The Heroic Life

The Heroic Life:

The quote of the month has generated some vigorous discussion, and so I figured I'd bring it back up to the top of the board. Grim's Hall, according to my sideboard, is meant to be about:

[P]olitics, ethics, mythology, history, and the heroic life.
Today we get to talk about the last.

I don't know du Toit at all, so I can't say whether or not he has demonstrated a failing of character by having been twice divorced. I know other men, with a similar number of ex-wives, who are of the highest character themselves--they've just had poor taste in women. In fact, one of the oldest and best friends of our family is in just that position, and he is a king among men.

I'm no fan of no-fault divorce. I think it has done more to undermine marriage than anything, or everything, else. Still, it's the law, and if we're going to trust people to decide that question as a "personal matter," we ought to trust them in fact.

In any event, I disagree with Eric's reading, which is that

du Toit is preaching a sort of endless adolesence, and I have lately lost all patience with such nonsense. It is not an excellent argument if you think about it at all.
Mr. du Toit isn't advocating that you should go out drinking and carousing all the time. He's only advising it for when 'life gets a little too much.' That happens to everyone, in any life, and you need one remedy or another for it.

The one he suggests is a good one: throw yourself back into life with vigor. Edward Abbey--about as different a character as possible--wrote that:

As a confirmed melancholic, I can testify that the best and maybe only antidote for melancholia is action. However, like most melancholics, I suffer also from sloth.
What's being advised here is a way of dealing with the hard parts of life. In my experience, it's the best way. It's the only way that really works. You can substitute other things for drinking and shooting guns, which just happen to be du Toit's favorite things. Maybe you prefer judo to good-natured fistfights, or singing old country songs with your buddies to hitting the shooting range.

The thing to be avoided is the Prozac. The thing to be avoided is letting some so-called "scientist" from the so-called "helping professions" convince you that you need to be altered. They've got a lot of models of the mind, and a lot of drugs that change how your brain works. Their models, though, are untestable, and their drugs may be turning off the parts of you that make you worth having. It is astonishing how widely accepted these poisonous philosophies, psychology and counseling-by-medication, have become.

Life gets hard for everyone. There are times when it is too much for the best of us. There are two cures on offer, one healthful, and one poison. The one option is to poison yourself, so that your body loses the capacity to feel the things that bother you. You are therefore left with no better way to address whatever problems life has thrown you than cold reason. I have known people on Prozac, and other things, and this is what I have seen: that instead of laughter, they have only irony; that instead of joy, they have an absence of pain; that instead of pain, which at least unites all humanity and leads to true sympathy and understanding, they have a gulf of emptiness between them and all mankind. Standing off alone, watching and thinking without really or fully feeling, they are poorer than when the pain had them by the throat.

There is another way. Throw yourself into life. Cure too much, as it were, with even more. Take on new challenges that remind you of what is best in life: to be brave, to be strong, to be of mighty spirit. Address the weight of sadness with an equal weight of joy, and thereby find your balance: or better, unbalance with joy, and crash into mirth. When you rise again from that fall, you rise with new strength and a fellow-feeling for all sufferers. That sympathy ennobles anyone, and it brings charity and mercy into the heart.

Charity, mercy, strength and courage. If you know a better vision of a heroic life than that, I'll be glad to hear it.

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