Passing Thoughts on Passing Life

Life imitates art.– When fiction is transformed by circumstances and attentive subjectivity into the reader’s own self-revelation, it effectively ceases to be fiction, and becomes something more like figurative memoir. Hence, I may say without any hint of hubris or exaggeration that as of this moment, Brave New World is my autobiography, The Trial my last few diary entries, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers the emotional content of my daily stroll through the neighborhood.

Diminishing returns and wastefulness.– The positive effect on your life of living in a reasonably clean home, in a relatively safe neighborhood, is worth a considerable expenditure of time and energy. Beyond that, all “dream home” notions become exponentially less valuable in reality, even as they come closer to fruition. The perfect finishing touch, in material terms, will never be worth the effort it takes to complete it, compared to what you might have done with that energy instead. The standard of what constitutes wastefulness in such earthly pursuits descends rapidly once you get beyond the necessary conditions of practical convenience. A world of men obsessed with the quest for that finishing touch would be a world of complete and profound wastefulness, in which nothing of any real worth was ever done.

Dying for the cause.– Allan Bloom attributes to Alexandre Kojève the comment that no one ever died for surrealism, and that’s why no one takes surrealism seriously. Men are always impressed by the willingness to lay down one’s life for something, as though that willingness — not merely rhetorical, but real and involving a genuine risk — automatically bestows upon the man’s cause a measure of seriousness or dignity. Of course, it does no such thing, and it must be noted that in truth the willingness to die for a cause ought in no way to color one’s judgment of the cause, but only of the man who would die for it. Men have willingly died for all sorts of things, many of them evil — and many of them simply ridiculous. Is courage in the name of a folly truly courage?

On the other hand, how long could one stand to live in a world in which no one was willing to die for anything — in which petty self-preservation at all costs was the prime motive of all lives, and all choices? This brings us back to Kojève’s point, as we survey our own surrealistic moment of universal cowardice. Can our species be taken seriously anymore? 

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