Only dead men are sincere

Every word men speak, you may presume

Is more or less a fraud because, my dear,

You’ll find us humans at our most sincere

Wrapped in our nappies, later in our tomb.

Then we are wise at last, and all is plain,

We join our fathers down below the ground

And with bare bones we rattle truth around

Though some would rather lie and live again

by Herman Hesse

Reminds me of that sage, Solon, who said

He who unites the greatest number of advantages, and retaining them to the day of his death, then dies peaceably, that man alone, sire, is, in my judgment, entitled to bear the name of ‘happy.’ But in every matter it behoves us to mark well the end: for oftentimes God gives men a gleam of happiness, and then plunges them into ruin.”

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Consolation of Philosophy

By Boethius

This book is in five sections [books];

Book 1: The sorrows of Boethius

Book ii: The vanity of fortune’s gifts

Book iii: True and false happiness

Book iv: Good and ill fortune

Book v: Freewill and God’s foreknowledge

Boethius, for those who do not know him, was a Roman consul during the reign of Theodoric the Great. He was born in 480CE and executed in 524CE. He wrote the above tract, while exiled in Pavia, and shortly before his execution by Theodoric.

Boethius laments his fall from royalty and the impending death over his head. He feels wrongly accused by the senate and also that his other accusers, for lack of a better word or vagabonds. His mistress, Philosophy visits him in Pavia to lighten his burden. She starts by reassuring him that the likes of Zeno, Socrates, Anaxagoras, Seneca were brought to destruction for no other reason than that, settled as they were in my principles, their lives were a manifest contrast to the ways of the wicked.

In his lament he asks philosophy if the cruelty of fortune against him I not plain enough. He asks if the exile is the recompense of his obedience.

On the vanity of Fortune’s gifts, philosophy tells him, her very nature, is caprice. She tells him it is not to humans to lament the gifts of Fortune for these are hers to give and take. Boethius laments the greatest sorrow for him is to have been happy.

Philosophy tells him nothing is wretched, but thinking makes it so and conversely every lot is happy if borne with equanimity.

She tells him

If then, thou art master of thyself, thou wilt possess that which thou wilt never be willing to lose, and which Fortune cannot take from thee. And that thou mayst see that happiness cannot possibly consist in these things which are the sport of chance, reflect that, if happiness is the highest good of a creature living in accordance with reason, and if a thing which can in any wise be reft away is not the highest good, it is plain that Fortune cannot aspire to bestow happiness by reason of its instability.

Philosophy tells him that riches, honesty, beauty are all things from without. That they do not in themselves make one happy. She tells him, for example, it is a true saying that they want most who possess most, and, conversely, they want very little who measure their abundance by nature’s requirements, not by the superfluity of vain display. Philosophy tells him this is true also of power, rank, glory and fame. Philosophy argues that if there were any natural and proper good in rank and power, they would never come to the utterly bad, since opposites are not wont to be associated. She says nature brooks not the union of contraries.

Philosophy tells him thet ill Fortune is of more use to men than good Fortune. She says good fortune when she wears the guise of happiness is always lying, ill fortune is always faithful, since, in changing, she shows her inconstancy. The one deceives, the other teaches.  Lastly she tells, when good fortune goes, she takes her friends but leaves you with thine own and that in true friends, one has found the most precious of all riches.

Philosophy tells him that all created beings seek happiness as their end. She says they seek this end through acquisition of wealth, rank, fame, pleasure, glory. She says all these means do not bring the seeker of happiness to their goal for each of them is accompanied by some want or anxiety. Philosophy tells him this happiness is god. That to be happy or rather to possess happiness is to be godlike. That happiness and good are one and they are found in god.

Following Anslem, she tells him god is the greatest good beyond which nothing can be thought. She tells him god is omnipotent.

Boethius asks if god is omnipotent can he do evil. And Philosophy answers in the negative.

He says, herein is the very chiefest cause of my grief- that, while there exists a good ruler of the universe, it is possible that evil should be at all, still more that it should go unpunished. Philosophy tells him this is not so. That the good are always strong, the bad always weak and impotent; that vices never go unpunished nor virtues unrewarded, that good fortune always befalls the good, and ill fortune the bad.

The argument here is that, if the chief end of all human action is towards good, then, the bad do not achieve this aim. She argues that the good make the doer god. In this sense then, those actions called bad do not attain the aims for which the perpetrators intended.

Philosophy tells him, it is clear Plato’s judgement was true: the wise alone are able to do what they would, while the wicked follow their own heart’s lust, but cannot accomplish what they would. For they go on their willfulness fancying they will attain what they wish for in the paths of delight; but they are very far from its attainment, since shameful deeds lead not to happiness.

