Monday, May 20, 2019

What is life?


The Beatles (George Harrison) produced a song by the same title; a song that answers that life without love, perhaps a particular person, is no life at all. 

Is this so; that life is nothing without love, the love of a particular person or persons? 
“Who am I without you by my side?”, so goes the question from this classic. 
In a favorite film of mine, Moonstruck, the character (Ronnie) played by Nicolas Cage, the same question arises,
“What is life”, for which he answers,
“They say that bread is life and I bake bread,” he barks out while throwing loafs of bread into a bin, only to break into a tyrant over the sad experience of lost love and his hand maimed from a bread slicer. 
Song and story aside, what does the Bible say of life?  

Generally, the Bible describes life beyond life, the eternal versus the present, temporal life.  If/as there is life after life, the life described is bliss, a realm of bounty and beauty surpassing any and all at present. 

Voltaire describes the “present” life as,
…a shipwreck,
But stresses that,
“We must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.”
And as to the rescue, the sparing of life, he writes,
God is a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference is nowhere.
No matter the place in life, can anyone firmly decide to be beyond the circle? 

What’s love got to do with it?


More than one story or song carries the betrayed and sometimes besieged lover; those scorned, shipwrecked and scattered from the storms, on the shoals of perhaps the once warm and wonderful….

Some may recall the phrase made famous by Tina Turner, what is love by a second hand emotion.  

One then must feel love to fall in love; one must open their heart, making themselves vulnerable, to experience some semblance of love no matter which kind. 

A parent, for example, commits their lives to the care of their children sometimes making great sacrifices along the way.

Does a parent’s commitment make certain of the child’s future, their relationship and all?  No, one’s effort does not altogether determine the end result, outcome or eventual life of the child, but what is finally the fact is that, sincerely, the parent may find some solace in knowing that.
“I tried to care for and love my child, children.” 
Love is not the answer when it is proven to be part of the problem; that is, that love is exploited, reduced to some statement, all words and little or no action

What’s worse is that love is misapplied, malformed as some feeling or idea that, again, has not substance or real sense. 

Nature provides us love as even animals can and do exhibit and, further and farther, Christianity produces a love beyond our instinct; yet, given both these causes, the end effect is that love is deeply sickened, stricken with the unnatural and sinful influences of society. 

When love dies from these causes, all that remains is Hell.

Voltaire – what love is, and is not

Voltaire writes:
Alas...I too have known love, that ruler of hearts, that soul of our soul: it's never brought me anything except one kiss and twenty kicks in the rump. How could such a beautiful cause produce such an abominable effect on you?”

Love is a powerful force but is it always for good or can love be for bad?  Love can used for good, to build-up, or to tear down; it can be a beautiful thing, the outcome of trust, or it can debased, undermining trust through treachery and turmoil. 

What you must see if not already known is that mankind adulterates love; yes, man uses, misuses and abuses love unlike our creator who made love as pure, a thing of value and worth. 

Ask a young person about love and they will generally see it in the best light and maybe, for some, viewed as a thing of priceless value, worth. Voltaire adds (as somewhat contradictory to his personal experience),
It is love; love, the comfort of the human species, the preserver of the universe, the soul of all sentient beings, love, tender love.  
Perhaps that is what makes the difference regarding love; it much be tender, gentle, caring and compassionate.  

If/as love does not show the traits of tenderness, can it really be love?

In an exchange of some relevance, the following:
“What a pessimist you are!" exclaimed Candide.
"That is because I know what life is," said Martin.”
It is knowing, embracing life courageously, that enables us to experience love of different sorts; the kind that is not tender and is not good—without much of any meaning as to love, tender love. 

Sadly, love is a force for bad; used and abused while cleverly disguised, this mal-form of love not only gives love a bad name but it degrades humanity to that beneath any and all other species. 

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Voltaire – the heart of man


He makes clear,
Paradise was made for tender hearts; hell, for loveless hearts.
On these words and in similar comments, Voltaire draws a distinction of the good (tender) heart, one that produces (and receives) love. 

As the reasons or causes for the good heart however, the Bible (perhaps Christianity) is dismissed, no application is his view based on: 
The Bible. That is what fools have written, what imbeciles commend, what rouges teach and young children are made to learn.
Not to begin to understand his disdain for the bible (or more pointedly, the church), but more, to accentuate his shared understanding that the human heart is capable of corruption—much as institutions or societies on whole. 

Yes, the human heart is a powerful thing (too); one that does good for good—or bad purposely for their own good, or not.

The heart is a complex system, behavior the result of much, matter and mystery, what is understood or not—even the person themselves who thinks,
Why did (do) I do that, or “Why did (do) I do that?” 
On the other side is that one may not…their conscience seared or calloused rather than “tender”, even child-like is some degree.

Jeremiah the prophet was right: 
The heart is deceitful above all things, desperately sick; who can understand it? 
Who can understand why one does or does not do--even themselves at times--but for mystery of life and living, the one who made the heart of man in that dark place before we each were born. 

