Eloquence Training: Episode 1. Obstacles to Eloquence

I would define eloquence as saying the right thing in the right way with a sense of ease. An eloquent person, then, is someone who often or almost always speaks eloquently.

In this introductory episode, I speak with my partner Alexandra about what it was like for her to grow up without being able to think clearly or to speak with a sense of ease. We go on to discuss what obstacle stood in the way of her becoming more eloquent. We conclude by noting the close connection between doing philosophy and speaking well.

If you would like to learn how to become eloquent, you can visit http://andrewjamestaggart.com/eloquence/.

The Big Thing: Going Beyond the Challenge

There are grander terms than challenges and hurdles, and we must come to these. These are mountain terms, seafaring terms, acrobatic terms, martial terms. I want The Big Thing, and it has nothing to do with the weak-kneed ‘challenge at work’ or ‘minor obstacle I’m facing at home.’

What is The Big Thing? It can hardly be said, but it exceeds by a million the mere challenge, test, performance, or contest. What can be said is that The Big Thing is that which calls me to explode with graceful power. Until then, I wait for The Big Thing like a lion gnawing at its cage, like a warrior sharpening his weapons, like a sailor watching for the sea winds to miraculously pick up, like a great athlete awaiting the arrival of his fiercest opponent. The Big Thing has the force to turn me upside down, rip me apart, outstrip me, outdo me. Maybe it will show me how very wrong I’ve been–and with the delight of  heathen! Maybe it will call me a big fool, and I will listen while biting my fierce, bleeding lips. Maybe it will savage before it saves me.

One thing is for sure: The Big Thing requires nothing less than that one risk everything. (Arab Proverb: ‘A man who has never risked everything is a poor man.’) Another thing is equally for sure: The Big Thing is that which demands that one become tough enough to meet it.

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Nietzsche on the Life Lived Most Intensely

Lucy Ferry cogently on Nietzsche:

In short, in this [Nietzschean] morality of grandeur, it is intensity that has primacy; the will to power carries the day against all other considerations: “There is nothing to life that has value except the degree of power!” This does not mean that there is no such thing as value. Quite the contrary. We also need to comprehend, as is clear in Nietzsche’s critique of the Socratic cure and of romanticism, that genuine intensity has nothing in common with unleashed passions or the emancipation of bodies; it resides in the harmonious and classical integration of the vital forces; in the serenity, the calm, but also the lightness that oppose Mozart and Schubert to Schumann and Wagner. Like one skilled in the martial arts, the man of the grand style moves in elegance, at a thousand leagues from anything that seems laborious. He does not perspire, and if he moves mountains, it is serenely, without apparent effort. (What is the Good Life?, p. 93)

Nietzsche urges us first to recruit our active forces, making them more and more intense. But this recruitment is not possible for those who are full of reactive forces, only able to oppose Life. They are the nasty refusers, and they surround us, have burrowed into us, have largely become us. What is our soft culture but the continual refusal to do anything but go against the very fiber and grain of Life?

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Sentimentality and Compassion, or Fire in the Belly

Those who can breathe the air of my writings know that it is an air of the heights, a strong air…. Philosophy, as I have so far understood and lived it, means voluntarily living among ice and high mountains… How much truth does a spirit endure, how much does it dare? More and more that became for me the real measure of value. Error (faith in the ideal) is not blindness, error is cowardice…. Every attainment, any step forward in knowledge, follows from courage, from hardness against oneself, from cleanliness in relation to oneself…. What one has forbidden so far as a matter of principle is–has always been–truth alone.

–Nietzsche, Ecce Homo (cited in Luc Ferry, What is the Good Life?)

The big error Nietzsche alludes to–a metaphysical error involving positing a Beyond outside of the real world we inhabit–is not a mistake in judgment, not a mistake in reasoning, not an illusory perception but an instance of cowardice. Truth is attached to courage as the consequence that follows from an act.

Courage is no mere idle concept, either, not something to be talked over or written nauseatingly about. It is the fire of fire people! It is choosing to dwell ‘among ice and high mountains.’ It means enduring, indeed cultivating a spirit that endures the nastiest shit of existence. It is hardness against oneself, a ruthless hygiene, a brutal self-accounting. All these, of course, are metaphors for the development of my power to the point of self-mastery, that, as Ferry argues, requires taking conflicting active and reactive forces and, without fighting against them or pitting them in conflict with each other, allows them to express themselves in a ‘grand style’ with an overall sense of harmony. Self-mastery is power expressed as grace, as quietness, as command.

When I master myself, I quietly command. I find a way to express beautifully the fire in my belly.

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The Falsehood Called Sharing

A soft culture such as ours consists of a diet of compassion. Compassion makes us docile, putting us to sleep. “Let compassion be everywhere,” we chant. “To the north, south, east, west, above, and below. Compassion for everyone!” Then we go home happy, having provided a service to the planet.

Compassion makes us feel good. A soft culture likes to feel really, really good. Workshops, TED talks, self-development courses, spiritual healing thingies all help us feel good about ourselves and each other. It feels good to feel good, so soft and docile, so sweetly happy. Like lying in the warm but not hot sun.

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