Comments on La Rochefoucauld

I will be posting short essays on each of La Rouchefoucauld's Maxims

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I am the author of "Diaphysics," a poet, playwright, and interdisciplinary scholar. I am married and have a daughter and two sons. I have a Ph.D. in the Humanities, a M.A. in English, and a B.A. in recombinant gene technology and chemistry.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Maxim 629

"Luxury and excessive refinement are sure forerunners of the decadence of states, because when all individuals seek their own interests they neglect the public weal."

Perhaps the first thing we need to address here is the term "public." Too often we associate "public" with "government," and the two are absolutely not synonymous. Churches and non-profits are both elements of "the public weal" because each provide public benefits. If people are living in "luxury and excessive refinement," that is a sure sign that they are spending on themselves and not others. Soon we see extravagant spending for the sake of extravagance. After all, how many houses, cars, planes, etc. can one have? Even if you buy only the most expensive food, you can only spend so much. Further, the toys of the rich become quickly available to the average person in free market systems, so the rich are left with creating art bubbles for contemporary works so hideous that nobody among the average citizenry would even want the works if they could afford them. This is indeed true decadence. How long before resentment sets in? Ah, resentment, the greatest evil known to mankind. The hatred of others having what one does not. It is the desire that those who have no longer have rather than wanting what they have. It is purely destructive -- as destructive, if not co-destructive with, decadence. The problem with decadence is that it is fundamentally antisocial. One does not feel like one has to respond to and live in society. It breaks social bonds in its extravagance. As such, neglect of others, of the social, of the public, is seen among the decadent. And governments, too, can be decadent. What else is a bailout for billionaires if not an example of extravagance and decadence? When government cease serving the public, when they serve groups over the people as a whole, then you have an antisocial and unjust government. Another example of where government is not the same thing as the public.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Honest Blogger Award

Certified Honest Blogger

Apparently you do get rewarded for being honest! (Speaking of which, I honestly need to get back to posting at least once in a while on this blog.)

Friday, August 19, 2005

Maxim 630

"Of all our passions the least well understood by ourselves is laziness. It is the most violent and malignant of all, though its violence is imperceptible and its ravages exceedingly difficult to see. If we carefully examine its power we shall see that in every eventuality it takes over the mastery of our emotions, interests and pleasures. It is the remora, which has the strength to bring the mightiest ships to a standstill, the calm that is more dangerous to important affairs than breakers and the fiercest tempests. The tranquility of laziness casts a secret spell over the soul that suddenly puts a stop to the most relentless pursuits and brings to nought the most unbreakable resolutions. In conclusion, this passion can best be described by saying that laziness is as it were a blissful state of the soul that consoles it for every loss and is welcomed as a substitute for every good."

If we take a sociobiological view, we can understand that laziness is something common among social mammals – including our closest kin, the chimpanzees, who spend far more hours lying around doing nothing than hunting or gathering. Of course, much of this laziness is brought about from living in the tropics, where too much activity in the heat and humidity could be fatal – thus, laziness is a necessary behavioral adaptation. Considering that humans evolved in the African tropics too, our own laziness can be understood.

And yet, lazy people live off the work of others. Lazy people prevent us from having as much material well-being as we could have. Lazy people prevent the hard workers from having all they have earned, and thus create resentment in the world.

And yet, we need to be lazy, to rejuvenate and contemplate. We need to be lazy to enjoy the fruits of our labors. We need to be lazy because life is not all work and material rewards.

I heard a joke one time about an American capitalist meeting a third world fisherman. The fisherman was napping during the middle of the day, and the American chastised him, pointing out that if the man were working, he could catch more fish, which would bring him more money, and with the money he could buy a bigger boat and hire people to catch even more fish to make even more money, and that the man could then buy more boats, hire more people, catch even more fish, and make even more money. The fisherman looked up at the American and said, "Why would I want to spend my entire life working so hard?" The American replied, "Well, when you’re rich enough, you can retire and take it easy." The fisherman put his hat back over his head and said, "What do you think I’m doing now?"

Of course, both men are right. The fisherman will get to be lazy now, and in the future. The American will get to be lazy only in the future. But what is not shown in the joke is that the fisherman being lazy now means his town will remain poor, while if he took the American’s advice, his town would become much more wealthy, and more people in the town would be able to eat more and better, and all of those people would be able to live long enough to retire.

