Friday, June 1, 2007

(10) Flawed Fate

An encyclopedic account notes that "Zeno defined the end at
which man should aim as 'life in accordance with nature,' and
by 'nature' he meant not only man's instincts which lead him
to choose' the primarily natural,' i.e. life, health, etc., but also
the whole nature of the universe, which is identical with God.
Every event in the whole universe is necessary, providential
and due to the divine will. Since man cannot wholly foresee
the future, he is bound sometimes to choose what his own
nature suggests but what fate will prevent his attaining."

Comment: The above stated thought is unfortunately flawed.
There's no doubt that humans have a mind of their own, and
that more than occasionally they choose what is not good
for their own sake and even for the Greater Good. However,
Fate would oft seem remiss when it comes to disallowing
wrong decisions and actions.

We only have to look at Human History. It is full of horrific
acts. We only have to look at Natural Events. They, too,
can bring forth catastrophe.

The ancient Stoic believed that we somehow need "grin and
bear it," if you will. But is this idea a misnomer? Partly, in
that Stoic philosophers often wrote treatises that pretty much
were *avoidance manuals.* They focused on virtuous living.
By doing so, humans would learn to make the right decisions,
would learn to do the right thing.

There's certainly merit in the virtuous life--a life that includes
all the wise avenues and approaches we humans have devised
over our long history. Still, no one--not even the wisest of
Stoics--has ever attained what is deemed a "Sage" status.
Even within the context of the virtuous life there's struggle
and failure.

And in today's modern world, we face awesome struggle
and failure. Wrong decisions can lead to terrible tragedies.
And wicked decisions can lead to horror. The Stoics realized
that there were those who lived an un-virtuous life, and they
responded with a sense of moral condemnation. But in our
own time, condemnation without action will not cut it. We
cannot afford to leave it at that, so to speak.

As for equating God with the universe, well there are pantheists
and panentheists. Yet trouble arises when God seemingly
does allow Evil. Our long-held concepts of an All-Good God
become fragile in the face of Despair and Death and Dissolution.
Long after the Stoics our theologians try to cope with the Theodicy
Problem, boiled down to "why does God allow bad things to
happen to good people?"

On the other hand, one might see some merit in "living according
to nature" when we work to try to understand ourselves--i.e, our
specially formed proclivities, our disposition. When we better
understand our self, we can learn to go with the flow of who we
are. Using psychological lingo, learning to cooperate with our
particular archetypal construct is better than trying to cope with
stereotypical expectations that simply do not fit who we are.

It would be commendable, too, to try better to understand
how our universe works. Albeit, we humans are still "babes in
the woods" when it come to this intention. Still, if we could learn
to cooperate more with our natural surrounding, our environment,
we might learn to live in harmony with our planet. We might
learn, also, that our universe is a Gigantic System in which exist
systems upon systems infinitum. We might even discover
that ours is also a relational universe, i.e. Deep Ecology. It's
all connected!

Still, in today's world--as much as we can work to become more
wise, as much as we might learn about the workings of our
natural ecology, both individually unto universally, there's really
no guarantee when it comes to our fate. This goes against Stoic
principles, I suppose. Nonetheless, other Stoic tenets do talk of
virtue, of bravery, of justice, of moderation that boils down to
*intelligent living.* These tenets are helpful and can certainly
be applied to make ours a better world in which to live.

We just have to grow into them.