Virtue, moral and good



Without leaving Voltaire behind, I turn to virtue, moral good.  

To agree on a virtue (or what is virtuous) is to first establish a moral base, a firm and even fixed measure of good. 

In the realm of relevance, moral and good behavior is more diverse, divided and even devalued; whereas, amid the absolutes, is there less…disagreement? 

An agreeable virtue is compassion, considered the opposite of cruelty; but then, is cruelty always bad, immoral.  

Can one be cruel to be kind?    

Is it cruel to lie to or about someone on the premise that you’re trying to protect them, to spare them from something worse?  

When is lying justified, right and even a good thing?

Cruel behavior is much more often bad, even immoral; it is about self-adulation or satisfaction, whatever said or intended.  Cruelty usual begins with the abuse of power.

Abuse is always a bad thing unless the power behind it is able to cover it up or mask it as something opposite cruelty (e.g. denial of a lie by once again lying). 
  
On the other side, compassion is about giving (away), caring for others—even above your own wants, needs.  

Control of power and, at times, deferment or even surrender of power is an act of compassion. 

Voltaire seems to hold that good or even moral virtues are not exclusive to Christ; that one is capable of virtuous behavior outside of the influence and even intervention of Christianity.   Can he be right or justified in this belief? 
He exclaims,
We live in society; there is therefore nothing truly good for us but that which does good to society.
But is mankind virtuous separate of God’s influence, intervention? 


Voltaire - To LIVE WELL


What does that mean, “To live well”?  To ask several this question might in return with several ideas, even examples.  

Can any two agree on what it means to live well?   

Maybe most would agree that to live well is to be free but then, what does it mean to be free?   Some might similarly speak of peace but then agree that peace is more a pursuit and never a permanent place.  Others might think that happiness is to live well but then can any one of these be maintained, sustained, always? 

One question and idea, followed by another, may still leave many answers, examples, whether realistic or idealistic, possible or impossible. Maybe not, so instead of imaging, I turn to Voltaire words accepting that this reflects his life, his idea to live well. 
First, he writes:
We never live; we are always in the expectation of living? 
In the expectation…is an exception that the moment is not or never enough. It is not that the moment may be spectacular or uniquely special but that we tend to think beyond it, often dealing with: fear that the moment will not last or return in some measure; or perhaps pride or a sense of entitlement that I deserve this…, or have earned it.

How many times do you seize that moment almost to point that you can truly admit, “If I were die today, I would die accepting that I lived well.” 

Is to live well happiness, peace, prosperity, freedom, contentment, satisfaction, to love and be loved, significance or something else?

There is a mindful word, seldom used in contemporary living but relevant to the idea to live well, virtue; which is about our behavior, our individual lifestyle—how we live our lives and how it potentially and positively affects and impacts others. Simply put, virtue is moral good. 

From the age old book (1791), Justine, The Misfortunes of Virtue (also titled, Marquis de Sade), happiness as one of more ideas to live well,
True happiness is to be found in Virtue’s womb, and if God permits that it be persecuted on earth, it is so that Virtue may be compensated by heaven’s most dazzling rewards.
Could (can) be that to live well is to die, at least to self if not all on earth. 

Friday, May 17, 2019

Voltaire – Friends and friendship



Next is a more soothing subject, friendship. 

No risks, no rewards, Voltaire offers as:

Friendship is the marriage of the soul, and this marriage is liable to divorce. 

He continues, suggesting his ardent belief in God,

May God defend me from my friends; I can defend myself from my enemies. 

What is required for true friendship? 

TRUST, of course, but then, trust in what or whom? 

As it is natural (and healthy) to at times let ourselves down or be disappointed in ourselves so too is it to be let down, disappointed and even dissed by a friend. 

Friends or a friendship do not always last, but they always change or undergo change, for better or worse. Voltaire writes:

God gave us the gift of life [but] it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well. 

What does it truly mean to LIVE WELL?  For it is hardly wearing a rubber bracelet with the same caption, “Live Well”—or something like that.

Again, what does it mean to LIVE WELL?

Voltaire – MONEY



He warned you and me,

Don’t think money does everything or you are going to end-up doing everything [and anything] for money. 

Money makes the world go ‘round, and the most powerful of all money is the U.S. dollar, the reserve currency of the world.  What can we do without it? It is the difference between living and dying if not life and death.  

For money, men do anything.  Once and as this “anything” becomes institutionalized so too does greed and graft reach fever pitch.  

Be ye warned, so Voltaire: 

Paper money eventually returns to its intrinsic value—ZERO!

While,

When it is a question of money, everybody is of the same religion. 

Our society has a history of (or about) socialism; that this form of government is taboo, destined to a certain calamity inherently infeasible and decidedly doomed to failure. 
Maybe it, socialism, is…and all the other taboo “’isms”; with the likely or possible exceptions of:

  • Materialism-consumerism
  • Capitalism-fascism
  • Paganism-secularism

Not all ‘isms are apparently alike.