To conclude, philosophy argues that freedom of choice is an attribute of reason and that god’s foreknowledge does not in any way interfere with the actions of humans. She argues that knowledge depends not on the thing known but on the faculty of the knower. That god’s foreseeing doesn’t in itself impose necessity, any more than our seeing things happen makes their happening necessary. She argues no creature can be rational, unless they be endowed with freewill. For that which hath the natural use of reason has the faculty of discriminative judgement and of itself distinguishes what is to be shunned or desired.

She argues there is no such thing as chance in a world rule by god. Chance, she says, as defined by Aristotle is when something is done for the sake of a particular end and for certain reasons some other result that the designed ensues.

She tells him god is eternal, that is, god possesses endless life whole and perfect at a single moment. The world, however is everlasting, that is, it has a prolonged existence.

I think, the current breed of apologists would do well if they were to adopt some of the arguments advanced in this book for example those tackling the problem of evil. What they will not be able to prove is what god is, and how this god, whatever they think it is, is the particular Middle Eastern apparition.

The argument for freewill is also good though it suffers the weakness all others suffer, that the proponent fails to define what they mean. I think by calling it freedom of choice, the proponent only shifts the burden further for we now must ask for the definition of choice.

I think the arguments against fortune make sense. That because they are her gifts to give, we shouldn’t lament so much when we lose them. I must say I agree with Boethius that the saddest thing in the loss of the gifts of fortune is to have been happy.

Lastly, I recommend this book to both theists and atheists alike. Read it, form your own judgements, but at least read it.

thoughts on happiness

Prince Andrew Bolkonski, in War and Peace, while reflecting on the words of Pierre says

one must believe in the possibility of happiness in order to be happy.

and then he continues to say

let the dead bury the dead, but while one has life, one must live and be happy.

I think many of you will agree with either of the statements or both.

I think our greatest goal in life is to be happy.

to those who are feeling beaten today……

this post is meant to cheer you up 😀

In the Lives by Plutarch, he writes in the life Demosthenes that

to a man’s being happy, it is in the first place requisite he should be born in some ‘famous city’.

He continues to say

but for him who must attain to true happiness, it is of no other disadvantage to be of a mean, obscure country, than to be born of a small or plain looking woman.

The atheist is the most fortunate person

Friends, I have come across a post that for lack of a better word portrays the atheist in so unfortunate a light that it is only fair that we be heard. I will not claim to speak for every atheist, but myself. However, before I respond to the three posts which can be found here, here and here, I want to start by saying that atheism answers only one question. The question is do you believe in the existence of god[s]? To which the answer is no! Beyond that, it says nothing about whether I am vegetarian, stamps collector, nada nada, nothing. With this out of the way, I can now proceed to answer to the claims of the above three posts.

The first accusation is the atheist lacks faith which is touted as the greatest good on earth. Our accuser commits a fallacy of equivocation. The word faith here is used in a narrow meaning forgetting that it has other meanings. I will demonstrate. I have faith my car will start in the morning. This faith is informed by the fact that I drove my car home the previous evening, it showed no sign of mechanical failure and last I started it, it worked. It could fail to start, though. It is therefore important that we are told what faith are we deprived of, if it is faith in an afterlife or fairies, that isn’t useful to me and as such I don’t need it.

We are asked to believe the atheist is devoid of human love. I don’t think this claim needs a response. My ability to love other sentient beings has nothing whatsoever to do with whether fairies exist or not. This said, however, I can understand where this comes from. I have often times asked my friends to tell me what they mean when they talk about love and I will tell you that many if not all have very interesting responses. I have sometimes said love is an ambiguous term, and if this is the basis of this accusation, then so be it, but it doesn’t diminish the fact that whatever it means to love, the atheist is as capable of having it just as the theist.

There is a beauty in looking at plant life, animal life or even at contemplating the night sky. There is sublime beauty in knowing we are stardust without positing a divine creator. All around us, both for the believer and unbeliever we are surrounded by natural processes and there is every mystery in looking at the working of nature. Therefore to write

The eye of the atheist sees in creation nothing other than the operation of natural processes. The brilliance and magnificent beauty of the Divine Creator’s image remain hidden and undetectable to him. As he glances aimlessly at creation, nowhere does he discover the beauty of God’s wisdom, nowhere does he see God’s omnipotence, nowhere does he observe God’s goodness and providence, nowhere does he discern the Creator’s righteousness and love for creation

is blatantly false and a collection of hodgepodge. It is what my good friend Tidleb would call deepity those statements that look profound but tell us nothing. And while here, as I have written always, what god? And why would life and the universe need a creator? And where is this love? Is he implying that his god in act of love created the antelope to be killed by the lion for food or the male preying mantis gets to be killed during intercourse, tough love it must be!

