The habit of finding fault
A mania for finding fault
We have all met someone who constantly feels the need to point out minor flaws with a performance or person. Go to any Youtube video and you will find a sundry of armchair musicians, athletes, philosophers, physicists, psychologists and medical professionals launching a variety of tirades against, to borrow a phrase from Theodore Roosevelt, the “doer[s] of deeds.” It is rare to find this total absence of humility in the genuinely accomplished. I have found gifted professionals and remarkable hobbyists rarely speak ill of their peers, even if they are not in complete agreement with one another. It is only by doing, by making movies or writing books or cooking a sumptuous meal, that we begin to understand the dedication required to reach real competence.
Caeca invidia est
Envy is blind (Livy)
Love is blind. That is easy to understand. Love seems to have very little logic, but envy? Envy? Of all our emotions it would seem as though envy was among the most rooted in rationality, but rather than contest the quotation let us, for a moment, humor it. Frequently we focus on a single trait or object someone else owns. We do not take the whole person into account, nor do we always fairly compare ourselves to them because our vision is obscured by a need to denigrate ourselves. A habitually jealous person may be free of defects and deficits, they may even be quite extraordinary, but they will always find reasons to hate others for having what they do not. Envy is blind and blinding.
Castigat ridendo mores
One corrects customs by laughing at them
Mark Twain said that “against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.” Mindless cultural relics can only be transcended once we allow ourselves to laugh at them. They are only gone once all vestiges of their existence are eliminated and they seem as remote to us as the television preferences of a toddler. The dialectical dance finishes when relevance runs away. Rage is the antithesis to a thesis. Rage is impotent. To waste an ounce of erudition or indignation on long resolved disputes is the pinnacle of foolishness. The ones who subscribe to the outmoded ways of thinking will not be converted, for they do not think—they believe. Belief, though it can have immense utility to an individual, has no place in objective fields of inquiry.
Cave quid dicis, quando, et cui
Beware of what you say, when, and to whom
Repeat this quote before sending a text message to your ex. You can thank me later.
Certum vot pete finnem
Set a definite limit to your desire (Horace)
Horace had Hemingway’s knack for quickly summarizing a complex idea, without the latter’s obnoxious hypermasculine bravado and rampant alcoholism. Here Rome’s second greatest poet puts forth a postulate that nicely summarizes the whole of Epicurean philosophy. Set limits to your desire, give your emotions boundaries. Without boundaries you may do great harm to yourself and to others. Though this is wild speculation on my part, I think Horace was also referring to the propensity of artists to desire too strongly, to let their obsessions get in the way of creating something objectively beautiful or, at least, being congruent with aesthetic decor of whatever they are trying to capture. Keep your ego in control as Shakespeare did. Do not let the need to interject yourself and your personality into everything you do keep you from enjoying life or making art.
Cessante causa cessat effectus
Once the cause is removed, the effect will disappear.
Cause and effect is a deceptively simple concept. This alone is why every aspiring intellectual should study the biological sciences. Causality is complex.
Cineri gloria sera est
Glory paid to ashes comes too late (Martial)
Tragic and sobering. Glorifying the dead does nothing for them. Preserve life instead.
Condemnant quod non intellegunt
They condemn what they do not understand
It is easier to condemn than to understand. It is also easier than accepting the possibility that one does not or cannot understand something. Condemnation is an instinctive reaction against admitting to one’s ignorance. Any culture that does not sternly censure ignorance and sloth is destined to implode.
Consuetudo quasi altera natura
Habit is second nature (Cicero)
“Plant a thought and reap a word;
plant a word and reap an action;
plant an action and reap a habit;
plant a habit and reap a character;
plant a character and reap a destiny.”
Cras amet qui nunquam amavit; quique amavit, cras amet
May he love tomorrow who has never loved before;
And may he who has loved, love tomorrow as well
Isn’t this one beautiful? No comment needed.
Crescat scientia, vita excolatur/Crescat vita, scientia excolatur.
Let knowledge increase, let life be perfected. Let life increase, let knowledge be perfected.
The first part is a Latin proverb, the second is my altered version.
The question we should always ask.
Painstaking spontaneity (Petronius)
In general people have a fetish for the unplanned. Perhaps out of laziness, perhaps from a desire for the supernatural, they want events to “line up.” As fun and wonderful as it is when order emerges out of nothing, no sane person would, returning to Horace’s maxim, argue that a good life can be made without planning, by one’s self or by some benefactor. Caution and discretion are the cornerstones to success, for while fortune may favor the bold, our boldness must be calculated. Otherwise we are relying only upon our own whims and wishes to inform our decisions.