Friday, October 10, 2008

Remembering joy

"It is an art - and it belongs to the art of living of Epicurus, the most sublime and most reflective of the hedonists - to make the remembrance of past joys into a source of present comfort in situations of suffering."

- Robert Spaemann, Happiness and Benevolence (trans. Jeremiah Alberg, S.J.; University of Notre Dame, 2000 [1989]), 34-35.

The alternative, of course, is that memories of past joys can make present suffering worse through the slow poison of nostalgia. How is it possible to avoid this? In what does this art of joyful memory of which Spaemann speaks consist? How can we remember with joy that which we no longer enjoy?

5 comments:

Named One said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Named One said...

It seems to me that past joys are a present comfort in the midst of suffering only if they provide a sense of hope.

Drew said...

Named One, I think something similar: In apprehending the past, in the way we apprehend a past, we also apprehend a future. We look forward by looking back.

But if this is done in a nostalgic way, like Byron suggests, we never entertain the future as being better - it's all down hill from there. So hope requires an uncompromising honesty in memory. It also requires honesty in our eschatology - our hopes must have a sure foundation. And so, this one actually comes first perhaps - our future founds our past.

So, is it then a question of discipline of images, imagination, in how one represents the past and the future to oneself (and others!) in any particular situation? I wonder how much of this is a question of will?

Named One said...

Drew - Your statement, "our future founds our past" reminds me of theologian, Ted Peters' idea of proleptic eschatology in "God-The World's Future. Concerning questions of the will in the role of hope and memory is perhaps to deep of waters for me to traverse. I did however, write a post about Ted Peter's proleptic idea of providence on my old blog which may have some relevance to your question @ http://theologicalsketches.wordpress.com/2008/03/19/providence-is-cruciform/.

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