Words such as these empty our culture of all reason and reasonableness. I am tempted to embark upon a rant at this point, but I have no desire to add to the clamor. Instead, the words of Marcus Aurelius come to mind:
"Say thus to thyself every morning: today I may have to do with some intermeddler in other men's affairs, with an ungrateful man; an insolent, or a crafty, or an envious, or an unsociable selfish man. These bad qualities have befallen them through their ignorance of what things are truly good or evil. But I have fully comprehended the nature of good, as only what is beautiful and honourable; and of evil, that it is always deformed and shameful; and the nature of those persons too who mistake their aim; that they are my kinsmen, by partaking, not of the same blood or seed, but of the same intelligent divine part; and that I cannot be hurt by any of them, since none of them can involve me in anything dishonourable or deformed.
"I cannot be angry at my kinsmen, or hate them. We were formed by nature for mutual assistance, as the two feet, the hands, the eyelids, the upper and lower rows of teeth. Opposition to each other is contrary to nature: All anger and aversion is an opposition."
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book II, Section 1, in Francis Hutcheson and James Moor (translators), The Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (1742), pages 62-63.
Our time here is short. Were we placed here to repeat meaningless clichés?
Our life in this world --
to what shall I compare it?
It is like a boat
rowing out at break of day,
leaving not a trace behind.
Sami Mansei (early 8th century) (translated by Steven Carter), in Steven Carter, Traditional Japanese Poetry: An Anthology (Stanford University Press 1991), page 51.
William Ratcliffe, "Cottage Interior" (1920)
Please do not read any political partisanship into these thoughts, dear reader. As I mentioned in my post of November 11, I did not vote in the presidential election. Moreover, as I have stated here on more than one occasion, this is not a political blog. But I have often commented on the destruction of the human by the politicization of people's lives. Hence: the shouting of contentless clichés in the streets and through the electronic air.
A thought by Epictetus:
"That which gives men disquiet, and makes their lives miserable, is not the nature of things as they really are, but the notions and opinions which they form to themselves concerning them."
Epictetus, The Enchiridion, Section 5, in George Stanhope (translator), Epictetus, His Morals, with Simplicius, His Comment (Fifth Edition, 1741), page 60.
The politicization of culture and of human beings involves the creation of competing fictitious versions of reality. This contrived way of viewing the world persuades the politicized that their lives are defined, even validated, by the political beliefs they espouse. In a politicized world of empty words, where does the individual human soul fit in? It doesn't.
One cannot be sure of living
even until the evening.
In the dim dawn light
I watch the waves in the wake
of a departing boat.
Shinkei (1406-1475) (translated by Steven Carter), in Steven Carter, Traditional Japanese Poetry: An Anthology, page 291.
Anthony Eyton, "A Kitchen Range" (1984)
As I have noted here in the past, I am quite content to live my life in accordance with certain truisms. Why? Because they are true. Here is a truism by which I try to live (failing every day): The best way to effect change is through individual acts of kindness and decency.
"Spend your time no longer in discoursing on what are the qualities of the good man, but in actually being such."
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book X, Section 16, in Francis Hutcheson and James Moor (translators), The Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, page 243.
Most of us know these things. Human beings have known them for millennia. But we are diverted by trifles. The identity of the President of the United States is a trifle, as is the identity of the Prime Minister of X, the Premier of Y, and the Emperor of Z. Another truism: Life is too short for trifles of this sort.
Over waves now at peace --
a boat seen rowing away.
Sōgi (1421-1502) (translated by Steven Carter), in Steven Carter, Traditional Japanese Poetry: An Anthology, page 318.
Gilbert Spencer (1892-1979), "The Cottage Window"