Trials & Tribulations: Advice for Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness
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Korea building sub capable of launching nuclear missiles, analysts say. Boris Johnson faces probe over alleged links to U. The severed humans were a miserable lot, Aristophanes says. Finally, Zeus, moved by pity, decided to turn their sexual organs to the front, so they might achieve some satisfaction in embracing. It is no mistake that Plato gives Aristophanes the most outlandish of speeches. This diagnosis should sound familiar to our ears. It is a profoundly moving, beautiful, and wistful account. On one hand, of course, Aristophanes means something quite literal: the wound perpetrated by Zeus.
Humans are inherently wounded, the Greek philosophers agreed. At the very least, they concluded, we are prone to fatal habits, seemingly engrained in our nature. Humans insist on looking for satisfaction in things that cannot provide real or lasting fulfillment. These false lures include material goods, also power, and fame, Aristotle explained. A life devoted to any of these goals becomes quite miserable and empty. Christian philosophers, led by Augustine, accepted this diagnosis, and added a theological twist.
Love, Life and the Pursuit of Happiness
Pursuit of material goods is evidence of the Fall, and symptomatic of our sinful nature. Thus, we are like aliens here in this world — or as the Medievals would put it, pilgrims, on the way to a supernatural destination. Humans seek to satisfy desire in worldly things, Augustine says , but are doomed, because we bear a kernel of the infinite within us. Thus, finite things cannot fulfill. We are made in the image of God, and our infinite desire can only be satisfied by the infinite nature of God. In the 17th century, French philosopher Blaise Pascal offered an account of the wound of our nature more in tune with secular sensibilities.
He claimed that the source of our sins and vices lay in our inability to sit still, be alone with ourselves, and ponder the unknowable. We seek out troublesome diversions like war, inebriation or gambling to preoccupy the mind and block out distressing thoughts that seep in: perhaps we are alone in the universe — perhaps we are adrift on this tiny rock, in an infinite expanse of space and time, with no friendly forces looking down on us.
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The wound of our nature is the existential condition, Pascal suggests: thanks to the utter uncertainty of our situation, which no science can answer or resolve, we perpetually teeter on the brink of anxiety — or despair. Your soulmate, Hollywood says, may take a surprising, unexpected form — she may seem your opposite, but you are inexplicably attracted nonetheless. Alternately, your beloved may appear to be initially boorish or aloof. But you find him to be secretly sweet. Hollywood films typically ends once the romantic heroes find their soulmates, offering no glimpse of life post-wedding bliss, when kids and work close in — the real test of love.
These are people who finish out their lives together and still cannot say what it is they want from one another. What if in your search for true love, you cast about waiting or expecting to be star-struck — in vain? Is this one reason why, as the Pew Research Center reports , we see a record number of unmarried Americans?
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Alternately, what if you dive into a relationship, marriage even, expecting the luster and satiation to endure, but it does not, and gives way to…ordinary life, where the ordinary questions and doubts and dissatisfactions of life reemerge and linger? In his book Modern Romance , actor and comedian Aziz Ansari tells of a wedding he attended that could have been staged by Aristophanes himself:.
They were saying the most remarkable things about each other. Romance is often the start of many headaches and heartaches.
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