that observation and research concerning dark energy to explain the acceleration of the universe may result in the best evidence for extra time dimensions.
It is a cliché to point out, as people often do, that working people generate products worth more than their pay. It could hardly be otherwise. By your work, by the combination of effort and intelligence something is created from out of nothing, or from out of the less-formed world, and that something is wealth. The money exchanged for it is just a marker, a place-holder, a way of keeping track of the wealth produced, but it is not itself wealth..
My efforts to work that out sound a little different. If you build a house then the credit you get for that effort is ownership of the house in the first instance and, when you sell it, you get the price the buyer agreed to credit to you. Why was the buyer able to credit you in a way that matters? Because he had ownership of the scarce money which you accepted as adequate credit for creating the house. Why did he have the money to do that? Because someone else gave him credit for some other action (past or, in the case of a mortgage, future).
And when I speak of "credit" I want people to associate the word with the famous quotation,Theodore RooseveltThere is no more unhealthy being, no man less worthy of respect, than he who either really holds, or feigns to hold, an attitude of sneering disbelief toward all that is great and lofty, whether in achievement or in that noble effort which, even if it fails, comes to second achievement. A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticise work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life's realities - all these are marks, not as the possessor would fain to think, of superiority but of weakness. They mark the men unfit to bear their part painfully in the stern strife of living, who seek, in the affection of contempt for the achievements of others, to hide from others and from themselves in their own weakness. The rôle is easy; there is none easier, save only the rôle of the man who sneers alike at both criticism and performance.Because I think that TR's speech is correctly powerful if heard that way.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds . . .
I think the whole pew went to sleep somewhere about the first mention of entropy.
This is “WOW!The Best Essay”, etc? I’d better bookmark it for later. I only read the section on LOVE and am unconvinced. How do you tell what a man is ‘willing’ to sacrifice for love? He’ll tell you, I’ll tell you I’d give the world, etc., but that’s saying it is not the real thing, is it. Later...
The poet is wrong. But then, one had to have been an island to know the bitter truth.
Thanks, I love that quote from TR.
I've come to the point where I find myself quoting it *very* frequently. It's kind of frustrating, in a way, since although it is a classic analogy, it makes a superb point that is not part of the analogy and therefore can't easily be pulled. So I find myself wanting to quote two paragraphs, and in that context it just isn't quite as pointed as just "the man in the arena."
The other two favorites which are also on my computer "sticky" at the ready to paste into a post are,The wisest and most cautious of us all frequently gives credit to stories which he himself is afterwards both ashamed and astonished that he could possibly think of believing . . .(which is frustrating in its own way since the source paragraph has the first line last in the paragraph). And finally,
It is acquired wisdom and experience only that teach incredulity,
and they very seldom teach it enough. - Adam SmithHalf the truth is often a great lie. - Benjamin Franklin. . . which I used to attribute to Winston Churchill, but if Franklin said it it wasn't original to Churchill - if indeed it was original to Franklin. Wouldn't surprise me if the sentiment is much older.
The Franklin quote illustrates the impossibility of ever proving that journalism is objective, since it's not possible to prove that it is the whole truth - for the excellent reason that it is not the whole of the truth. The Smith quote similarly challenges the idea that conventional wisdom - such as the conceit that journalism is objective - can be trusted implicitly. And the Roosevelt quote, obviously, punctures the pretensions of journalists to be superior to those whom they second guess - and not only journalists, but the socialists who use the same technique to rob the entrepreneur of the ownership of ("credit for") the "means of production" (which is intimately entwined with what is produced, which something socialists take for granted but which entrepreneurs - but not bureaucrats - continuously improve. And improvement is essential to quality, since if you are not trying to improve you are in fact degrading).
No need to apologize for the length of the essay. I loved every word of it. Thank you for posting it!
In a way I'm surprised to see this thread reanimated after nearly four years! But then again, the essay at the top of it -- marron's beautiful piece -- deserves a new lease on life!
Actually, marron gave A-G and I permission to reprint this article in our book, Timothy under the title, "On Liberty and Human Dignity." (Plus marron also wrote the sublime Afterword.) We consider his two articles there the capstone of the work....
Definitely, marron is not an island!
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