Our touch carries disease, because the beautifully good things that are bestowed on us are often debauched by our wretched grip. Thus, the beautiful gradually becomes the shameful, because of one’s incapacity to preserve and nourish beauty without poisoning it. Beauty is vulnerable, delicate, divine and permutable, and so without a practical and fine handler, virtue will in due course meet intemperance and become a source of wrongdoing. We handle good things not as they deserve to be handled, but as we ourselves see fit, and that often translates to imposing our indisposition on them.
As a matter of fact, even the highest virtue could prove harshly violent if our actions are improper and our hold too ferocious. Further, there is such a thing as excess in virtue, since one could become so enamored with it that it becomes a source of self-indulgence, and is thus no longer virtue, but a lack of self-restraint, and therefore a limitation. As a faint yet astute observation, you can be infatuated with virtue yet intemperate in carrying it out. God’s voice attunes, rather aptly, to such a partiality; ‘Be not more wise than it behoveth, but be ye soberly wise.’ [Romans, 12:3] In other words, your wisdom should keep up with your character, and above all, that wisdom should be as pure and sensible as possible, preventing any kind of insobriety that tarnishes its purity. Because remember, just because you’re infatuated with virtue, does not mean you are unsusceptible to overabundance; these two can very well co-exist, and the consequence is not virtue, but a kind of abandon.
I can clearly see why temperance and moderation are superior to their opposites, for to err on their side requires self-restraint, which too demands forbearance, discipline, persistence and stoicism. And if, practically speaking, the opposite of restraint is indulgence, then it stands to reason that the latter comes easier to weaker natures while stronger natures have more voluntary control over it and are not easily swayed by its allure. Indulgence does carry a glamour that entices people, and most who are either enslaved or repeatedly fall for its bait are weaker than those who can see through its futility and potential detriments. It is not sensible, then, neither to counsel nor pattern oneself after an expensive and brutish virtue, for the archer who goes over and above his objective fumbles just as ineptly as he who falls through – the piercing light, in all its intense brilliance, could be just as stupendous as that unfathomable darkness that one hurls himself into.
For that reason, Callicles counsels that one shouldn’t submerge himself in the depths of Philosophy to such an extent that it is no longer of service to his life. Within reasonable limits, philosophy is gratifyingly practical, but in heavy quantities it sure can pave the way to a harsh brutality, in which case it is no longer practical but hurtful – disdainful of faith and recognized principles, adversarial to social interchange and joy, hopelessly weak at governance, assisting his neighbour or even helping himself – a man of great impunity. Philosophy, in superfluous amounts, subjugates our indigenous and innate liberty, and with inopportune fineness and guile obliges us to drift away from that heavenly and unforced path that Mother Nature unearthed for our own good. So, the most sensible means to accord with one’s own virile nature is by austerity on the one hand, and moderation on the other. To balance both constitutes the art of living the so-called good life. Without some sternness, one strays from his direction; and without some moderation, one gives rein to indulgence – austerity to remain focused, moderation to remain stable.
Even where affairs are concerned; if a man is too keen, that sensual pleasure he wallows in when lying in bed with his woman is chastised if it’s not sufficiently curbed. For you can sink into dissoluteness and immoderation, and it is certainly no honorable matter to be blinded by the rapture of sexual gratification. Matrimony is not only dedicated, but godly, and that is why the delight we procure from it ought to be earnest, sober and fused with a momentous profundity. Its aesthetic beauty ought not only to be clever, but faithful. And of course, its paramount purpose is offspring and reproduction, but there are those who doubt the righteousness of pursuing lovemaking when one lacks the aspiration of bringing the young into the world, and for good reason, since intercourse devoid of both fondness and breeding seems rather facile in comparison.
When Emperor Aelius Verus’ wife objected to his licence to sleep with other women, he countered by saying that he moved as such in accordance to his own moral sense, but marriage – far from being a loose buckle – is an arrangement that ought to uphold both honour and stateliness over and above licentiousness and lecherous desire. For if these reign supreme, it is no longer cleanliness and virtue that sustain it, but a kind of promiscuous lack of self-control that will hastily destroy it. In a nutshell, there is no pleasure, irrespective of how appropriate, that does not come to be full of reproof in its excess. Man, by his wretched disposition and natural elements, can faintly savor a pleasure in all its purity and entirety, and he is not wretched enough until he has wielded cunning and terrible self-consciousness to heighten his own unhappiness. Deceiving oneself by manipulating the external world to our favour also has its consequences when one habitually lies to himself and others to get what he wants, or what he thinks he wants. One can no longer trust himself as he can no longer discriminate the real from the fake; his consciousness has become so muddled with fiction and deception that the truth seems to him, perhaps, as wary as the false, and that’s extremely dangerous – it could potentially leave him running in circles indefinitely. So accommodated is he to the fictions he insensibly fed himself that he distrusts himself.
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