The Human Condition
Tragic Sense of Life, trans. J.E. Crawford Flitch (Dover: 1954), orig. 1921, p. 12.
Yes, yes, I see it all! — an enormous social activity, a mighty civilization, a profuseness of science, of art, of industry, of morality, and afterwards, when we have filled the world with industrial marvels, with great factories, with roads, museums, and libraries, we shall fall exhausted at the foot of it all, and it will subsist — for whom? Was man made for science or was science made for man? ¶ "Why!" the reader will exclaim again, "we are coming back to what the Catechism says: 'Q. For whom did God create the world? A. For man.'" Well, why not? — so ought the man who is a man to reply. The ant, if it took account of these matters and were a person, would reply "For the ant," and it would reply rightly. The world is made for consciousness, for each consciousness.
Miguel de Unamuno on Mortal Man said...
Tragic Sense of Life, trans. J.E. Crawford Flitch (Dover: 1954), orig. 1921, p. 1.
I am a man; no other man do I deem a stranger. For to me the adjective humanus is no less suspect that its abstract substantive humanitas, humanity. Neither "the human" nor "humanity," neither the simple adjective nor the substantivized adjective, but the concrete substantive — man. The man of flesh and bone; the man who is born, suffers, and dies — above all, who dies; the man who eats and drinks and plays and sleeps and thinks and wills; the man who is seen and heard; the brother, the real brother.
The Tragic Sense of Life (Courier Dover: 1954), pp. 50-1.
There you have that "thief of energies," as he [Nietzsche] so obtusely called Christ who sought to wed nihilism with the struggle for existence, and he talks to you about courage. His heart craved the eternal All while his head convinced him of nothingness, and, desperate and mad to defend himself from himself, he cursed that which he most loved. Because he could not be Christ, he blasphemed against Christ. Bursting with his own self, he wished himself unending and dreamed his theory of eternal recurrence, a sorry counterfeit of immortality, and, full of pity for himself, he abominated all pity. And there are some who say that his is the philosophy of strong men! No, it is not. My health and my strength urge me to perpetuate myself. His is the doctrine of weaklings who aspire to be strong, but not of the strong who are strong. Only the feeble resign themselves to final death and substitute some other desire for the longing for personal immortality. In the strong the zeal for perpetuity overrides the doubt of realizing it, and their superabundance of life overflows upon the other side of death.
Tragic Sense of Life, trans. J.E. Crawford Flitch (Dover: 1954), orig. 1921, pp. 289-91.
Instead of renouncing the world in order that we may dominate it ... what we ought to do is to dominate the world in order that we may be able to renounce it. Not to seek poverty and submission, but to seek wealth in order that we may use it to increase human consciousness, and to seek power for the same end. ¶ It is curious that monks and anarchists should be at enmity with each other, when fundamentally they both profess the same ethic and are related by close ties of kinship. Anarchism tend to become a kind of atheistic monachism and a religious, rather than an ethical enconomico-social, doctrine. The one party starts from the assumption that man is naturally evil, born in original sin, and that it is through grace that he becomes good, if indeed he ever does become good; and the other from the assumption that man is naturally good and is subsequently perverted by society. And these two theories really amount to the same thing, for in both the individual is opposed to society, as if the individual had preceded society and therefore were destined to survive it. And both ethics are ethics of the cloister.
Tragic Sense of Life, trans. J.E. Crawford Flitch (Dover: 1954), orig. 1921, p. 295.
What I call the tragic sense of life in men and peoples is at any rate our tragic sense of life, that of Spaniards and the Spanish people, as it is reflected in my consciousness, which is a Spanish consciousness, made in Spain. And this tragic sense of life is essentially the Catholic sense of it, for Catholicism, and above all popular Catholicism, is tragic. The people abhors comedy. When Pilate — the type of the refined gentleman, the superior person, the esthete, the rationalist if you like — proposes to give the people comedy and mockingly present Christ to them saying, "Behold the man!" the people mutinies and shouts "Crucify him! Crucify him!" The people does not want comedy but tragedy. And that which Dante, the great Catholic, called the Divine Comedy, is the most tragical tragedy that has ever been written.
The Tragic Sense of Life (Courier Dover: 1954), pp. 110-11.