Maxim 631

"Men make virtues out of various acts thrown together by mere chance."

Let us consider some of the words La Rouchefoucauld uses here. The word "virtue" comes from the Latin for "manliness." So, to be virtuous is to be manly. And what does it mean to be "manly"? The various answers to that give us our various virtues. Next, to act means both to do something, and to pretend to do something. If one acts "in life," one is doing something, while if one acts "on the stage," one pretends that one is doing something. Further, plays are divided up into "acts," or parts that are small wholes that together make up a larger whole. The actions in the acts make up the action of the play, and the meaning of the play. But the playwright goes not throw his acts together by mere chance, but by plan. Do men live according to their plans? How many people have actually lived their lives fully according to a preformualted plan? You cannot plan for all the things that will happen to you – from your perspective, there is too much that will happen randomly, by mere chance. And how do we react to what happens to us by mere chance? It is easy to act virtuously in a world where each action is planned, where chance is removed. But the world is not one where chance is removed. And what do we do under those circumstances? Do we act virtuously, or do we look back on our actions, read them into a consistent narrative, see the acts placed together in their proper order, and read our actions as having been virtuous? When we are consistent with our interpretation of what it means to be manly, we make these out to be virtues, and ourselves to have been virtuous.

Incidentally, since virtue is manliness, is it any wonder that American feminists have associated acting like men with good action? Goethe associates virtue with manliness (consistent with the etymology), and aesthetics with womanliness, or the feminine. Thus, we can understand what Goethe means at the end of Faust when he writes "The eternal feminine draws us on high," in combination with issues of virtue in the poem. Ethics and aesthetics need to be brought together – the masculine and the feminine unified as yin and yang – bound together as they should be, in an attractive-repulsive bond.

Maxim 632

"We enjoy seeing through others, but not being seen through."

To take this "literally," or to take it as a play on words. We do like being able to "see through" others, to have them transparent to our gaze, to understand their motivations, to know what they really mean. This is why we have Bible literalists – they want a work that is transparent, something truly impossible, since the world is interpretable, and this most obviously includes written texts such as the Bible. But at the same time, we don’t want to be transparent. We want to be mysterious, to have our motivations not fully understood. By being mysterious, we remain interesting.

But if we think about the wording another way: we enjoy seeing the world through others... Which we do, because the different perspectives will either help to inform our own views, or they will give us something to be against. We love to be a part of a larger group – we are social mammals, after all – but at the same time, to be part of a larger group means to also be against another group. Thus, we have to be for, and against. Us versus Them.

But does this latter interpretation make sense for the second part of the sentence? How many writers would be completely satisfied if everything they wrote were completely, unqualifiedly understood? We all like to fancy ourselves better writers than that. Which makes it all the more ironic that Bible literalists insist that the Bible is so poorly written as to be transparently obvious in what it means.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Maxim 633

"To safeguard one’s health at the cost of too strict a diet is a tiresome illness indeed."

While health is indeed important, we cannot forget why we want to be healthy – so we can live not only a long, but a happy life. If we extend our lives by five years, but we are miserable all our lives, then what have we really gained? At the same time, one cannot be happy unless one is healthy, either. The key here, as with everything, is proper balance. Only if we achieve a proper median or mean can we live an ethical life.

In the United States especially we have become too body-conscious. We are all obsessed with food. Bulemics and anorexics are as obsessed with food as are obese overeaters. Obsessive dieting is really food-obsession. Not only this, but our own food is now designed in such a way as to ensure we overeat. High fructose corn syrup has the side effect of not triggering to your body that you are full. Thus, you continue to eat more and more. Further, carbonated drinks expand our stomachs, making more room for food.

We have to learn to find joy in food once again, and to integrate it into our overall lifestyles. We should enjoy the food we eat, and only eat foods we truly enjoy. And we should savor the food – food savored is food eaten slowly, which has the added benefit of allowing the stomach enough time to tell the brain when it is full. Eating should be made again into the pleasure that it is and can be, rather than something we have to do in order to have enough energy to do other things. Further, we need to make dining a social activity once again, and not just an eating activity. Conversation while eating slows you down while you eat, and it relaxes you and allows for more proper digestion – meaning we could get rid of most forms of indigestion, acid reflux, etc. if only we remembered that dining is a social activity, and not merely an eating activity.

