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Memores acti prudentes futuri

It may get bad when you're lonely and cold
but say it to me anyway
A few words
"When we describe the Moon as dead, we are describing the deadness in ourselves. When we find space so hideously void, we are describing our own unbearable emptiness."
~ D.H. Lawrence

"Is the meaning of life defined by its duration? Or does life have a purpose so large that it doesn't have to be prolonged at any cost to preserve its meaning?"

"Living is not good, but living well. The wise man, therefore, lives as well as he should, not as long as he can... He will always think of life in terms of quality not quantity... Dying early or late is of no relevance, dying well or ill is... even if it is true that while there is life there is hope, life is not to be bought at any cost."
~ Seneca

"People will tell you nothing matters, the whole world's about to end soon anyway. Those people are looking at life the wrong way. I mean, things don't need to last forever to be perfect."
~ Daydream Nation

"All Bette's stories have happy endings. That's because she knows where to stop. She's realized the real problem with stories-- if you keep them going long enough, they always end in death."
~ The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes

"The road now stretched across open country, and it occurred to me - not by way of protest, not as a symbol, or anything like that, but merely as a novel experience - that since I had disregarded all laws of humanity, I might as well disregard the rules of traffic. So I crossed to the left side of the highway and checked the feeling, and the feeling was good. It was a pleasant diaphragmal melting, with elements of diffused tactility, all this enhanced by the thought that nothing could be nearer to the elimination of basic physical laws than deliberately driving on the wrong site of the road."
~ Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

“It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.”
~ William Blake
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Family history and magnanimity
Sunday, September 16, 2018
My family has been trying to have dinner together on Sunday nights for the past few months, in an effort to promote cohesion and know more about each other. Lately I've been asking my parents questions about our family history, partially because I'm taking a Family Dynamics class and it's making me wonder about a lot of things. Tonight we went to a sushi restaurant and both of my parents shared some things about our family history that they knew. I learned the names of my maternal grandfather's parents and some of their story, and my dad retold us a story about my great great great grandmother on his side who fell down a well in China and couldn't get out for days because she had bound feet and struggled to climb out on her own. I can't even imagine how traumatic that would have been to go through. Unsurprisingly, after she was shipped off to Hawaii to marry my great great great grandfather, she worked as hard as she could to sew clothing to sell so she could save money to stay in Hawaii. Hawaii had running water, unlike China at the time, so there weren't wells around.

The personal stories of history can be so fascinating. It's disappointing to me that for a long stretch of my life, I just saw history as an incredibly boring summary of wars and treaties. It was sanitized of much of the life and individuality that characterized the lives that made it up.


Unrelated to my thoughts about my family history (at least, for the most part), I was reading more of Technology and the Virtues by Shannon Vallor tonight. I just finished the chapter on virtues that we can apply in the 21st century, one of which was magnanimity. Magnanimity is one of those words I have often seen but never thought too much about. After reading about it though, I think I will add it to the self-development "to do" list I keep to remind myself of which values I strive for and what things I want to work on.

Furthermore, the sense in which the 'great-souled' or magnanimous person is 'above' the common person is chiefly concerned with their lack of pettiness-- their unwillingness to defile their virtue by scrabbling in the dirt over trivial advantages, honors, titles, prizes, or other ego-boosting trifles. The great-souled person does not ignore these things because he wishes to be above others, rather he is above others just because he tends to ignore these things. The things the great-souled person values are more valuable. The magnanimous person is the one who has a sense of nobility and self-worth founded in a lifetime of moral and social efforts rather than relatively meaningless zero-sum contests of ego. The magnanimous person can afford to be generous in spirit where others are not. He can absorb a petty insult without having to repay it. He can warmly greet the person who has pretended not to notice his arrival. He can let the other car swoop into 'his' parking space at the mall without responding like a rabid dog.


What, then, is the relevance of this classical ideal for 21st century life? Who talks or thinks about being 'noble' any more? This is precisely my point. Magnanimity enables and encourages moral ambition and moral leadership, two things sorely lacking in our contemporary technosocial milieu. Moral ambition can be described as the ability to 'think big' in one's moral aims. The magnanimous, those with justified moral ambition, are able to go beyond what most of us can afford in the moral realm (often little more than 'I'm going to try to be slightly less of a selfish jerk today'). The magnanimous can pursue and lead others in moral projects that require enduring courage, deep wisdom, expansive empathy, extraordinary care, and tolerance for great frustration and conflict-- because they have successfully cultivated these virtues as resources for such projects.

Reading this, I have a renewed sense of something to strive for, which feels especially important at this juncture in my life. I've been fairly depressed lately and I think I'm coming out of it a bit right now, so it helps to have something to invigorate me and remind me of who I want to be.

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