A rabid mania for originality is rife in the modern intellectual world and characterizes all individual effort. We would rather err with genius than hit the mark with the crowd... This violent struggle for the perpetuation of our name extends backwards into the past, just as it aspires to conquer the future; we contend with the dead because we, the living, are obscured beneath their shadow. We are jealous of the geniuses of former times, whose names, standing out like the landmarks of history, rescue the ages from oblivion. The heaven of fame is not very large, and the more there are who enter it the less is the share of each. The great names of the past rob us of our place in it; the space which they fill in the popular memory they usurp from us who aspire to occupy it. And so we rise up in revolt against them, and hence the bitterness with which all those who seek after fame in the world of letters judge those who have already attained it and are in enjoyment of it.
Mohandas Gandhi on Free Will said...
Gandhi An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments With Truth (Navajivan : 1927-1929)
But from the ordinary point of view, a man who is saved from physically committing sin is regarded as saved. And I was saved only in that sense. There are some actions from which an escape is a godsend both for the man who escapes and for those about him. Man, as soon as he gets back his consciousness of right, is thankful to the Divine mercy for the escape. As we know that a man often succumbs to temptation, however much he say resist it, we also know that Providence often intercedes and saves him in spite of himself. How all this happens, how far a man is free and how far a creature of circumstances, how far free-will comes into play and where fate enters on the scene, all this is a mystery and will remain a mystery.
"Dying on Stage: 'The Act of a Dreadful Thing'" in Resurrection, Porter, Hayes, and Tombs, eds. (Continuum: 1999), pp. 297, 301.
Crucifixion demands entombment. And entombment generates drama. Who is hiding in the cupboard of French farce? Who is behind the screen on Blind Date? What is the bran tub, or the cracker, or the long awaited letter when it drops in the letter-box? Open the box! The drama of entombment is there literally in the stage illusionist's repertoire. It might have died with Harry Houdini, but it hasn't. I saw it only the other day on television: the comedian Freddie Star, bound and shackled and then submerged in a fish tank. Curtains drawn round the tank. Lights dimmed. A roll of drums, the lights flash, and then the lights go up and the curtains are drawn back to discover... an empty fish tank. And a few minutes later, Freddie is discovered somewhere else, damp but unharmed and smiling, the Starr reborn. ... I come back to death, 'nothing more terrible, nothing more true'. We go to Shakespeare's tragedies, go to sit in the dark in our boxes at the theatre, to confront what 'we can't escape'. And Shakespeare shows us the mutilated bodies in a stage spectacle. And he portrays death as final, 'the sure extinction that we travel to and shall be lost in always'. But the ritual of theatre-going won't allow it to rest there. We are obliged to remain incarcerated while another stage-spectacle is enacted, the resurrection before our eyes of the actors who are dead. The curtain call. It is a cheat. Like death. Something I know I can't escape, yet can't accept. Tirez le rideau.
Time for Truth: Living Free in a World of Lies, Hype & Spin (Baker Books: 2002), pp. 69-71.
Prisoner 174517 was thirsty. Seeing a fat icicle hanging just outside his hut in the Auschwitz extermination camp, he reached out of the window and broke it off to quench his thirst. But before he could get the icicle to his mouth, a guard snatched it out of his hands and dashed it to pieces on the filthy ground. "Warum?" the prisoner burst out instinctively — "Why?" "Hier ist kein warum," the guard answered with brutal finality — "Here there is no why." ¶ That for Primo Levi, the Italian Jewish scientist and writer, was the essence of the death camps — places not only of unchallengable, arbitrary authority but of absolute evil that defied all explanation. In the face of such wickedness, explanations born of psychology, sociology, and economics were pathetic in their inadequacy. One could only shoulder the weight of such an experience and bear witness to the world. "Never again" was too confident an assertion. You never know was the needed refrain.
P.J. O'Rourke on Happiness said...
"Life, Liberty, and Whoop-de-do", in Forbes ASAP, Winter 2001, "Big Issue Number Six: The Pursuit of Happiness"
Winning the race to happiness is problematic, but so is knowing where to start and finish and which direction to run. Philosophy is no help. "Very little is needed to make a happy life," said Marcus Aurelius. Tell it to the kids on a rainy day, Marco, when the DVD player is on the fritz, the Game Boy is out of batteries, and the SUV won't start. "Happiness is activity in accordance with excellence," said Aristotle, who must have been a better golfer than I am. The Epicureans would be expected to know something about pursuing happiness. Epicurus said, "Pleasure is the beginning and the end of living happily." I'll get the gin, you find some olives and vermouth. But then Epicurus went on to say, "It is impossible to live pleasurably without living wisely, well, and justly." Fine, for people who pursue their happiness by eating oat bran, reading St. Peter's Epistles, and not ducking out of jury duty. Solon of Athens declared, "Until he is dead, do not yet call a man happy." And then what do you call him?