Maxim 634

"It is easier to fall in love when you are out of it than to get out of it when you are in."

Hormones control the first – and when they subside, you have created memories with the person, and memories are difficult to disentangle oneself from. And the emotions remain strong in many ways, particularly in the recollection of memories. Thus, we have to get out of the emotions tied to memories as well. The time we have spent with the person entangles us, entwines our lives irrevocably. How can we lightly exit such a relationship? Since there is no memory tied to entrance into love, it is much easier to fall in love. Thus, we must not take love lightly, as it is too easy to do since falling in love is so much easier than falling out of love.

This is not to say that falling in love is easy. We make the mistake of thinking that we can talk someone else into falling in love with us. But this is a pointless, impossible task. Either the person is in love with you, or they are not. Either the hormones are present, or they are not. Either the woman’s immune system is sufficiently different from your own for her to find you attractive enough to ignore the pheromones men emit that make us repulsive to women, or it is not. One cannot reason about such things.

Maxim 635

"Most women yield through weakness rather than passion, and that is why as a rule enterprising men are more successful than others although no more attractive."

This maxim was perhaps as much a sign of the times than anything. Aristocratic women at the time – the kind of women La Rouchefoucauld was most familiar with – were known to play sexual games where they ended up yielding to a man through the appearance of weakness rather than an expression of passion. Perhaps La Rouchefoucauld was unaware that it was all just a game? It seems doubtful that he would be so ignorant of his own society, as penetrating as most of his maxims are. Or perhaps, this is precisely his letting the men in on how to most successfully play the game – don’t count on your looks, but on being clever, as being clever, at the time, was precisely what women were looking for. Perhaps the women at the time took into consideration the fact that someone who is clever and creative in public might be able to make use of that intelligence and creativity in the bedroom. In that, the women of the 17th century were much more clever than women are today.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Maxim 636

"To be lukewarm in love oneself is a sure way of inspiring love."

I have heard it said that there is no more repulsive a perfume than desperation. When you have given up, when you no longer care about love, that is when you find people interested, wanting you. You sit in the corner, indifferent, and another comes along and sees you, finds your lack of interest interesting. Why does he not look at me? she asks herself – and thus is interest sparked. What happened that he is not looking for love? Has he been hurt? – thus the maternal instincts kick in. Is he so strong he does not need love? – thus the need for a protector kicks in. Has she given up on love? – thus the need for conquest kicks in.

And not only this, but when you are in a relationship – if one continues to express love in its fullest, the other takes that love for granted. But if it is seen to wane in the least, ardor erupts in the other, to try to win the other back to love. It is a game we play because we are insecure. And because we all too often take each other for granted. Our friends will always be there. He or she will always love me. Yet, without working at maintaining our loves and friendships, they will indeed wane. Becoming lukewarm reminds the other that they should not take us for granted – and their becoming lukewarm reminds us as well.

Maxim 637

"The candor lovers require of each other so as to be sure when each has ceased to love the other is wanted less as a warning that soon they will no longer be loved than as a reassurance that they are still loved when nothing is said to the contrary."

Truth and lies. One of the Ten Commandments does not read "Thou shalt not lie"; it rather reads "Thou shalt not bear false witness." It is a legal term, and is meant legally – that one should not lie to either harm a good person or to help a bad person. And thank God for that distinction! We tell each other (especially those whom we love) to always be honest – but that is itself a lie. We don’t want honesty. People fall in and out of love all the time. Love, like all things, has duration. It is an action and, thus, in time. It waxes and wanes. Yet we want to hear that the love others feel for us is forever, that is has Being, and is not an action. Love is a verb, not a noun.

Ah, but what a beautiful lie! Love waxes and wanes, but nonetheless, we maintain the fiction of remaining "in" love even should we fall out of it. And since love is a verb, we can return to love, we can continue to love – we just have to chose to continue to act on it. Thus, the appearance of love becomes love itself. Do not say you do not love me, and I will continue to think you do. That is what we want, and it is a lie that we need to hear, that is a good lie, being a lie that gives us life.

Maxim 638

"Love may most aptly be compared with a fever, for we have no more power over the one than the other, either in its violence or duration."

