I considered leaving this rubric blank because I am already telling volumes about myself by creating and writing this blog. Also, maybe the blank box would make it appear that I am subtly nihilistic or admitting that indeed I do not know myself. One thing about myself that came to mind with that last sentence is that I find philosophy funny at times. Hence, as my self-introduction/resume, I have pasted below a short piece of mild satire that I wrote.
The Philosophers’ Soccer Match
The coach looked over the motley assortment of players on the existentialist soccer team and wondered how he would build a cohesive strategy with members of such diverging ideas and backgrounds. There were Pascal and Kierkegaard. They were sound players on the team, but, really, their belief in God did put them at odds with the team captain, Sartre, and his cohorts Heidegger and Camus. On the bench, playing second string, were two humanists, who had tried out, and were close to fitting in with the team.
“Listen up men. We have our first game in a few minutes, and it will be a challenge. We’re playing one of those tryout teams that cherry picks the best: they have stoics, determinists, utilitarians, and, our special challenge, the metaphysicians and ontologists who will throw at us the provable existence of God and a strong defensive line.”
The coach had his team members gathered around him in a semi-circle on the ground in their team jerseys. The jersey had each member’s name on the back because each of them was very proud of his own identity; but, beyond that, they were not uniform in color or style, since each member felt it was his duty to make his own decision about his jersey; only then would he be sure of his own existence. Each, therefore, made the decision as to color and style. It was an exercise of his free will to have a color or to have black or white, to have red socks or white. It would have been tantamount to joining the herd, losing oneself in society to wear a conforming jersey, and that would be an inauthentic experience.
“Now when you’re out there with the ball, I want you to talk to each other. You have to pass and you need to hear where team mates are. The best pass might be behind you. And remember to pass. Although it might feel that you are alone and solitary in your daily lives, out here on the field, you are not alone.” The coach quickly raised his hand to silence any objections, which he rightly knew were about to be launched. “It is your decision, whether or not to pass,” the coach conceded. “We had that argument last season, and I understand that no one determines when it’s time to pass but yourselves, as authentic beings, but believe me, in this game it is the right decision.”
“Must we talk in French?” Heidegger asked.
“We did decide that would be the team language,” the coach replied, who was an Englishman and no great fan of French. But last year when he proposed his native tongue, being the international language, he was shot down by the team, all of whom agreed that the language of Bacon and Hume would hardly suit a team of existentialists.
“Of course we must speak French!” Sartre exclaimed. “It is the language of existentialism. Without French how can we indulge in those useful aphorisms that carry so much weight and importance in their every syllable? There is no substitute for ‘de trop’ or ‘l’existence avant l’essence.’ ”
“Oui, c’est vrais,” Camus muttered, than added: “Not that I really care. It is of no importance.”
Pascal, came out of his deep thoughts long enough to concur on the choice of language: “Monsieur Sartre certainly has a point there. And, even if I can’t be certain he is right, I’ll wager that he is, just to be on the safe side.”
Camus put out his cigarette raised his dark, heavy lidded eyes and added with a jaded tone: “One imperialist language is as good as the next. In the end it hardly matters.”
“Now, let’s go over our positions.” The coach pulled out a clipboard and was on the verge of making his assignments, when Pascal raised his voice: “Coach, I have been thinking …” the Coach cut him off. “I know Pascal, you are always thinking. Let me get on with this, the game is minutes away.”
“Oh very well,” Pascal replied, downcast, and took a pad, plume and ink well out of his jersey to jot down his pensees before he forgot them.
“Sartre, are you up for center-mid? We need our strongest player there.”
“Of course. I am the most solid member of this team; in fact, it would be fair to say that this team would not exist without me.” He cast his eyes over his team members and muttered: “In fact, I am surprised that you let some of these guys on the team.”
Kierkegaard looked indignant and said under his breath to the others: “We’re as much about free will as he is. I am strongly of the opinion that we humans are solitary and self-defining. It irks me to be in this group, where, like all public assemblies, one must fall to the lowest common denominator.”
“Now, now,” Heidegger interrupted. “No need to cast aspersions at us. We shall in fact all prove ourselves by being in this group. Being authentic doesn’t mean escaping from society or this team, but in interpreting ourselves in the context.”
“Ok, fine.” The coach jumped in. “Speaking of ‘interpreting yourselves, may I suggest that you, Heidegger, and, Pascal, interpret yourselves as defenders, at least for the first half.” The coach was rather put out with the lot of them, but knew if he were to voice his disgust, the team members would just acknowledge the benefit of that feeling as a self-authenticating sensation and not take it as a criticism of themselves. He considered that he would be willing to excuse their behavior as a product of their environment, but since he had heard so often that no such forces exist and that we define ourselves through our choices, he was almost starting to believe it.
