7th October 2011, 07:42 PM
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Nothing political is correct.
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The Cruelty of Hedonism
At the beginning of Book Two of his epic On the Nature of Things, the Epicurean poet Lucretius imagines himself standing upon a promontory, looking at the suffering of someone below:
How sweet, to watch from the shore the wind-whipped oceanIn Shakespeare’s The Tempest, when the innocent Miranda believes she sees a ship wrecked off the coast of their island, she cries out to her father Prospero, “O, I have suffered / With those that I saw suffer! Poor souls, they perished!” The difference between the two reactions is, in the end, the difference between a culture of hedonism, even at its noblest, and a culture that finds the meaning of suffering in the shadow of the Cross.
Toss someone else’s ship in a mighty struggle;
Not that the man’s distress is cause for mirth –
Your freedom from that trouble is what’s sweet.
Let me not suggest that Lucretius was a moral monster. If there is any case to be made for hedonism, Lucretius is the man to make it. He follows his master Epicurus in insisting that it is beneath our dignity to pursue pleasures of the flesh. He believes in an austere modesty in matters of sex, temperance in food and drink, and the enjoyment of good conversation with friends:
in the shade of a tall tree by the riverside, He is fond of animals, and deplores the shedding of their blood upon pagan altars. He seems to like children, and imagines a newborn baby, like a mariner tossed ashore, wailing “as is fit / For one whom so much suffering awaits.” He recommends that a man marry a woman not for her looks, but for her compliant disposition, and says it will then be easy for the two to learn to live with one another. He abhors warfare, and misses no opportunity to reveal the pointlessness and the waste of military aggression – and of enmity generally, inimicitia, the opposite of the Epicurean ideal of amicitia, friendship.
most pleasantly when the weather smiles, and the season
stipples the green with fresh and lusty flowers.
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“Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.”