Delight Springs

Friday, September 13, 2013

Trusting our spontaneity

So many spontaneously interesting conversations with students and teachers yesterday.

First, in CoPhi it was suggested that those who fear, dread, or even just resent the reality of death have failed to become "secure in their belief." Usually when someone says that, in this culture, a conversion pitch and the promise of eternal life in paradise is about to follow. We were more interested to discuss whether the ancient Epicureans had successfully quashed concerns about the other side of eternity, with their contention that the gods are indifferent to human affairs and have not prepared us either a heaven or a hell... so we should just get on with trying to enjoy our lives while we can.

My view: amivalent. Yes, I was "dead" for an eternity before I got here, and lost no sleep over it. Why's the eternity to come any more perplexing? Well, because I'm thinking about it now. The prospect of annihilation and oblivion is usually not a comforting one, even on my worst days. I can only envy Socrates' blithe indifference to his hemlock, and the thought that it would either transport him to "a better place" or be the best sleeping aid ever.

Then, I found myself talking with Group 2 ("The Philosophers' Guild," they've cutely christened themselves) about Aristotle's claim that posthumous events can compromise a person's happiness. I brought up my late father's foiled intention to leave a large legacy for his grandchildren via the sale of his deeded commercial property. It turned out not to be the million dollar golden egg he went to his grave thinking it would be, and will not finance anyone's college education. It would have made him sad to know that. But does it follow that his life was less Happy, in the largest ethical sense? Of course not.

Only later did I recall that yesterday was the fifth anniversary of Dad's passing. Must have been something subliminal going on with me.

Then to HAP 101, where we talked about measuring and quantifying happiness and I tried to put in a word for the unfairly beleaguered Bentham, while yet agreeing with the spirit of Mill's "better to be Socrates dissatisfied" sentiment. I love "negative capability."

 Then, down the street through the rain to Happy Hour. The other end of the table, where the musicians were gathered, seemed to be caught up in a great discussion about their passion. Our end was less happily, at least for me, drawn into a dispute about guns in America. Can you believe one of us thought there aren't enough of them? More on that later. Maybe.

 And then to High School Parents' Night, where the Writing instructor gave us a great talk about Montaigne and the essay, and about how the act of writing finds and creates meaning.

I liked the new Biology teacher from California a lot. And her friend.

I wonder what he used to talk about, before he thinned out.

It's good to remind myself, I'll be hanging around, haunting classrooms in silent meditation myself one day. But there's really no point in fretting about that now.

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