The Combatant – #4

There’s nothing out there. It is as if he finally reached the end of the world he had always imagined as a child. He used to struggle with the idea of ​​infinity. How could that be possible? Everything must have an end. But when he tried to imagine such an end, he was perplexed. He imagined a huge brick wall stretching indefinitely in all directions. But, of course, the obvious question always arose: What lies beyond the wall? Now standing on his porch, staring out at the valley ahead, all he sees is a dark gray massif blotting out his entire field of vision, like his brick wall.

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The Combatant – #3

He would thank God for the vibration in his pocket, but he is not that hypocritical. His beliefs are extremely scarce nowadays: the Glock 22 at his waist is one of them; God does not make it to the list. But it is with heartfelt gratitude to the goddess Fortuna that he does one of the things he hates most and picks up the cell phone in his pocket — at least his trance is over, and he finds the necessary decisiveness to exit his daughter’s room. He does not look back as he gently closes the door.

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Natural Violence

“Only look about you: blood is being spilt in streams, and in the merriest way, as though it were champagne. […] And what is it that civilisation softens in us? […] And through the development of this many-sidedness man may come to finding enjoyment in bloodshed. […] In any case civilisation has made mankind if not more bloodthirsty, at least more vilely, more loathsomely bloodthirsty. In old days he saw justice in bloodshed and with his conscience at peace exterminated those he thought proper. Now we do think bloodshed abominable and yet we engage in this abomination, and with more energy than ever. Which is worse? Decide that for yourselves.”
— Fyodor Dostoyevsky, “Notes from Underground”.

The day is almost over and I am struck by despair that is now known to me. I haven’t written any post yet, I have none saved for a moment like this, and, what is worse, I do not have the motivation to write. However, write I must. As a friend of mine always says (referring to the habit of running every day): when it is hard, when there is no mood, when all you want is not doing it is precisely the moment when you most should do it — only then is there true merit. And so I force myself to write. But all that comes to my mind is the absurd violence we live in, and every word I write bothers me.

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“Who passed through Life in white cloud, / And in placid rest slept, / Who never felt the cold of disgrace, / Who passed through Life and did not suffer, / Was a spectre of man, and not man, / Only passed through life, not lived.”
– Francisco Otaviano –
(by Barry Holubeck / CC BY-SA 3.0 / Desaturated from original)

When a policeman is shot and killed, it is not hard to understand; life in the streets is dangerous, but we know someone must live it if we expect to have a minimum of order and security. So, when that happens, the gossip is about knowing exactly what has occurred: Was it a coward criminal deed? Was it during combat? Or was it the policeman’s corruption that eventually killed him? But we never hear someone questioning the “merit” of such death — policemen and criminals die by the bullet, and that’s it. But when someone dies by jumping from a precipice with small wings between the arms, then the gossip is of a different nature.

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O.P.A.R. – Commentary: “Anti-Evasion” Morality

“By its nature, evasion is a form of nonintegration. It is the most lethal form: the willful disintegration of mental contents. A man in this condition no longer has the means to determine consistency or contradiction, truth or falsehood. In his consciousness, all conceptual content is reduced to the capricious, the baseless, the arbitrary; no conclusion qualifies as knowledge in a mind that rejects the requirements of cognition. Thus the real evader […] reaches only one end and one kind of “safety”: all-encompassing blindness.”
Leonard Peikoff, “O.P.A.R.”, page 225.
(Stop evading. Look at reality. See something you can’t accept? Combat it.)

Combat has a built-in morality, and it is beautiful. But please understand what I mean by combat. It is not a war or a violent situation in which you find yourself. Combat is an attitude toward life, it is choosing the fight rather than running away from it. The most easily recognizable forms of combat are the explicit ones, like the one I practice in the favelas, but it is not the external appearance that matters — it’s the underlying ethic. When I press the trigger of my rifle, I am not choosing death; I am choosing life — the life of a man qua man — as my standard of value.

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O.P.A.R. – Chapter 7: The Good

“For what end should a man live? By what fundamental principle should he act in order to achieve this end? Who should profit from his actions? The answers to these questions define the ultimate value, the primary virtue, and the particular beneficiary upheld by an ethical code and reveal thereby its essence. […] The ultimate value is life. The primary virtue is rationality. The proper beneficiary is oneself.”
Leonard Peikoff, “O.P.A.R.”, page 206.
(Diogenes Sitting in his Tub, by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1860): Man’s life qua man is the Objectivist standard of value, not life at any price. One thing I can say for sure: Diogenes was not an Objectivist.)

