Reflections on Aphorisms #95


Much more productive today, though mostly in the sense that I got a lot of reading and more exercise in. I did get a little bit more writing done, and spent some time on productive extracurriculars as it were, but not a whole lot of finished writing today. I’ve got a few posts written that just need a final layer of polish and a posting, including a review of Bird by Bird and my tablet that I’ve been using to do a lot of my writing recently.

Aphorism 134

The love of justice is simply in the majority of men the fear of suffering injustice. (Maxim 78)

Interpretation

The sincerest convictions are backed up by a willingness to sacrifice the self.

This is one of the greatest forces for progress in the world. Without it, we would not have civilization.

The problem is that our motivations stem not from principle but from desire.

This is something that keeps us from becoming what we could be.

Desire gives us guidance, but it is flawed.

One form of desire is the desire for security.

However, we are not good at evaluating risks and threats. We are wired to be wary of our environments, to see monsters lurking in the dark. Sometimes this is even a pathological element that hides itself within our psyche, a fear of the unknown that cripples us.

This does not need to be restricted to literal darkness, either. Anything that is foreign or alien can produce reactions drawn from fear.

One solution to this is to try to know everything.

This is a flawed path. Our capacities are limited. Our ability to comprehend is limited. Even our use of language to convey information is flawed. The best tool in the repertoire of any living creature malfunctions.

The great problem with trying to overcome fear through acclimation is that there will always be something new to fear. A worse problem is that we assume that knowledge is going to strip away fear. Knowing that the flame burns does not keep it from doing harm. Knowing the proteins that make up an insect do not make it less abhorrent to one with a phobia.

Familiarity breeds contempt, nothing more. We may lose our fear from packaged experiences. We may overcome it through exposure.

Courage is the solution. It requires a willingness to sacrifice. Nihilism is not courage, because the loathing of the self is not the same as the will to improve the world.

Courage is just one of many good and noble guiding principles. Justice is another.

Justice is difficult because even the noblest fall. This is the reason why we recount tragedies. We look at the darkest parts of history and psyche. We tear the veil from our eyes. We remember the dead before we inter their remains. Even if we focus on life, we confront death. 

We know that there is a part of us worthy of condemnation.

But we do not live in a world where things can be broken to pieces and survive.

To destroy the worst in us would be to destroy us, even if it is part of a metamorphosis.

In weakness of will, we seek to punish the offenses rather than eradicate their source.

We may not be able to succeed in the nobler agenda.

But we can always look into ourselves and find that which is rotten and wretched.

If we seek justice, we must start with ourselves. We must cut out that which is profane, that which is corrupt, that which is loathsome. Through these sacrifices we prepare ourselves to live in line with our convictions.

Resolution

Do no evil.

Live by principle.

Distinguish between sacrifice and pain. One has meaning. The other does not.



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