We turn to Augustine in CoPhi today, with his famous “not yet” plea for pious purity. What would he have said about Sam Scheffler’s collective afterlife, or the idea that personal salvation takes a back seat in our imaginations and aspirations to a shared though mostly tacit commitment to the continuance of life on earth? Nothing very supportive as Saint, I’m sure, but in that fabled (and probably exaggerated) misspent youth he clearly understood the impulse for more of the sort of life we know as healthily embodied carnal spirits. The ethereal sort, he thought, could wait.
He wanted to live long with his youthful passions and animal vigor intact, not swap them for the “dangerous wisdom” (as today’s poem has it) that leaves the playing field early and retires to the cloister too soon.
himself to death because he yearned
so desperately to feast on Fanny Brawne.
Emerson and his wife decided to make
love sparingly in order to accumulate
Speaking of playing fields…
In Bioethics we look today at Michael Sandel’s “Bionic Athletes” and what’s troubling about enhanced performance. Justice Scalia’s opinion on the subject, that a game’s rules are entirely arbitrary, is “far-fetched” indeed if we’re thinking of the game of life. It’s an essential rule of that most treasured game that winners leave it all on the field.
My favorite novelist Richard Ford (whose birthday it is) knows that, I think. “People always know more than I do, but what I know I know.”
Do we know that we possess (in Sandel’s words) a “capacity to act freely, for ourselves, by our own efforts, and to consider ourselves responsible – worthy of praise or blame – for the things we do and for the way we are”? No, but maybe we should act as if we did.
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