“Please you guys—stop the chit chat back there and listen. Camus you’re in the goal.”
“Fine, but don’t get upset if I decide not to stop the ball. I might just not see any point in it,” Camus stated laconically.
A horn sounded alerting the teams that the start was five minutes away and they could take the field to warm up. As the other team jogged onto the field there was a collective gasp from the existentialist team as they saw Simone de Beauvoir trot out on the opposing team. Sartre was enraged. “What a traitor! Of course she would do this. I suppose she believes all that stuff about societal influences truncating the free will of oppressed minorities and women.” He stopped and glowered at her. When she saw his reproachful stare she stopped her warm up ball juggling and shrugged as she yelled across the field at him: “Don’t worry, I still believe that we can arise above our situations and become creators, but we do not all start out on the same playing field—no pun intended, cheri! Maybe you should have a little talk with your team mate Heidegger about situational freedom.” Sartre lit a cigarette and let the smoke obscure his head, while De Beauvoir jogged over to an unlikely and strange looking person, whom Sartre thought one could scarcely call a philosopher, or even a writer, like Camus. What can it be–one of those fellows they call a psychologist? Is this even legal? Anxiety overcame him, and he knew that that was good, but nonetheless continued smoking to calm his nerves. On the field with her was her odd assortment of teammates: a stoic, two utilitarians, the modern-looking psychologist, a priest, and a Kant look alike. On the bench were a sociologist and an anthropologist as backups for the psychologist.
The whistle blew and the game began. Sartre started in the middle of the field with the kick off, facing the stoic. It was easy to steal the ball away. The white drapery of the Greek hindered his movement and when he ran to attempt to regain the ball he tripped and fell flat on his face. He rose without so much as a stifled curse, and with an expressionless face carried on as if nothing had happened. Suddenly the two utilitarians took the ref aside and spoke to him plainly of the simple reality that there were more members on their team and, from a cursory survey of the paltry number of overall spectators, more individuals who favored their team. Therefore, it would serve the greater good to make calls that favored their winning. More people would be made happy by that result. After all it was democratic and sensible. The ref blew his whistle and threatened to have them expelled for unsportsmanlike conduct.
During that interlude, the priest led a prayer that God would help them prevail over the godless existentialists. Pascal and Kierkegaard shouted that they were not godless, but they would be damned if he thought there was any proving God’s existence—a leap of faith was the best one could do! The priest said he had ontological proof and would be happy to enlighten them at half time. Sartre interrupted and accused the priest of escapism through religion and a refusal to accept the reality of life.
Although there was little ball movement, amidst the bickering, the opposing team did get a good shot on goal. Camus felt he was in an absurd situation. He had no affinity for soccer and thought about his next meal. There was no true, absolute or even very compelling reason to exert himself in the direction of the ball, so he let it go and studied the effect on the others, like an outsider watching a movie.
Sartre made the decision, in his own free will, to try to score, and easily maneuvered past the Kant look-alike, who hardly moved, so caught up in pondering in order to be sure of his own existence, and Sartre thought what a fool the fellow was not to realize that we are defined by actions, not our thoughts. “Existence before essence,” he shouted like a battle cry as he made contact with the ball and scored a goal, tying the game. To break the tie, the coaches suggested flipping a coin.
“Good God!” the existentialists cried out; “The result would be left to chance!”
Camus said: “Who cares, anyway?”
I’ve spent a very interesting morning reading through your blog. I manage the Stoicism Today blog (http://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/stoicismtoday/), and I am always on the look out to feature guest posts about how people use or engage with Stoicism today. I would be delighted if I could feature some of your work there, as a guest post. Please email me (you can get through to me here: http://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/stoicismtoday/sample-page/contact-us/) to let me know if this is something you are up for. Best wishes, Patrick
I have sent a message to the address indicated and very much look forward to hearing from you. Also, I’m glad to know about your blog, Stoicism Today.
Hi. I’m have a hard time navigating your blog. I only recently started reading it, but I already know it’s worth starting from the beginning.
Can you add an option for that or put a list a posts by date on the right column of the site? In the words of Milton Glaser, “Less is not more; just enough is more.”
I appreciate your interest. I think it would be good if I could have a table of contents/index of posts, but this wordpress format doesn’t allow that. At least each post has a date and to get to the earliest posts, one needs to scroll to the bottom and click “earlier posts” until arriving at the first page. As for the material under “Start Here,” which also appears in a ribbon under the title, those categories are built into the format. I put under those headings my article on Keats,a satirical short piece on philosophy, and a brief dicsussion of the core notion of Stoicism — that we are all charged with thinking for ourselves. I second your quote on “enough” being perfect; however, “just enough” is a hard target.