Clearly La Rochefoucauld is speaking here of eros, and not of the other forms of love: agape, philia, or motherly love. Socrates, in Plato’s Phaedrus, identifies eros with madness – so La Rochefoucauld seems in agreement with Socrates. For Socrates, there are in addition to eros, three other forms of positive madness that would also follow this formulation: the arts, represented by the Muses; prophesy, represented by Apollo; and initiation, represented by Dionysus.

Agape – this is known in Christian terms as "brotherly love," and more or less represents a generalized sort of love, or "love of mankind." It is an extended, dissipated form of love, that is useful for ethical behavior toward strangers, for inclusion of others into an ever-expanding tribe. It is impersonal, but useful in making people want to help suffering strangers, and not want to make strangers suffer. It is a term that needs to be introduced into the languages of many peoples across the globe. But we also need to be careful with this, since history has given us many men who have been so full of agape that every actual person disappointed them to no end, and they ended up having great difficulty with philia. The reverse has also been true, where those who find mankind as a whole despicable have maintained great friendships. We need agape, but we need to be careful too to avoid idealizing it, so we can feel all forms of love.

Philia – this is friendship, and is also used to indicate "object-love," resulting in terms such as philosophy, pedophilia, xenophilia, etc. Lysias and Socrates in his first speech both come down in favor of philia over eros – for reason over madness. Indeed, what happens when the fever subsides? Do you find you still like the person you were mad over? This is what one wants long-term. And it may be what people are looking for in the present day with things such as "friends with benefits," which it seems Lysias is certainly coming down in favor of. The idea of having friends with benefits undoubtedly comes about through our increasing distrust of emotions – a movement that mistakes the ability to keep one’s emotions under control (good) with the attempt to simply abolish emotions (bad). We cannot forget that emotions are important for thinking itself. And we cannot forget that philia is itself an emotion. We love our friends, as well we should.

Motherly Love – this is the love parents feel toward their children, especially the feeling mothers feel toward their children. It occurs shortly after the child is born – which is why women who want to give a child up for adoption should avoid seeing the child after giving birth. It is a feeling found in mammals, and is what prevents mothers from abandoning or eating their offspring. The extension of this feeling is what creates social bonds among social mammals, and has developed into all the forms of love listed here. Nietzsche, too, recognized that love comes out of the mother’s feelings toward her children, extended to others – he commented that "I recognize transferences everywhere." Love thus metaphorized, bifurcated to become the various forms of love we now recognize. This is why we use baby talk when speaking with our lovers.

Eros – sexual love, a form of madness, of fever. We could just look at this chemically, and talk about how what we call eros can be obtained through eating chocolate. Consider the following quote from :

"chocolate's key ingredient is its phenylethylamine (PEA) "love-chemical". . . . Phenylethylamine is itself a naturally occurring trace amine in the brain. Phenylethylamine releases dopamine in the mesolimbic pleasure-centres; it peaks during orgasm. Taken in unnaturally high doses, phenylethylamine can produce stereotyped behavior more prominently even than amphetamine. Phenylethylamine has distinct binding sites but no specific neurons. It helps mediate feelings of attraction, excitement, giddiness, apprehension and euphoria."

It is also the first chemical that washes over your brain when you first fall in love with someone. Thus, it seems especially appropriate to equate love with a fever, as both are found in the head, and surge and subside like a tide. Socrates equates eros with madness, and as coming from a god – the two are not unrelated. When we come into contact with the gods, we take on the appearance of madmen. Consider too Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. The philosopher ascends into the sun, and when he comes back to tell people what he saw, people consider him mad. But these are forms of madness we should embrace – in the modern world, re-embrace.

The Arts – the form of madness represented by the Muses. How "rational" have our arts become! Rather than creating poetry that touches peoples’ souls, we have "Language Poetry," which is DOA – intellectual puzzles at best. Rather than creating music that moves our hearts, we have had atonal music, or the music of John Cage – interesting intellectually, from a musical theory point of view. The postmodern novelists forget emotions in their works, focusing instead on showing off their technical abilities, on structure. This is not to say that there is not benefits to be gained from these rational experiments – if one is an artist – but to the extent that the arts are a form of madness, we have to say that these things simply are not and can never be art.

Prophesy – in the rational form, futurism. Otherwise, we now simply recognize prophesy as madness. Anyone talking about God speaking to them, we lock away. And if they manage to avoid getting locked away, and get followers, we call them cult leaders. Yesterday’s prophets are today put away in mental hospitals.

