saints, cakes, aphorisms

I’ve been considering a canon of saints I can believe in, saints of hypocrisy, self-contradiction, misplaced self-knowledge, and other forms of effortfully baroque recursion.

Such a deprecated approach to life, but hypocrisy is the best way of having your cake and eating it too without violating the laws of thermodynamics.  Saint #1 (a fictional character: so what) Saint of Reason is a Refuge at Least When not Inconvenient: Jacques; see previous.

But now let me backtrack a little.  In complex contexts, the concept of hypocrisy doesn’t really apply well.  Greys and non-linearity and requirement of subtle reactions, no real way to betray oneself that unequivocally. What’s a better term? Multilevel reaction? A bit bureaucratic.  I’m working on it; bear with me.  Let’s see if the example I’m struggling to describe itself can help clarify.

Let’s just start off by making Schopenhauer patron saint of Just because Self-Abnegation  in the Pursuit of  Compassion is the only Worthwhile Goal doesn’t mean I Have to Put Up with Your Bullshit. Near the beginning of a section on ethics that will go on to discuss eternal justice (over immediate retribution) and transcendence of the individual to Jain-like transcendence of ego  is the following:

Who is there indeed who has made himself acquainted with the writings of our times, and has not finally become sick of those three words [good, beautiful, true], admirable as are the things to which they originally refer, after he has been made to see a thousand times how those least capable of thinking believe they need only utter these three words with open mouth and the air of infatuated sheep, in order to have spoken great wisdom.

Becoming, within your very own painstakingly considered great work, an object lesson in your own fatalistic views on human nature* is either extraordinarily daring or a bit of a rough go. Beatification deserved.

More generally, though,  with Schopenhauer, I’m struck by the fact that as he goes the more fatalistic, so he goes the more aphoristic.  And they’re great aphorisms.  Really tops. Clever quotation compendia will be sure to have (somewhere alphabetically between Job, Book of and West, Mae)

Whoever wants summarily to test the assertion that the pleasure in the world outweighs the pain, or at any rate that the two balance each other, should compare the feelings of an animal that is devouring another with those of that other.

or especially

Life is a business that does not cover the costs.

Yet the pleasure of realizing you have succinctly nailed the absolutely optimal phrasing for describing the hell/handbasketiness of it all is just palpable in the aphoristic project and undermines the content just a bit.

*Man now attains to the state of voluntary renunciation, resignation, true indifference, and perfect will-lessness…yet the illusion of the phenomenon soon entangles us again, and its motives influence the will anew; we cannot tear ourselves free. The allurement of hope, the flattery of the present, the sweetness of pleasure, the well-being which falls to our lot, amid the lamentations of a suffering world governed by chance and error, draws us back to it and rivets our bonds anew…

If we compare life to a course or path through which we must unceasingly run—a path of red-hot coals, with a few cool places here and there; then he who is entangled in delusion is consoled by the cool places, on which he now stands, or which he sees near him, and sets out to run through the course.

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Posted in literature, philosophy

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