Thank you for the explanation of the limits of WordPress. Not being a blogger, I just assumed those options would be available to you quite easily. Maybe plug-in$ or add-on$ are required to have even a calendar feature of past posts.
Anyway, thank you again for this content. It is worth digging for.
Just adventuring through Cybernelia and came across your blog. I linked somewhere from reading about Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights) and some reference to her being stoic. Thought to see who was spouting off and read about you on the Myself page/post (whatever it is). But you thought to define yourself by what you do, that is, what you write. How very existential of you!. Sartre would have been proud.
In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed this short read. Thanks for taking the effort to put it out there.
Thanks for the comment.Interesting that you bring up Sartre and his philosophy in the same breath as Stoicism.I started a little essay on the intersection of Stoicism and Existentialism a few weeks ago; now I am encouraged to get back to writing it. I do spout off a alot about Stoicism and my literary idols–please read more.
I will be reading more, if only to get a more filled out view of stoicism. I have read some Epictetus aphorisms and generally like and agree with what I have read. However, my take on stoicism is that, like Buddhism, there is a view that pain is always bad and best managed by detachment. While there is a lot of good detachment work, there are also times for attachment – even knowing that pain that will come. I have subscribed, so I will have some comments here and there. Thanks again for the comments and effort. I hope you are finding it satisfying since it is not too likely to be monetarily profitable. I am pleased to have come across your site.
In many earlier posts I go over the basics of Stoicism; by doing that I learned them better for myself. My main source is Seneca’s letters and essays. I use the translation by Moses Haddas. Most of what Seneca writes makes sense to me. As for pain (suffering, hardship etc.) he accepts it as character -defining and not necessarily something to be avoided–a good approach because it is unavoidable. In my article on John Keats that appears under the heading “Start Here” I address Keats’s approach to suffering (that there must be some use to it) as akin to Stoicism’s view. Thanks for writing back and reading.
As someone best described by Carl Rogers as having lead a ‘rich’ full life of experiential learning. Knowing both great triumph and disaster in equal measure whilst still retaining the enthusiasm for new experiences. Which apparently has me as a ‘fully functioning person’. I’ll let others be the judge of that … I wanted to say how much I enjoyed your essay in Patrick Ussher’s book ‘Stoicism Today’, ‘What would Seneca say?’ not least in facing adversity. Stoic philosophy has helped me, and many others, face a life in which I have twice ‘lost’ everything other than my son and my ability …. ad you can’t ask more than that. Particularly in terms of it being character-defining, thanks for being here…
I am so glad to hear that you found something that I wrote of interest. For me, even if I fall short quite often of being a good Stoic, just knowing the goals and working toward them has made all the difference. That difference in my life was primarily achieving greater tranquility; now it is more. I have had recourse to Stoicism is several ways in looking beyond my own life to the lives of others—non-humans to be precise. With Stoic principals — using reason, thinking independently, taking actions regardless of hope or success — at the origin and pursuit of my investigation, I have discovered an additional new design for living—a compassionate one. Aside from the little facts that the ancient Stoics recognized the cruelty of eating meat and did not elevate the appetite as supremely important as so many do today, the real Stoic connection to a plant based diet is the Stoic sine qua non, reason. How could anyone think about the cost in suffering (and to health and the environment) and reasonably conclude that meat is acceptable?
When I twice, literally lost everything in the 90’s, so that, after the second occasion, I didn’t just ‘slip through the net’ more I was plunged into penury. The suggestion to ‘Change your perception, change your life’,sometimes just to survive! Took on real meaning…
I continued this throughout the years, initially taking and interest in fundamental Buddhist philosophy/ psychology on the basis that as the Dalai said,’ Buddhism is not a religion. It is the science of the mind.’ More recently in Stoic philosophy, not least as much of its principles and practices compliment the former, including the three great spiritual values of compassion, patience and tolerance.
Bearing in mind the saying,’ If your compassion does not include yourself, then it is incomplete,’ – Buddha
Which whilst we may not either be responsible even less control the actions and behaviour of others places an individual responsibility on ourselves as to how we take care of ourselves and the world, including the environment around us. Which includes the consumption of meat when there are, in the world today so many perfectly acceptable alternatives …
I agree with and support your comments…
Inspiring words. Thank you.
No thanks necessary, it’s been a pleasure to meet you, albeit it’s in ‘cyberspace and share correspondence with an intelligent, articulate like minded human being. On which basis I look forward to any future similar experiences…
I’m presuming two things here, you’ve to many already existing responsibilities and commitments to engage in personal correspondence or the very nature of this site doesn’t allow for it, no problem. Or you can, I’ll leave it to your discretion, you can contact me via my email address, email@example.com …