Initiation – the madness of moving from one way of living, from one world view, to another. This is the role of tragedy, and why Nietzsche identified Dionysus with tragedy (and why the Greeks performed tragedies during the festival of Dionysus). The Renaissance was such a time, moving us from medieval Christianity to the Modern Era of capitalism. And the early 20th century was an attempt to move us from capitalism into pure communitarianism (this was the goal of the Nazis and the Communists, of socialists of various sorts, and even now of the environmentalist movements). And now we are at another transitional period – from all of these exclusive world views, into an integrated, holistic world view. 9-11 was the event that triggered this movement that was already underway among systems thinkers, chaos theorists, artists like Frederick Turner. And we do have to move in that direction, integrating the tribal, the heroic, the religious, the capitalist, and the communal into a whole, holistic world (this will be the true realization of agape).

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Maxim 639

"The cleverest course for the not so clever is to know when to accept the wise guidance of others."

Herein certainly lies the difficulty. How does one know if you are among the not so clever? Nobody wants to think of themselves as being among this group. And who among us is wise? There are those who certainly think of themselves as wise, and they are the first to insist that everyone listen to them, but it is these people who are in fact the least wise. They are, more often than not, the least of the not so clever.

The question that has to be answered here is: what do we mean by wise? Who among us is wise? A philosopher is a "lover of wisdom," but who among us is even a philosopher nowadays, let alone a wise man? And what is wisdom?

Let me suggest a few definitions. 1) Knowledge deals with understanding facts, and thus is many. 2) Wisdom deals with understanding truth, and thus is one. 3) Beauty is the combination of knowledge and wisdom. Wisdom sees the world as one, unified, holistic. But we can have many kinds of holistic thinking that even come into conflict with knowledge. And when that happens, we can and often do have tragedy. Marxism is a holistic world view that has very little relationship to the facts of the world. Thus, it comes into conflict with nature. In doing so, it results (and certainly resulted) in tragedy. This does not negate the kind of personalized Marxism of someone like Alain Badiou, wherein one thinks egalitarianism in order to treat each person as equal, but it does negate the political enforcement of such ideas.
Of course, I am not entirely sure one can have a truly wise world view that neglects facts. And if we accept Socrates’ definition of ethics as knowledge, then we would also have to support a kind of wisdom without ethics – which is absurd. So to be truly wise, we cannot neglect knowledge. Thus, although something like Marxism may appear to be wise, it cannot in fact be. At the very least, it does not fit the definition of the beautiful given above. And this is where we get into trouble, when those who follow a world view that has the appearance of wisdom think they are wise, and convince others that they are wise.

And this is indeed the situation in which we find ourselves in the present day. We have many followers of ideas that have the appearance of wisdom, but lack some of the fundamental elements of true wisdom. This is perhaps why Nietzsche said that Christianity (as it was being practiced in his day and, I would argue, as it is practiced by too many Christians in the United States) leads to nihilism, since it become more and more disconnected from facts and knowledge and, thus, from ethics. To the extent that the Catholic Church has continued to accept facts and knowledge as being compatible with Christianity, it managed to avoid the danger of nihilism.
We also have too many in politics who, because they are Marxists and socialists in varying degrees, think of themselves as wise, and thus the rightful rulers of all people. But these, too, only have the appearance of wisdom. The outcomes of their ideas throughout the world have proven time and time again their lack of true wisdom.

So how do the not so clever come to know who the wise are? Doesn’t the ability to recognize the wise itself require a kind of wisdom? Perhaps it does. But we will certainly never be wise until we realize, along with Socrates, that we know nothing. And the only way we can reach that knowledge is to know more and more, until we come to know just how little we actually do or can know. Then we will become wise. But when was the last time you met a Socrates?

Maxim 640

"We are always nervous of seeing the person we love if we have just been flirting with somebody else."

Why does this maxim seem so self-evident? Is it because we have built into us an ethical sense? That we know that cheating, physically, emotionally, or sexually, is wrong? That there is a sort of universalist ethics? All cultures in all times have always prohibited cheating, lying, theft, rape, and murder. Thus, there are a set of universalist ethics, that exist no matter what culture or time we are living in. What may change are the definitions of cheating, lying, theft, rape, or murder, but not the core moral code.

