News from The Gentlemen's Club with The Kansas Farmer - Curated by Paul Nichol (Jan. 6)
Well, we will soon be ushering in a new year; a time when we all reflect on our past sins, and look forward to a duller, but more pious future by declaring New Year’s Revolutions.
My son Seth asked me if I had any things I wanted to change moving forward. I said “No, of course not. The Good Lord made me in his own image. Why would I want to mess with that kind of perfection?”
Then I asked Seth, “What about you?” “Oh yes Father, I’ve become determined to follow the path of stoicism.” “You mean like that funny thing that happens to people’s eyes sometimes?” “No Dad, I think that’s stigmatism. And why do you always interrupt me with stupid comments that make me ashamed to be your son – especially in social settings with groups of people?”
Thinking we had perhaps gotten off topic, I asked him what exactly this stoicism was all about. Was it some crazy new-fangled thing they teach kids at college these days? He replied that it went way back to the ancient Greeks. “The philosophical system of stoicism, which is a Hellenistic philosophy, focuses on the idea that people should be impervious to both pleasure and pain. The only thing that really matters is virtue.”
“Well, sucks to be them,” I said. “Did you memorize that, or just make it up?”
“You and I know full well Dad, you are the only person in this family that makes things up. In fact, you seem to be trying to make a career of it.” I had to concede he was right.
“Well, what kind of ‘virtue’ are we talking about? I mean, is it penny ante, like patiently listening through a conversation with Dale Wanless, or being polite to Marguerite Thomas?”
“No, Dad. Much bigger.” “Like volunteering my time and donating money to the Ethel Society for the Prevention of Destitute Polecats?”
“No, Father. There are four stoic virtues. Would you like to hear them?”
“Okay, hit me,” I said.
“The first is wisdom.” “We can skip that one.” “I agree,” said Seth. “All the wisdom you taught me could be put on the head of a pin. In fact, I think you have sucked out whatever wisdom I was born with. Because of you, I am now in a wisdom deficit.”
“Okay. What’s next?” “Justice.” “Ah, now there’s one I’ve got. I ain’t hurt nobody, no how, no time at all.” Seth then brought up those two on-going libel suits from David Blaney and Joe Seili, plus that paternity thing with some woman from Teeswater. So I had to take a pass.
“What’s next Seth?” “Temperance”. “Don’t be absurd. Let’s move on.”
“And the last stoic virtue is... courage!” “A-ha!” said I. “Now that’s my trump card.” And then I relayed to Seth all the uncountable instances where I showed a staunch fortitude in the face of innumerable odds. Seth responded, “If you are so brave Father, why is it every time you and Mom disagree, you always fold and lose? It’s because you are a coward.”
Seth finally asked me. “Are you soulless, Father?” I replied that I was soulless on Turnberry for a while. “Don’t you want to improve yourself? Don’t you have any aspirations or a kind of moral compass to guide you?” “Why, yes Son,” I said. “I’m a staunch believer in Wildeism.”
“And just exactly what is that?” I explained, “It comes from the great playwright Oscar Wilde who said, ‘It’s a free world, baby and there are only two things that a human being should never do. One is incest. The other is Scottish folk dancing.” I had to confide in Seth that I have engaged in one of the two. Some of my Presbyterian readers will know what I’m talking about.
As a consequence of this enlightenment, I will be introducing a bylaw at the next meeting of the Brussels Gentlemen’s Club resolving that we adopt all four stoic virtues as a regular course of conduct. I expect it will fail due to dissenting votes from board members Wheeler, Campbell and Demaray. As to the rest, I guess it depends on whether or not they are Presbyterian.
In the meantime, Happy New Year, everyone! And good luck with all your revolutions.