Ethics provides “a code of values to guide man’s choices and actions—the choices and actions that determine the purpose and the course of his life.” Value, according to Ayn Rand, is “that which one acts to gain and/or keep.” Value presupposes an entity capable of acting to achieve a goal in the face of an alternative. Where there is no alternative, there are no possible goals and values. The fundamental alternative of life or death is the precondition of all values. This shows that life should be our ultimate value, something to be pursued as an end in itself, the standard for all other values.

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Writer’s Block

Writer’s Block.
(by Drew Coffman / CC BY 2.0 / Desaturated from original)

I envy a writer’s block. It presupposes a writer feeling something, a full heart contrasting to a blank page and finding in that contradiction the motive for despair. Words pounding from the inside, trying to rip the skin, yearning for the freedom only the page can provide. But they are not free, for there is a jailer: taste — otherwise anything can fill a page. I envy a writer’s taste too. My desperation comes from reasoning that goes nowhere, from empty propositions combining floating concepts, from fallacious arguments combining biased propositions. My desperation comes from fake premisses becoming surreal conclusions, which in turn become fake premisses and then surreal conclusions again, like I am walking on a Moebius strip, twisting my own path into an endless, aggravating loop. My desperation doesn’t come from feelings that don’t become words. There are none. Absurdity reigns, but I ignore the feeling. I ignore feeling. I pretend reasoning suffices. Man is the animal that thinks, or is he not? But isn’t him the animal that feels too? Emotions — real ones — are not just sense perceptions connecting reality to some organ. Yes, they do depend on reason — partially. You habituate yourself to value this and that in such a way as to feel it just like you do. You could force yourself to feel otherwise — perhaps — but not today. Today you are a slave obeying the winner of the Platonic conflict going on inside your soul. Or is it you the winner? Whatever the motor generating that feeling, when it blossoms, it is unique to man. No animal feels like we do: mirth and sorrow, pride and brokenness, satisfaction and anger. No animal feels achievement in his bones or the joy of being alive. No animal wants revenge with all his heart only to feel ashamed when he realizes it’s not his heart speaking, but something smaller and darker and baser. Both feelings — revenge and shame — attempt to rewrite the present: the first broods about the future; the second, about the past — both useless. No animal is that stupid. They have more important things to do: survive is one. And we have even more important things to do: live is one. Yet we don’t. Not really. It is human feeling that will eventually fill the page: life abstracted — not words or thoughts or arguments. These you see above are words, mere words. All of them hemmed in by a single too-long a paragraph as if there could be art enough to justify that. There simply isn’t any reason to break the “line of thought”, the line of “non-feeling”. This is just me trying to write nonstop, to feel while doing so, and failing miserably. I stop and I don’t feel. Words are forceful; emotions nonexistent. Envy is the most I feel; Oh, if that would at least suffice! I envy writers. I envy those who feel. Yet I cherish reason and logic. Is there any logic in that? At least I don’t feel writer’s block. I am not a writer. I’ll never be.

What the Hell is Substance?

Is a horse a substance? Is a man? What about a statue of a horse and a man? Is its underlying matter the substance, or is it its form? Or is it the compound of both matter and form what a substance really is? Maybe there is no substance. Doubts, doubts and more doubts…

For the vast majority of my life, I have favored reading nonfiction over fiction, using the argument that since “truth is stranger than fiction”, why waste my time with “invented truths”? Needless to say that I was profoundly wrong. But I say that now just to explain why, during that same stretch of my life, I have read nonfiction as if it were fiction. I read it page by page, enjoying the mystery of understanding gradually unfold in front of my eyes, yearning to reach the end of the book as if the murderer of an Agatha Christy’s story would be revealed. It was this naive (not to say stupid) that I made a feeble attempt to face Aristotle’s “Metaphysics” three years ago. The trauma was so strong that only now I am recovering. Boy, I wish I believed in God or any lesser superstition! Because now I’ll need all the help I can muster to wrestle with this tome.

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The Story of Civilization: Political Elements – The Family

“Marriage began as a form of the law of property, as a part of the institution of slavery.”
Will Durant, “Our Oriental Heritage”, page 26.
(Chinese woman exposing her “lotus feet”, a common practice of binding — and deforming — women’s feet during imperial China, from the tenth to the twentieth centuries. Legend has it that the goal was to increase the status and beauty of women.)

SUMMARY: Even after the advent of the state, the family continues to be the basic political unit of society, but the woman, whose position was central to the family, becomes increasingly subordinate to man as agriculture and property develop.

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