The prime directive

On why we need contrarians in our society

…George Orwell said the prime responsibility lay in being able to tell people what they did not wish to hear. John Stuart Mill (Bertrand Russel’s Godfather) said that even if all were agreed on an essential proposition it would be essential to give an ear to the one person who did not, lest people forget how to justify their original agreement.

Kudos to Christopher Hitchens (Letters to a young contrarian) for mentioning three of my favorite peeps in a single (awesome) paragraph. (god, I miss Hitch sooo much)

And while I don’t really consider myself a contrarian (I am way too dumb), its nice to imagine a state of being where I am better than I actually am. (I’d settle for just being better looking)

De omnibus dubitandum est

Karl Marx was once asked to give his favorite epigram. He thought for a second before offering up, De omnibus dubitandum est*.

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Which translated would be, ‘Everything, must be doubted’

As epigrams go, I think, its an amazing choice.

*coincidentally… or maybe not, this also the title of a book by Søren Kierkegaard (more or less the father of existentialism) 

I often like to imagine that Marx had good intentions when he laid out his philosophy and given time to see how his ideas started playing out he likely would have changed his mind. (well I hope he would have)

In any event, words to live by, spoken by an unlikely source.

 

 

Zeno-ness

I’d never heard this particular anecdote about Zeno before. (In all honesty I don’t know very much about the founder of the philosophy I’d most like to… eh… aspire to). As far as I remember pretty much all of Zeno’s writings have been lost… and so whatever we know of him is apocryphal at best, or is commentary on his work by another philosopher in their own work.

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A non extant text called Republic notes that Zeno advocated for the abolishment of civil institutions, including money, temples, law courts and marriage. He also thought genders should dress alike from head to toe and also practice free love. All of this, he believed, were constraints that held us down, and abolishing them would free us to live much simpler lives.

Entry on stoicism, Ethics 101, Boone, Brian, Adams Media, 2017

There are some definite libertarian ideas in there. Probably more of an anarchist than a middle of the road libertarian. I could likely get behind most of them. Except for the abolition of money… I kinda like money.

Stoking my internal Grinch

I feel like I should like Christmas and all the accompanying merriment. But every year it just feels more and more like a dismal chore… something I need a holiday from after I’ve endured it all. I’ve been doing my best to shore up the bulwarks against the Yuletide cheer by… (I think about lying… but really) playing lots of Playstation and reading (when not knee deep in the blood and guts of child rearing… which is actually 80% of my waking day)

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While partaking in the obligatory sojourn of consumerism I gifted myself up a weighty hardcover tome on ethics from the bookstore. I’m less enthused about the history of ethics (which is why I never took it as an elective) and more excited by the practical ethical… um… considerations, which this book purports to be a study of. So far I’ve only picked at it… so I’m not sure if its everything it claims to be (when is anything?)

I also bought a book about Existentialism.

The dedication quotes Rudyard Kipling (whom I love)

‘People say that what we’re all seeking is the meaning of life… I think that what we’re really seeking is the experience of being alive’. 

I feel like I’ve been conned some how… like that was a clever consumer psychology deadfall I just walked into…. buying a book based on the quotation of an author I admire But it worked. It also has a picture of Jean Paul Sartre drinking coffee and chain-smoking on the front cover. I imagine him like a French Christopher Hitchens… or maybe a 1930’s Hank Moody (only season one though, we do not speak of the others)

I generally adore… (ergh, I hate this term) Existentialists. So… Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre… Schopenhauer. Although… I don’t think I’d invite any of them over for a dinner party.  (You know, that trope where you invite a selection of dead… and living I suppose, celebrities and imagine impressing them with your gastronomic skillset) I’d likely choose somebody more fun. Like Teddy Roosevelt.

Of course now I’m thinking who else I would invite. Maybe Richard Dawkins… so I could punch him in the head for ruining my life. I use the term ‘ruining’ quite loosely…

I probably wouldn’t punch him.

A book for all and none.

I’m casually re-reading ‘Thus spoke Zarathustra’, which, as it turns out, seems to be working out much better for my internet addled mind than reading it all in one go and then getting irritable and frustrated when it all starts to blur together into a lumpy alphabet soup of meaningless words and chunks of mystery meat. I envy people (that were gifted with concentration spans of more than your average Fantail or Comet) that can devour this sort of literature without having to resort to a piecemeal approach. How nice must it be to be them!

I interpose my exercise in mediocrity (insofar as all reading Nietzsche really does is underscore how stupid I am) with Playstation by pretend hunting hapless elk in a simulacrum western reality where I pick up faux-tuberculous and start to feel bad about my mass-murdering tendencies. I really enjoyed Red Dead Redemption 2… I’ve binge played it to (almost) completion, sacrificing sleep and sociability… and squashing that nagging feeling that I really should be doing something (with my life) that involves just a smattering more vitamin D.

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I don’t think Nietzsche would have approved of Playstation (or indeed of Red Dead). But then again, Nietzsche went insane… probably because of a lack of blowjobs. Wait… that might have been Schopenhauer… I might be conflagerating my disgruntled Germans here. In any event I’m pretty sure blowjobs were frowned upon by the Lutheran Junkers at the time… so certainly we can’t rule it out as a potential cause of dementia.

Continue reading “A book for all and none.”