Reflections on Aphorisms #43

Time for another set of reflections on aphorisms. Today was more productive than yesterday, though there were a few setbacks. My new goal is to make tomorrow more productive than today.

At this point, who knows how much I’ll have improved by Friday?

Aphorism 68

Force is not a remedy.

John Bright

Interpretation

Well, this is certainly a goldmine.

There’s three things that I think we should look at here:

The “force” of fitting things into the human mode.

The “force” of political systems.

The “force” of our own wills.

The first is probably the most dangerous. We have a way of contemplating the world that is human-centric. This is only natural, because it’s where our values lie, and I’m a proud human supporter, so I don’t think it’s immoral either.

The problem is that our world is not cultivated and improved like a bonsai garden. There’s a line in C.S. Lewis’ work about Aslan, who’s sort of a God/Christ figure that takes the form of a sapient lion.

“He’s not a tame lion.”

Barring the commentary about God, it’s also true about the universe. We’ve got our views and perspectives on the universe, but in the end we’re grasping at straws. To grasp is better than to abstain (and we may even by fluke get close to truth), but it is still mere grasping.

The force of political systems is something that’s become a big concern for me recently. I hate talking politics, but I feel like something has to be said.

The first step in making the world a better place is to remember that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and it’s not just a literal hell. We’re coming off of a century where the action of government created the closest thing one can imagine to the metaphysical state of Hell, and we’re pretty close to doing it again.

Everyone should take a step back and ask if their actions really work, abandoning all pretense of coercion or forcing others into compromises. It’s going to (perhaps literally, at least spiritually) kill us all if we don’t.

Last but not least is the force of our wills.

One of the concepts that haunted me in my youth and later came to be known by me in more practical, identifiable terms is the archetypal notion of the Dragonslayer.

The Dragonslayer is an archetype that is defined by tragic confrontation; it’s embodied by Beowulf, Captain Ahab, Coriolanus, and even Christ (in a sense, since the sacrifice of the cross came with spiritual torment as well and would have shattered Christ’s lessers).

It’s what a person looks like when they bring their full force of will to bear on a problem, and one of the things that I’ve noticed is that where we see the Dragonslayer we rarely see slain dragons, or at least not ones that were slain without great sacrifice.

The will itself doesn’t do anything. It’s the sacrifice that does. Trying to use force when surrender is called for can doom the Dragonslayer to destruction.

Resolution

Don’t point at others’ things and say “Mine!”

Remember that it is sacrifice, not willful opposition, that makes the world go ’round.

Before knocking down the door, check if it’s locked.

Aphorism 69

There is nothing useless in nature; not even uselessness itself.

Montaigne

Interpretation

I’m not quite sure what the best way to approach this is, but I feel an affinity for Montaigne so I think I understand what he’s saying here.

Side-note: Apparently everyone who reads Montaigne thinks they have an affinity for Montaigne, so take this with a grain of salt.

The idea here is that there’s a purpose to everything, at least in terms of utility (though not necessarily cosmic destiny; that’s going too far).

One of the important things here is understanding that it’s a matter of perspective. You can look at things a bunch of different ways, and there are ways to view things that definitely have a negative impact (e.g. catastrophizing) or a positive ways.

It’s a call to see the silver lining in the clouds, basically.

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay. You want a visual metaphor? I’ll give you a visual metaphor!

Another point is to engage in some lateral thinking. We’re in an incredibly complex system and things work together in ways that are more complicated than the individual parts (and even the individual parts may have more to them than they at first seem to carry).

One of the things that seems counter-intuitive is that working less may wind up being more productive, because overworking oneself leads to burnout and fatigue.

Case in point: uselessness (at least in the right context) is useful. It’s good to delegate tasks to others as is fit and also to embrace a little time for rest and relaxation, so long as it does not become destructive to other opportunities and endeavors.

The secret is this: there is no secret. (Welcome to cliche-town!)

Really, though. It’s not about becoming obsessed over some grand secret, some alchemist-esque magnum opus that will lead you away from the rigors of everyday existence. It’s not about some grand third-eye awakening (though there’s also a mystery to everything that the strictly rational miss out on).

You just have to realize that you don’t know as much as you think you do, and broaden your search.

Resolution

Never assume that you know what something is for.

There is a utility to be found in everything.

Adapt to what is around you, and remember that a change in context can be a change in everything.

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