Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wednesday with Words - Boethius

Wednesday With Words

Recently I read an article about how Boethius influenced thinking in the middle ages and many great rulers copied his work “The Consolation of Philosophy” in times of trouble.  So, I decided to give it a read (although I am reading a more recent translation than the google books version).  WOW!  I really like it.  Basically it is a conversation about the whims of fortune as Lady Philosophy helps Boethius deal with his turn of luck.  (He uses the term wheel of fortune frequently).  In translation, it is not a difficult work nor is it long.  

As she asks him about his situation she puts it to him this way:
“As Homer tells us ‘ Speak out, don’t hold it, buried in your heart.”  If you want the physicians cure you must bear your wound. “
In Latin vulnus is wound.  From which we get vulnerability.  So, if we want the cure we must be vulnerable – which is basically what happens in the rest of the conversation.  He bears his wounded pride and she applies ‘medicine’.

I don’t need a library with comfortable chairs, ivory gewgaws, and big glass windows, but rather the workroom of your mind, for it isn’t the books that are important but the ideas in them, the opinions and principles of times gone by, which is what gives the books their value. 
And here is what philosophy says about the root of his illness:

“Tell me this.  Do you remember the purpose of things and the goal of Nature’s order?”
“I used to know that, but in my grief, I can’t remember.”
“Well, what is the source of all things?”
“God.” I said, albeit tentatively.
“But how can you remember the beginning of things and not remember their end?  You are distracted, it would appear, but not totally undone.  Tell me this.  Do you remember that you are a man?”
“Yes, of course.”
“And what is a man?” she asked.
“Are you asking me if I believe that man is a mortal, rational animal?  Both of those things are certainly true.”
“But are you not something more?”
“I don’t think so, no.”
After a brief pause, she said.  “I see.  And I understand the cause of your sickness.  You have forgotten what you are.  I see why and how you are ill, and I also see the way to cure you.  It is what you cannot remember that causes you to feel lost and to grieve about your exile and the loss of your property.  If you cannot remember the goal of all things, then you suppose that wicked men have power and luck.  And because you have forgotten how the world is ordered, you imagine that there is nothing but the vicissitudes of Fortune.  This is enough not only to cause serious illness but even death. 
 There is more, but not for today! 

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