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Error: "It's Not A Party Until You've Puked"

It's Not A Party Until You've Puked.

1) Introduction

I thought some philosophical errors were so obvious, that they didn't need to be refuted on my web site. Then, a few days ago, I had a conversation with a young chap who proceeded to explain to me how God didn't exist, how Bach's music gave him the creeps, how it wasn't a party until you had puked, and so on.

So, dear Young Gentleman somewhere out there, here is my best attempt at refuting your error.

2) It's my pleasure

As I'm typing these words for you, Young Gentleman, I'm in one of my favorite spots. I'm sitting in front of my laptop, with the beautiful music of Johann Sebastian Bach in my ears (the Well-Tempered Clavier), sipping a coffee. If I look up and to the right just a little bit, I can see my cross and my icon of the Virgin Mary.

This morning, while standing next to the intensely underused confessional at the beautiful church of the Most-Holy-Sacrament, I looked at all the people in the pews, and had a strange thought: "Poor suckers, sitting there while there is a jackpot of Graces being handed out over here, for free!" I almost felt guilty.

The reading at Mass was: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world" [Jc 1:27]. So that's how I'll spend this Sunday, dear Young Gentleman: trying to visit you, since you're an orphan (having killed God the Father in your life), and a widow (having divorced from Wisdom).

3) What is a good party?

Young Gentleman, when you gather with your acquaintances to have a "party", you are doing exactly what Aristotle and Saint Thomas Aquinas say men do: they seek happiness [Summa Theologica, I-II, q. 1-3, etc.].

Just like a rock starts to fall as soon as it's unsupported by something, we start seeking happiness as soon as we become conscious. We can't help noticing we are missing something very big and very fundamental, so we look for it. But although we are necessarily drawn to ultimate happiness, there is no such thing as ultimate happiness around us, just small, incomplete, partial "happinesses". Because of their limited nature, these "small happinesses" don't "capture" our will necessarily. We remain free to choose one or the other.

But all choices are not equal. Some "small happinesses" are only apparent, and actually lead us away from real happiness. Because we have a definite human nature, some acts are harmful, and some are good. The study of such acts is called "Morality".

So, what is a good party? It depends who the party is for. If a bunch of racoons get together for a party, they can't do much more than eat, drink and make baby racoons. Racoons don't have reason and free-will like we do. What fulfills a racoon cannot fulfill us, because we don't have the same nature.


4) Would a racoon do that?

Actually, things are a bit more complicated, because even racoons wouldn't do things that some men do. Take vomiting for example: there is nothing enjoyable about vomiting, and vomiting is a reaction of the body to something that should not have been ingested. When the digestive system detects something which can harm it, it tries to defend itself by throwing it out.

Racoons aren't stupid. They carefully examine what they are going to eat and drink, in order to avoid ingesting something that could hurt them. Moreover, when they have eaten and drunk enough, they stop. When a man tries to stoop down and behave like a beast (i.e., choose bodily pleasure instead of virtue), he ends up below the beast (i.e. doing degrading things that even beasts devoid of reason would never do).

Another example of the stupidity of men is drugs and alcohol. Imagine a sad racoon, a racoon who didn't have anything to eat, a racoon whose den needed repairs because everything got wet when it rained, a racoon who was lonely because he was so weak and ugly that no lady-racoon wanted to go near him. What would that racoon do? He would start foraging for food, digging a new den, doing exercise to become more attractive, etc.

A racoon wouldn't say to himself: "I could actually solve my problems, but instead I'll just pretend to solve them. I'll take drugs and alcohol so I'll get the same good feeling I'd get if my problems were solved!"

5) Conclusion

True happiness can be defined as: "The most perfect activity of our highest faculty". Imagine for example what happiness could be for a screwdriver. Of course, you can do many things with a screwdriver, like open a can of paint or push a rotting dead rodent into a garbage bag. But "happiness" for a screwdriver would probably be more like screwing the right kind of screw (for example, Robertson #2), screwing them straight and at the right depth, and doing this to assemble something noble, like high-quality bookshelves to hold good books.

It's a bit the same thing for us. True happiness for us is certainly not painfully throwing up bad stuff that can harm one of the lower faculties of our body (our digestive system), but more like absorbing with pleasure and joy the good stuff that fulfills the highest faculties of our soul (our intellect and will).

Higher! Higher! Happiness is in our higher faculties! (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book 10, Chapter 7).
[Source for racoon wisdom, Source for skyscraper-climbing racoon]

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