Will you be Napoleon or Socrates?


Will you be Napoleon or Socrates?

Not everyone understands that the heart has its reasons, even if they do not always have to do with reason, writes DAN BADENHORST.


LAST year's Monday with Max ended with, “And now faith, hope and love remain", as Max confirmed that he belongs in South Africa, despite the ample reasons for hitting the road. There were 60 reactions to this article, largely due to a comment by Magnus Heystek, who prefers to look at the situation in our country only with his eyes and not also with the heart like Max.

Heystek's outlook does not allow for what Blaise Pascal described as “le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ignore" (the heart has its reasons, which ignore reason). He claims Max “lulls the frogs with praise". Heystek was criticised in the comments section, among other things for his perception of “the collection of assets as the most important proof of a meaningful life".

The problem with reason as the sole guide is that it robs life of its joy in spirituality and romance. How dull and boring must it be to simply promote one's own soulless business interests?

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But the vehement reaction to Heystek's hijacking of Max's article is indicative of a deeper alienation anxiety. You are subjected to choices all the time. What must not be lost sight of is the secret of the spirit between the written lines; that a verse consists not only of words, a melody of tones and a statue of sides, but also the reality of an encounter beyond space and time.

As Martin Buber describes it, the I is sometimes seated in the world, and then the I does not actually exist in essence; and at other times, the world is seated in the I, and the world does not actually exist in essence. In both cases, the I can find itself in it.

But when man is confronted with both representations at the same time, a deep hesitation seizes him. Max does not deny practical problems that make so many emigrate but talks about more subjective, intuitive and incomprehensible reasons why others choose to stay. For a better sense of Max's way of thinking, there is an informative article in Switchyard. This is a personal story of Dimiter Kenarov, who articulates the imponderables of why people are attracted to a certain lifestyle and areas of ​​residence.

He grew up in communist Bulgaria. After its fall he studied in the US and  stayed there for 10 years with a post in academia. But the American Dream became a cliché for him. “There was too much of everything: rules, work, wealth, poverty, favours, art. Somehow, over the years, the machine had become overly complex, the foundations slowly but inexorably sinking under the weight of its ever-growing bulk… The celebrated American self had become another commodity on the shelf of the cultural supermarket."

Although Bulgaria, in the transformation process on its way to democracy, encountered similar problems as we are experiencing in South Africa, Kenarov returned. With time, things began to normalise, especially after Bulgaria became part of the European Union.

But Kenarov feels that with that the country entered the zone of never-ending repetition in which a fresh future vision of limitlessness beyond the horizon is missing — that which you cannot quantify but believe exists within.

The “I fucking love science" one-dimensionals who spoil mystery and belief will fault me for it, but a naive and sincere trust in engaged encounters, devoid of an agenda such as conversion, can inspire inclusive relationships rather than what the understanding of objective causality or the utility and sensory experience serving as a means to an end will do.

Alienation and anxiety are evident from the unwaveringly judgmental viewpoints and lack of a sympathetic middle ground in Gaza: “There is nothing more terrifying than the absoluteness of someone who thinks that they are right."

Life is basically a story in and of itself, and you have a choice to either, like Napoleon, leave a well-defined and provable stamp, or be content, like Socrates, to remain in a state of aporia by not pretending to have the final answer, because you don't know what you don't know.

But that this does not prevent you from continuing to search with others through uncertainties and paradoxes for a humility and peace that lies beyond your field of vision. Marcel Proust said: “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom."

♦ VWB ♦

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