2.7: The risk of misunderstanding mourning.

We rational social animals are a such a bunch. The animal part of us is full of feeling. Since mourning is full of feeling, it engages the animal part of us readily.

But since it is feeling, and material, it can lack form. To put it in other words, feeling must be proper, adequate, misshapen. If we set up the approach to that which is best as necessitating a kind of mourning, then we set up the possibility of the creation of such feeling independently of the reality in conformity to which it should be felt. On top of this we are not merely animals but social animals. Thus status in community, usually recognized in position or ranking, honor, reputation, can become motivating independently of that which is to establish status or honor.

Aristotle said this long ago in his Nichomachean Ethics. The political life which he took to involve the pursuit of honor cannot be the best life because the honor is only something because of what is honored. It is that which is honored which is better than the honor itself. An effect cannot be greater than its cause, and thus being honored for achievement cannot be greater than achieving. Because honor necessarily involves other men and what they think it is relative to what they think. But Aristotle recognized the very human tendency to pursue and desire secure and high status in human community.

If we say that blessedness (happiness) is best, and the path to it thereby the best path to be on, then he will be honored who shows himself to be on the path. All of this to say that mourning can be faked. If one gets tricked by the feeling status into thinking that the more felt the better, one will be on the wrong path. If one gets tricked by the possibility of enhancement of social status by making progress in the beatitudes (as if the progress could be made from one to the other temporally), then one will be tempted to compete for expression and talk that shows one to be most depraved and lacking the most.

All of this is checked by the sage Jesus’ other repeated statements. The repetition is an indication of importance. He says, not only in the Mount Sermon but elsewhere, to not pray, give or fast for show. They must be done in secret as an indication of the purity of the acts. He of course is not saying that the act is ruined by another knowing. The hyperbolic examples of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing and praying in a closet are simply meant to impress upon the listener the temptation of ruin the act by wrongful motivation, and the way to go forward.

The way to go forward, and I ask you to take this seriously, is that no one should know you are mourning. Let your mourning be inward and its significance relative to its inwardness and hiddenness. Then, it will be yours, and it will be a part of the birthing process of the new you. If you treat the mourning, or any other stage of the pursuit of happiness, as an opportunity for show and social status, you will receive your reward in kind.

Ask and you shall receive. If you ask for attention from the crowd, you will get it. But the crowd is fickle and volatile. Who knows what you will get! If you ask for happiness you will get it. Not yet? Don’t get stuck in temporality. In temporality we must walk by faith toward that which can become. We have already acknowledged that we lack and that it is worth mourning which means that it was ours and we can get it back. Let us not lose hope that it can be reachieved. Here, the mourning is a recognition not THAT we lack, but WHAT we lack in terms of significance. Don’t throw the real deal away for show.

Published by Purilib

Anonymously interested in grasping the good life.

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