The Absurd Epistolary Adventures of the Astonishing FartMan chronicles the amusing escapades
of the lovable, stinky, and obnoxious Cape & Tights Super Hero, and his maudlin Alter Ego, W____,
as they learn to cope with Stage IV colon cancer, each other, and their annoying fellow human beings.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Thumos? What the Heck Is He Yapping About?

Dear Blog Readers,

Here's a goofy email my alter ego, T. A. FartMan, just sent to some obscure political pundit.

(Yes, I know The FartMan doesn't like me to refer to him as my alter ego, even though he calls me his alter ego. Well, I say it cuts both ways.)

Anyway, the boy clearly has too much time on his hands, and I don't quite understand why he's so big on "attachments," since all he ever does is complain about being attached to our chemo pump.

What a crybaby!

And if he doesn't stop with this snooty political philosophy crap, which really has nothing to do either with cancer or with farting, I swear I'm gonna start looking to hook up with a new Super Hero.

As a big favor to me, please leave lots of comments telling T. A. that if he wants me to stay on the job as his alter ego, he should never post anything like this ever again.

Thanks for your help.


From: T. A. FartMan
Sent: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 9:23 PM
To: Peter Robinson
Subject: Mansfield and the Loss Our Own Thumos

Mr. Robinson,

Questions/thoughts for Mr. Mansfield:

At the end of Segment 2 of your recorded talk with him, Mr. Mansfield suggests that his undergrads, who have been taught, wrongly by others, to doubt that the United States deserves its prominent powerful place in the world, might help themselves by learning something about how that power and prominence came about, an especially relevant question since as Mansfield says, "it's their own country involved."

The difficulty is with that word "own," which has lost most of its power.

Ideas like ownership, one's own, one's own property, one's own family, one's own wife, one's own country, i.e., the everyday common sense ideas and inclinations arising from the fundamental human glue, thumos--which, so I think, holds families and societies together--have been proclaimed crass, mean, gauche, and unenlightened, not only in a theoretical philosophical sense, but as a practical matter.
Nowadays, it is considered wrong ever to say, "That's mine." It's no longer wisdom to think or to practice "To each his own." Instead, we are supposed to be willing to share everything indiscriminately with everyone--money, honors, sex--because no one can possess for anything an "ownership" claim more justified than anyone else's. Property ownership is said to be a result of unfair power disparities. Family attachments are said to be outmoded conventions. With the de-humanization of thumos, and therewith the emasculation of manly integrity, the loss of a capacity for truly righteous anger, and the suppression of the noble instinct to rise hot in defense of one's own, we are losing the psychological capacity for enduring attachment--whether to family or country, whether to people or principle. Students learn from their modern teachers that there's nothing worthy of caring much about, and certainly nothing worth fighting for.

Worse, we've descended so far into a darker deeper cave that we modern westerners are losing even our attachment to the very idea of attachment itself. Formerly, so I thought, human nature sought human attachments, and the business of choosing one's attachments was perhaps the most important practical human activity. But now among our most well-educated youth, human nature is so corrupted that it seems a common view that to feel a deep lasting attachment to anything is to suffer from an uneducated lack of a proper cynicism.

The fact is, attachment, the set of expectations and demands regarding a thing one considers one's own, is selfish, and thus our human attachments all inevitably involve some portion of disappointment: Being ignorant youngsters, misguided by their previous teachers, your students almost universally had attached themselves to the new left, which seemed to them to be seductively idealistic. But then, if they were unfortunate enough ever to be paying attention in their classes, the new left quickly taught them that there is no truth, that there is only power, with the result that they could no longer be attached to anything as true, neither to a person nor to a principle. So they are giving up on all attachments, and float unconnected from here to there to the next person or place, to wherever a fleeting pleasure might carry them.

How do you dig your students out of that cave?

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