Monday, July 11, 2011

In The Interests of Fairness

Boethius does not give Fortuna a voice to defend herself but he does have Lady Philosophy give the other side of the coin: that is that people are unhappy with Fortuna because they are insatiable and never have enough stuff.
" Fugare credo indigentiam copia quaeritis"(II.V.64)
"I think you seek to escape need with abundance"
"Sic rerum versa condicio est ut divinum merito rationis animal non aliter sibi splendere nisi inanimatae supellectis possessione videatur?"(II.V.72-74)
"Is the condition of things thus turned upside down that an animal, divine by merit of reason, should seem otherwise not to be glorious to himself unless in the possessing of inanimate equipment?"
People have been materialistic ever since there has been private possessions, she is saying. She cannot be blamed for that.
"Quid igitur o mortales extra petitis intra vos positam felicitatam?..."(II.IV.72) "Igitur si tui compos fueris, possidebis quod nec tu amittere unquam velis nec fortuna possit auferre."(II.IV.76-77)
"Therefore why, o mortals, do you seek happiness beyond what is placed inside yourselves?....Accordingly, if you have control of yourself, you will own that which neither should you want ever to set aside nor would Fortuna be able to take from you."
Basically, all we really own is ourselves and nothing can take that from us. I think Orwell tried to prove in 1984, with torture, even that can be taken from us. Thoreau was never tortured when he was put in jail for failure to pay taxes (too many powerful friends) but he wrote a similar piece about the experience of prison.
"I was put into a jail once on this account, for one night; and, as I stood considering the walls of solid stone, two or three feet thick, the door of wood and iron, a foot thick, and the iron grating which strained the light, I could not help being struck with the foolishness of that institution which treated me as if I were mere flesh and blood and bones, to be locked up....they thought my chief desire was to stand the other side of that stone wall....I could not but smile to see how industriously they locked the door on my meditations....As they could not reach me, they had resolved to punish my body."(On Civil Disobedience*, pg. 96-97)
Thoreau was guilty only of not paying a tax that he had refused to pay since it was going to support a war with Mexico that he did not agree with. Boethius was accused of treason, a capital offense. It is easier to be brave when you know you are not going to die and Thoreau only spent one night in jail because friends paid the tax for him so he could be freed.
However, thinking men have been urging us for millennia to be satisfied with enough. Fine clothes do not make for a fine soul. Happiness only comes from within not having a fancy car or the envy of others. It is falling on deaf ears.

*(Walden and Other Writings, Bantam Classsics)

3 comments:

Tracy said...

Happiness only comes from within not having a fancy car or the envy of others.
Very true - because once you've purchased the fancy car, that's it is it, you're going to be deliriously happy for the rest of your life? And doing something just to provoke a negative response in others - well, that's really going to make you feel really proud of yourself and nurture your sense of self-worth, isn't it?

anachronist said...

However, thinking men have been urging us for millennia to be satisfied with enough. Fine clothes do not make for a fine soul. Happiness only comes from within not having a fancy car or the envy of others. It is falling on deaf ears.

Great ending of a very nice essay! The problems is that greed is a very tenacious weed. Oh dear is it a rhyme? I must be drunk, sorry.

The Red Witch said...

You're a poet and you don't even know it. :-)
People matter not things.