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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.

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.

4 Comments:

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thought-provoking, mootable pv. just my thoughts, well anyways gl & be chipper is what i say

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