Complaining requires believing that the complainer has been singled out for ill-usage. What hubris! What error in perception! For how is it possible for one to be singled out at all, let alone for ill-usage, if the world is good and beautiful?
Complaining implies that the world runs contrary to one’s desires. In this respect, complaining is not only a misperception but also an implicit rejection of the world. This is self-indulgence.
Philosophy is theodicy. To the one so attuned, it is impossible to ever complain about anything, and there is nothing for one to think but how to stretch into the world. How to fast with it. Melt into it. Coalescing.
Excluding monsters, the worst sort of parents are those who do not raise their children to be capable of being parents themselves. For Kant, the enlightened person is one who is no longer under the thumb of a ‘guardian’–in this case, a parent upon whom he is dependent–but has learned to think for himself and to rely upon his own considered judgment. The best sort of parents perform something of a ‘miracle,’ symbolically ‘killing themselves off’ so that their children have the chance of becoming enlightened adults themselves. In fact, there are three miracles: that of parents doing away with themselves as parents; that of parents not extorting from their children some kind of bad, infinite debt; and that of parents ensuring, somehow or other, that their children do not think to put other guardians in their place. Were all three miracles to be performed, then children maturing into enlightenment would seek to make themselves worthy of adulthood and parents would, though ‘dead’ or rather because ‘dead,’ be worthy of their children’s considered esteem and reverent memory.
Luckiness is not getting what you want but realizing that it wasn’t worth wanting after all. This is called adulthood. Unluckiness is getting what you want, only to grow thoughtlessly into old age. This is called childhood. Also: prose.
Success is the easiest thing, also unaccountably boring, while failure is the hardest one, seeing as it is filled with struggle and doubt and a sense of what is dire. With earnestness, actually. Since moving to New York, I have met many successful people and yawned. They are ‘stressed out’ or not, ‘totally overwhelmed,’ ‘slammed at work,’ and soon yawning comes over me. Have they ever taken a risk? No, they have played it safe: married well, worked too long in finance, these days preoccupied with getting more house or more child for less… They are like children who have grown up without the good fortune of becoming adults.
This morning I mused some on those I admire, which is to say on their predilection for risk, and wondered whether taking a risk would have to be a necessary condition for a life to count as possibly mattering. This seems right, though I would like to put it more beautifully someday. Still. What is it about playing it safe that fails to move? (Is playing it safe the same as not living earnestly?) That fails to evoke my compassion or quicken my imagination? That fobs off the project of character education?
Too much success is anathema to thought. That is to say, to philosophical thinking about one’s life. I have been toying or flirting or sticking with the expression–“having skin in the game”–rolling it around on my tongue without much luck, not having gotten much further than to think that most who play it safe do not know what it means to have skin in the game and, not having skin in the game, are not awakened to living. Hence are passive nihilists. If I were Rochefoucauld or Wilde, I might quip that being successful is the gravest, most grievous sin, for it fails to incite our tears or praise. But making fun–a child’s game–won’t do anyone any good. Thankfully, I am not either man anymore.
When contempt is no more, then compassion is all there is. When compassion is all there is, then contempt can have no room.