I met a rose-fingered elm this morning; we smiled.
From the TV show House of Cards i learned: “Tomorrow you will still feel that anger. And you will use it. But you will not use it against X (the original source of the anger).”
From Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue i learned that we might still interpret our modern lives on Aristotle’s terms, examining the final goods of our social practices and developing the virtues that sustain them — but also that the heroic world and agonistic social structure that antedated and informed the Nichomachean Ethics has been irrevocably lost: “Nobody now can become a Hector or a Gisli.” Though here i must differ, for was Steve Jobs not a contemporary Achilles? Did he not posses all the latter’s virtues? Was he not also courageous, powerful, obstinate, wealthy, successful, and almost invincible? Did he not carry Apple corp. into a stunning victory over all its enemies? Is he not a mighty hero of our age?
I submit that the social structures of the Illiad or Mahabharata are to be found little changed in the economic realm of corporations, the warring city-states of our times. And the men and women who fight on their behalf embody all the virtues that we now respect and crave: wealth, power, cunning, courage, wisdom, generosity, single-mindedness, obstinacy, pride and glory. MacIntyre, the Marxist turned Thomist, was right to see our world in terms of practices, goods and virtues; only those practices are capitalist, the highest goods power & wealth, and the virtues far from Christian.
Earlier this week a woman was found hanged in a bedroom at her home, a presumed suicide. Her husband had been killed during a mugging many years earlier, but she had remarried and was living with her second husband and their only child. Neither father nor daughter have yet been located by the police, though at least one of them is thought to have fled the scene wounded, as traces of blood were found in the kitchen and out the back door. The official investigation has uncovered an earlier child from the first marriage which had been given up for adoption at birth. A medical report at the time had identified genetic markers for anti-social behavior, and since the mother was depressive and the father had once killed a man in a brawl, they feared they might foster the child’s criminal tendencies. Unfortunately the adoption process was never completed, and the boy became a ward of the state. He was arrested for a number of petty crimes and a presumed murder but was never convicted. After training as an auto mechanic, he eventually settled down and married one of his clients, a widow….
An eager disciple approached the Buddha one night in a dream: Master, i have meditated for 10 years; i take five breaths an hour, i contemplate the flow of my emotion unperturbed, and my desires i direct whichever way is best. But now i must let go of even this, must i not?
That is my teaching, replied the Buddha. But you mustn’t abandon your self as i did—continue climbing instead and find that which made you find your self.
What is this higher realm you speak of? asked the disciple, amazed.
I do not know, replied the Enlightened one.
Then the Buddha woke up, and the dream vanished.
mens immota manet; lacrimae volvuntur inanes
having steadied his mind, his tears flow unhindered