The atheist has reason informed by experience as his guide. He walks with his head held high knowing that he too, like all things, in nature die and rot and go back to what they were before in the endless cycle of natural processes. He sees his kin die and knows that he too shall die. If this truth is uncomfortable for some, too bad, but I think to say

The atheist lives in a dispirited state; listlessness has taken hold of his soul. He wanders astray in the lightless and expansive night of this present life without even one ray of light to illumine his crooked paths

is not only mean but borders on condescension. It is a statement borne of ignorance, loaded with hate and malice and is far removed from reality as anything could possibly be.

I am grateful to my friends, they know because I express my appreciation to them. I love a lot of things and so many people. To claim

Feelings of love and gratitude remain unknown mysteries for the atheist

is based just as the others are, on ignorance of atheists. I can only say the author of this piece must live in a place where there is no atheist or he hasn’t met my friends.

It is said of the atheist that

 having appointed matter as his principal governor, limited man’s true happiness within the narrow confines of temporary pleasures.

Be that as it may, please tell me one permanent pleasure that ain’t borne of wishful thinking. All things in nature are transient. This is not wishful thinking. This is fact. You can either embrace it, knowing that nothing is permanent or you can pretend it is not the case and be surprised when things happen not as you had expected them to be.

If as he writes

God, however, has fled from the heart of the atheist. The human heart has infinite desires because it was created to embrace the infinite God. However, since the atheist’s heart is not filled with the infinite God, it can never be filled or satisfied with anything—even though it perpetually groans, seeks, and desires to do so.

The fault is with god and not the atheist. The theist then must ask his god to fill the atheist’s heart with whatever it is that should fill hearts but please leave enough space to allow the heart pump blood :-P. I don’t want to die of heart failure!

I know of no other pleasures. This statement

The pleasures of the world are incapable of filling the heart’s emptiness

then joins the list of those many meaningless things people are oft to say in the hope they have said something substantial. The atheist/ naturalist says we have one life here and we have a duty to make each other’s journey through it as beautiful and easy as it can possibly be. We are earthbound, we make no promise of a future bliss. If we can’t have bliss here, there is no guarantee it can be anywhere else. And I say, since, we needed no training before our birth on how to live here, if there be another place, we should be able to learn to live there as well. While still on this part, I must say, the theist must show me why his god would choose such a torturous route to get us to heaven and hell. Why not just populate the two places at one go?

If happiness is dependent in believing there is a god, and that this god loves you, one wonders why there are countless unhappy believers. No, we are happy when our desires are met, our health is sound, those around us aren’t distressed, we all have a roof over our heads and food in the stomach. Anyone struggling to live can’t be happy.  And am not saying having so much makes you happy, nope, but knowing that you are safe, have food and is loved is enough to make all of us happy.  No god is required.

This statement

The atheist is unaware that man’s happiness is found not within the enjoyment of earthly pleasures but in the love of God

is therefore superfluous and irrelevant to human happiness.

The theist is slave of a tyrant, not the atheist. The theist believes his god desires worship, watches his every deed and will likely condemn him to an eternal fire for finite crimes. Reason can’t be a tyrant. There is no place on the earth where a life has been lost because people were reasonable, but many a number have been lost and continue to be lost in the name of god. So again, this statement

The atheist has become a unfortunate slave subjugated to a harsh tyrant!

is blatantly false and ridiculous. It can hold no water. It can’t stand.

The natural world fills the naturalist with joy and gladness. If you want to believe this, look at the wonderful photos by my good friend Sonel or Sally and if you aren’t dissuaded from this thought

The natural world seems to him sterile and barren. It neither provides him with joy nor generates within him feelings of delight

then you are definitely beyond help. It is you, not the atheist, who needs help. Wake up, look at the beauty around you and be filled with gladness that you are apart of a magnificent thing. That nature has so combined atoms to come up with a being such as you that can appreciate her beauty. You don’t need gods to see that the world and the universe is beautiful.

We are then told

Unmerciful and uncompassionate despair, in turn, violently and harshly severs the thread of his pitiful life, and hurls him into the depths of perdition and darkness, from where he will resurface only when the voice of his divine Creator—Whom he denied—calls him to give an account of his disbelief, at which point he will be condemned and sent to the eternal fire.

to which, in conclusion, I respond, don’t despair for me. If you are not going to be my attorney, let me be. Live your life praising your god and while at it, pray so hard that you are worshiping the right god and if that isn’t the case, that the right god be merciful to you for worshiping a wrong one. If any atheist is called to account, they will do so on their own, stop your threats, they are meaningless to us. They don’t scare us. And in closing, our lives are full of light not darkness, we know we shall die someday and when that day comes we will be no more and are the happy for it.

May your god help you, but please leave the atheist to live his life. The time to live is now.