12 June 2011

TENTH


A.  Eliminate the order from a good man, one stage at a time, and see what he becomes.  First the order of his mind decays until he forgets his proper end.  Overconfident and lacking direction, he begins to pursue lesser ends out of proportion to their intrinsic worth.  This leads to acts of vice: an excessive concern for bodily health or reputation might produce cowardice, excessive love of wealth to acts of injustice.  The intellectual principles which allow him to discern higher from lower goods decay further, and he sees no difference between ends, but only pursues what he desires at the moment.  At this point temperance breaks down, and he begins to indulge his sensitive appetites (food, drink, sex) freely and without restraint.  The pain that comes from overindulgence ceases to deter him from repeating his errors, since he no longer has the strength of mind to draw the causal connections between act and consequence.  He becomes slothful and bitter, loses control over himself, curses everything good which he has lost, and attempts to nurse his wounds (with more vice) in total solitude.
At this point, he is little better than a beast.  We continue our descent.  As the order which rules his sensitive appetites is taken away, he no longer distinguishes properly between help and harm.  He lashes out at friends and is indifferent to enemies.  He no longer hungers strictly for food, but sometimes for poison, and his sexual appetite has degenerated into blatant self-mutilation.  Eventually he dies, and becomes a carcass of flesh.
The flesh has a high degree of intrinsic order to it, but we eliminate this as well.  Organ systems decay, tissues dissolve, cells collapse.  The chains of proteins break up one by one, leaving smaller and simpler molecules as the corpse which was once a man becomes a mass of sludge.  The simple molecules in turn give up their order, the order which places some atoms in relation to others as part of a whole.  Now we have a collection of atoms belonging to various elements.  Suppose we eliminate the ordering from this collection of matter, so that atomic structure collapses and there are simply free-floating neutrons, electrons and protons.  Then we disperse the quark trios which make up the neutrons and protons, bringing everything into a primal soup of elementary particles.  Finally we remove the last distinction: between being and nothingness, and allow all the fermions and bosons to return to the undifferentiated void.
B.  Some sayings:
  1. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.
  2. Necessity is the mother of Invention.
  3. A stitch in time saves nine.
  4. Habit is the will’s best friend.