Que le goust des biens et des maux dépend en bonne partie de l’opinion que nous en avons

“J’en faisoy un secret; et moy, qui ose tant dire de moy, ne parloy de mon argent qu’en mensonge, comme font les autres, qui s’appauvrissent riches, s’enrichissent pauvres, et dispensent leur conscience de jamais tesmoigner sincerement de ce qu’ils ont. Ridicule et honteuse prudence.”  M. De Montaigne,  Essais, Livre 1, Flammarion 1969, Chapitre XIV, p. 105.

(amateuristic English translation: “I made it a secret; and I, who dare say so much about myself, did not speak about my monery except in lies, as do the others, who make seem they are poor when they are rich, or make seem they are rich when they are poor, and discharge their conscience of ever saying truthfully what they own. Ridiculous and shameful prudence.”)

I am rich. Worse than merely being rich, I became rich by complying to the social pressure towards a profession which was almost sure to make me rich; and abandoning what hope I had from achieving something meaningful in the line of things that were of real interest to me.

Shame on me?

Ought I not have set a better example for others by pursueing my ideals rather a comfortable life of which I know it’s a goal almost unachievable to most? I probably deserve the frustration and the irritableness with which I see others who didn’t choose a life of comfort and ease performing, and being praised, for their achievement in the field that would be mine in the event I had had the dedication not to  have chosen for ease and for comfort. I would even have had cause to being taken seriously when complaining of the lack of achievement in that field that is now impossible to make mine had I chosen differently.

Quod non. I am guilted and it is a guilt I will have to deal with. My cross to bear; so on, so forth.

But I don’t buy it. I simply don’t. I may be imperfect, but imperfection is neither a cause for guilt nor a good reason for modesty. I am convinced everybody should be rich, regardless of their achievements or lack thereof. There is nothing compulsory or essential about being needy or uncomfortable. Creativity is not born from discontent; if it were there is no reason why creative people almost unvariably are born in a context of wealth or have allowed to be adopted by the wealthy.

So, far from feeling guilty about having made a priority of becoming wealthy, I am veritably pissed off by the fact that those coming before me have failed to achieve societal progress to the extent of ensuring wealth for all. It is their fault, not mine, that I have lost (and am loosing) valuable time in acquiring fortune (and making sure I do not loose it). If it’s a matter of guilting somebody, it is our predecessors who need to be guilted.

I won’t make the same error by providing an example of sacrificing my personal (and familial) comfort for “the greater good”. In fact: fuck “the greater good” because it surely didn’t have any problem in fucking us. I take responsibility in demonstrating that one first of all has a basic right to being comfortable; not just to being fed or housed or whatever it is that rights junkies may come up with, but to being comfortable: to have a bloody swimming pool as far as I care, or a lot of food that gets bad before you can eat it, or a fuck whenever you feel likt having one. If I need to be an example, I will be an example of my own “personal good” because that is what I want everybody to have – so they don’t have to go wasting time in doing stuff they don’t feel like doing.

If you happen to be someone who takes comfort in having sacrificed something or, worse, who thinks badly of those of us who have failed to make sacrifices, go to a shrink and leave the rest of us alone. We don’t need guilt. We just want to straighten out in our way what was left crooked by the ancient thinkers you so adore: the correlation between “making a real effort” and “deserving a break”. The only truly human society is the one where nobody needs a break, let alone needing to deserve it.

Because for all of the benevolence you see in your sacrifices, by sacrificing you show your buy-in to something else as said by Montaigne: “Nul n’est mal long temps qu à sa faute.” (“Nobody is in a bad shape for a long time except by his own fault.”), which is a beastly thing to say when meant literally, knowing that the vast majority of people are in a bad way for almost all of their lifes without even having the slightest idea that it could be different. Although, maybe, it is a rather appropriate thing to say of all of those sacrifice-addicts who feel systemically underrecognized and overtaxed – there is a relationship between both of these feelings, you know.

After all, I never feel bad for a long time except if I get addicted to the notion that feeling bad is somehow required for being worthwhile.

[Whilst writing this I was listening to something by ‘Ministry’.]


4 responses to “Que le goust des biens et des maux dépend en bonne partie de l’opinion que nous en avons

  1. This comment is not really mine as I’m taking an abstract from a flyier some friends of mine recently wrote. It’s (also) about creativity, energy and willingness to build….
    Social, economic and political crisis. We are all discouraged.
    Why does this crisis find us so helpless, so much so that we can’t even agree on how to face it?
    The crisis’ nature lies in a “drop of desire”, evident in any aspect of life. We all are less willing to build, grow, look for happiness; there is an evident individual and mass diplay of fragility, for behaviours and attitudes that are lost, indifferent, cynical, passively adaptive, prisoners of media influences, condemned to present without any chance of going deeper in the memory and in the future.
    Crisis is therefore not only social, politica and economic, but mostly anthropological, concerning the concept of person, of the nature of his desire, of his relationship with reality.
    We were under the illusion that the desire would have stayed alive by itself or even become more alive in the new situation of attained welfare.
    Experience shows us desire can become flat if it doesn’t find an object equal to its needs.
    when desire becomes flat, there starts bewilderment of the young and cynicism of the adults.
    The alternative?
    A voluntarism without breath and a moralism supporting the State as the ultimate source of consistency for the human flow.
    Starting to desire again is the needed civil virtue to stimulate a too satisfied and flattened society.
    Who or what can do this? That’s the cultural problem of our modern society.
    Ideologies won’t suffice anymore. We need an experience.
    Even the Church will have to show the authenticity of its claim to have something more to offer…..showing Christ is so present that He’s able to reawaken the person til he doesn’t totally depent on circumstances.
    This by means of the presence of people that document a different humanity, that live according to their desires as they recognize the answer as present.

  2. Hy marlom, welcome back! It’s kind of funny because, as you know, I’m an optimist so I believe that the real experience described in the flyer is actually more of an opportunity than a crisis. I mean, we used to find our challenge in making life bearable which led to an ethos of sacrifice and merit. If you didn’t suffer you were in a certain way wasting your life. Clearly for many of us (but by far for not enough) the challenge to make life at a purely physical level bearable has gone and it hasn’t been replaced by anything. This to some extent has made life more unbearable because the old ethos which was there to make sense of suffering has left a void. I think a lot of modern litterature (Pirandello, Beckett) and most of continental philosophy (specifically existentialism) is about this void. But where I would agree on a need for something to replace that void I think this need is not an issue but an opportunity. I would therefore concur with the conclusion of your flyer friend, but I’d choose happy words instead of despairing words. The new humanity will be decadent in the sense that it will have fallen from a dependency on material things.

    PS: I would even concur on the Christ bit, but no new Church: a new Christ, a Christ that has no followers but that brings an ethos of hope and positive desire , for people that want to lead a life and not undergo circumstances (I apologize for making an atheistic use of the C-words)

  3. I agree on all!
    It is an opportunity for everybody, with an urgence to take this opportunity. As, if we do not take it we would never get out of this situation.
    And, Guido, I think your atheistic use of that word is the most interesting one. I would even say the only one. Nobody came to collect followers (and those who attempted to do that, miserably died) but to lat men re-discover what their inner nature is….you named it: positive desire and hope. The Church is the (just) human attempt to support…for believers…a human attempt with a divine nature in it.

  4. OK-OK, but no new Church, please that would be stretching it too far 😉

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