How to Live

“Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchers of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The forgoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we enjoy an original relation to the universe?”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature”, Selected Essays, New York, 1985, page 35.

4 thoughts on “How to Live

  1. Testify brotha! Testify!

    (…and yet: aren’t those who look only around them epigrammatically doomed to repeat the mistakes of their ancestors? Then again, guess we usually know the past mistakes anyway, but when the same circumstances come round again they always look a little different.)

  2. It’s tough to break with society, or the past though. It takes guts and daring. And if you have guts and daring, then you risk the unknown, or societal unknown, a place with no past and a history unwritten. I guess that is what being religious is about though – having faith. Believing in that which you can’t see, that which isn’t before you in society. I’d like to think I have those types of guts sometimes. But there is expectation, societal gain, and want of acceptance, etc – all magnified by things like ‘mortality’ weighing down in chains. I hope I get those guts and blind belief.

  3. “Faith” is apparently sort of a complicated notion. The impression I get from bit of discussion I’ve heard on the subject is that faith doesn’t equate directly to belief. It’s more like a particular “steadfastness” of belief or trust that something is true. Not a belief in things you know to be false, but in things which you found to be true but which adversity or circumstances make difficult to notice.

    Someone once presented the following scenario:

    > Say there’s a man who’s known to be an excellent speaker against spousal abuse. He speaks in public and provides pursuasive and irrefutable arguments that abusing your wife is a bad thing for all concerned and for society in general, for the economy, the environment, etc.

    > However, every day after giving his talks this same man goes home and beats his wife badly, going against all the things he’s just talked about.

    This seems to undermine the guy’s whole message, causing some listeners to doubt the validity of what he’s said on this subject, and others to have more general doubts about public speakers, human nature, etc.

    I’d posit that faith is the ability (or at least desire) to hold on to the validity of such a truth even when factors such as this (and as you say, “expectation, societal gain, and want of acceptance”) work against it.

    I don’t know if faith has to (or should) exactly be “blind” though. New Advent indicates of the Hebrew word associated with faith:

    > It would, however, be illogical to conclude that the word cannot, and does not, mean belief or faith in the Old Testament for it is clear that we cannot put trust in a person’s promises without previously assenting to or believing in that person’s claim to such confidence.

    They have a bunch of (IMHO) wordy stuff to say about credibility also, which mainly boil down to something like:

    > Hence St. Thomas says: “A man would not believe unless he saw the things he had to believe, either by the evidence of miracles or of something similar” (II-II:1:4, ad 1). The saint is here speaking of the motives of credibility.

    Even if the stuff seems evident to you though, getting the guts to put it into practice can be a bitch sometimes…

    …like now: I most likely should be doing job related stuff, but here I am rambling on.

  4. It’s really tought to break with society. As much as a misanthrope as I am, I don’t think humans exist without society. If you’ve ever seen info on feral children, you’ll know that they don’t exist as human as much as the rest of us. Sure, they’re still “people” but they don’t function in society and thus are precluded from human classifications of language usage, mating rituals and everything that comes from that.

    Though, re-examination is key. Think of the Nazis under Hitler. Most were just normal people going along with their society. They simply had faith, as dragon brings up, in society and in the leadership, which lead to the obvious consequences.

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