What We Want

I believe that Blue Winds Dancing is truer than 95% of what the educated tell me is true. I, with Nietzsche, see a great battle throughout history between champions of the grand iconoclast and champions of the humble. Nietzsche tells me that humility is coping with weakness, that forgiveness is coping with inability to take revenge, that tradition is mere laziness and uncreativity. Throw off those chains and become the Übermensch! I listen, and understand what he says.

Then I remember that after a certain point, I don’t really care about any of that. All those high aspirations built from millennia of new and exciting thought: whatever, man. After those ingenious doubts, has anything really been accomplished? Tell me, you brave, independent souls, are you happy? Free thinking is cool and all, but I mean, Nietzsche had a mental breakdown and never recovered. I’m told that that was unrelated to his philosophy, but I’m skeptical.

I love Radiohead, I love Bach, I love Zeppelin, I love all those greats. But when it comes down to it, I love the Avett Brothers far more. A sense of (actually) free, unassuming delight can be found in them. An artistic humility. They don’t care about being the best; they just like making some music. They don’t care about finding life’s deepest secrets; they just want to share some wisdom they’ve learned. Through this, they end up finding life’s secrets at a much more profound level than most philosophers, the lovers of knowledge who know nothing.

What I do care about is very different. I remember nights when I would run barefoot through my friend’s fields of grass, trying to get back to the base before the “cops” could spot me. We would play manhunt for hours, and finish with a huge bonfire, flames 20 feet high! In those times we all knew each other. We knew each other’s pasts, our families, our quirks. We knew what made us, us, and we liked ourselves. It was a home, and it held a happiness in motion, a textured peace. Looking back, those nights held all the simple joy of the Shire, and they are why I will always love the South, and they are why I understand Blue Winds Dancing.

For most, the paragraph above would be a strong ethos and pathos appeal. It gives me credibility because I’ve experienced what I’m talking about. But the critic says to himself, “Aha! He talked about his past! Now I can talk about how influenced he is by it, and thus entrenched and blinded! I can talk about how he is lying, it wasn’t that great, and if it was that great, it is because he was ignorant and small! I know what is really behind it all. I’m not influenced by my past.” What a sad state to be in. So disconnected from his own humanity, when he thinks himself the defender of what it means to be human.

Now existentialism, I understand where you are coming from, and I honestly cannot answer you. But I must point out that your founder was an orthodox Christian. He was not completely orthodox, mind you, but who is? His core was a Christian core. The most famous existential play is about hell, and (if I understood it correctly) it says that hell is really no different from normal, everyday life. “Hell is other people.” What kind of enlightened nonsense is that? I respond merely by saying that, no, people are in fact beautiful and fascinating. Life is a garden, or a canvas. Self-awareness can feel like a black hole for the intellect, I assure you I know, but is the proper conclusion that life is hell, and hell is life? Sartre, surely you have gone wrong somewhere.

Phenomenology, why call yourself philosophy? Wouldn’t introspection be a more suitable term? I mean, your descriptions are vivid! They are subtle and impactful! But why should I listen to you? What do you say of a grandfather’s pleasure at fishing with his grandson? Is that single thought not more beautiful than all your self-absorption combined? You must ask yourself, “Does struggle follow me, or do I follow struggle?” In other words, “Do I somehow take pleasure in pain? Has suffering become my perverse comfort?” Or, even more foundational, “Do I truly desire joy?”

Modern activists, I get it. I know, the world has so many errors that make your heart scream and bleed unendingly, and they cannot continue. How can I just sit by while two million children a year are exploited in the sex trafficking trade? You are absolutely right. Champion the cause, refuse to allow me to remain idle. But you must understand that I want to remain idle. Change is, in fact, difficult. Tradition is comfortable, and comfort is not bad. So, Free the Nipple, do not be surprised when I do not care about you. Do not be surprised when I see you as petty. I am busy trying to live a normal life, and I must choose my time wisely. I do not want to see topless women in my day to day life. I understand that this is just a social norm, but the fact is that I simply do not want to see topless women in my day to day life. Do you begrudge me normalcy? Is non-conformity so essential that we mustn’t conform at all? Where does that leave us? And I get it, the campaign is about attacking objectification. But Lewis says, “It is uncharitable to take pleasure in making other people uncomfortable.” I am using you as an example of a larger movement, and I believe the larger movement could consider Lewis’s phrase. And yes, this attitude could promote a stale society that is petrified with politeness. Shaw’s famous quote must be considered as well; “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” Our job is to understand both sides by understanding ourselves.

I said that I see a battle between master and slave morality, and I have to confess that I was not completely honest. I do see the two trends, but I do not see that they are mutually exclusive. Nietzsche was right that we ought to reach for greatness, if the desire for greatness is within us. But he went too far; he was too simple. It should not be our all-consuming passion, and if it is, we will be miserable. In the end, that is not really what we want. “Work and a woman and a place to hang his hat are all the ordinary man wants.” Go out and do great deeds. Change the world. But if in doing this you decide that there is no time for little joys, if you abandon a home… I will weep for you.

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