Where does this come from? The application of a deep set of true "family values" to others. Thou shalt not murder thy family members. Thou shalt not rape thy family members. Thou shalt not cheat, lie to, or steal from thy family members. These, too, seem self-evident. Why else are we so much more outraged when a parent kills or molests their child than when a stranger kills or molests a child? Ethics is precisely the application of these familial prohibitions to strangers – thus we get families expanding into tribes, tribes expanding into city-states, city-states expanding into nation-states, and nation-states expanding into federations. When we expand the way we treat our families to include more and more strangers, we expand ethics itself. A corollary: anything that goes against this expansion, that violates these ethical rules founded deep in our being social mammals, is itself unethical.

Of course, I have not dealt with this maxim head-on – but on the other hand, I think the fact that it seems so self-evident is itself an interesting problem. Why is guilt a universal? It is an indication of feelings of having breeched some kind of ethics, whether universal or cultural. And just because there is a cultural relativism to elements of ethics 1) it does not mean that ethics is itself relative in all cases, and 2) it does not mean that such ethics are themselves invalid. Guilt is how we signal to ourselves that we know we have done something wrong. Thus, it is a valid, useful feeling. It is what prevents us from flirting in the first place or, if we have been flirting, from doing so in the future. And, further, if mere flirting makes us feel bad, it prevents us from going any further than flirting, since we figure that doing so will make us feel even worse.

Guilt is not a bad thing to feel. If we feel guilty for doing something like breeching a person’s trust, we are prevented from weakening or even severing social bonds. We have to have trust if we are to create and foster the social bonds that make us humans. We are, after all, a social mammal. Our bonds are only lightly genetic – and are strengthened through our actions, creating trust. Guilt prevents us from weakening our social bonds – it is how our brain punishes itself for doing bad things, so we do not have to always rely on others to punish us. Is it better to feel guilt, to prevent you from doing bad or worse things, or to have to have people always punish you for being unethical? Perhaps the large prison population in the United States comes about in part through our attempts to alleviate guilt. We should not just do it if it feels good. Now, this does not mean that we should not question our culture-create ethics from time to time, as this is healthy – but we should not throw guilt out in order to do it. The revolutionaries should be resisted by the conservative elements of a culture, so they do not move people too quickly into the future – but in the end, the revolutionaries, insofar as they support increasing liberty for more and more people, should prevail.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Maxim 641

"If we are strong enough to own up to our misdeeds we must not fret about them."

This calls to mind aphorism 341 of Nietzsche’s Gay Science – that we must not regret our past. If we are strong enough to own up to our misdeeds, we have to be strong enough to not fret about those misdeeds. This is not to say that you should reject being responsible for your actions – quite the contrary, this is to say that you precisely should be responsible for your actions.

For a long time now, it has been fashionable to not take responsibility for one’s actions. We blame our parents, culture, society, government, etc. This is not to say that we cannot blame big things on things such as government, but when it comes to our own actions, it is we who are responsible for those actions. To refuse to own up to our misdeeds is to be irresponsible. But to fret about them is to regret our lives. To paraphrase Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, if we say "yes" to any part of our lives, we have to say "yes" to every woe as well. If we are to get to the place where we are now, we have to affirm each and every moment of our lives. To say "yes" to our lives overall, we have to say "yes" to all our woes, to all our problems, to all our misdeeds. To fret over them is to say "no" to our lives. This is not to say that we should continue doing misdeeds, of course – quite the contrary. By being self-aware enough to acknowledge that your misdeeds are indeed your own, you learn from them, and learn not to make the same mistakes in the future.

We have to become responsible enough to learn about ourselves – to learn about what affects us genetically, and environmentally. For when we do, we can then take responsibility for our lives, and change our lives so we can become more of the people we want to be. When we do not learn about ourselves, we are being doubly irresponsible – and doubly guilty of whatever we do. Only when we learn to love our lives as our lives were lived can we take responsibility for our lives. By abandoning regret, we can learn from our mistakes and misdeeds, and become stronger people for it. We have to learn to affirm our lives, to neither fret nor regret, if we are going to live good lives. And only the good life is worth living. We have to learn to say "yes" to our lives, and thus to take complete responsibility for everything we think, do, and say. Then we will be able to live a good life.