The Measure of Man

The achievements of man are not marred by the failures of men. However much trash people push onto the marketplace in order to extract their share of the penny it will never be able to drown out the work of a Mozart. However much bile people spew onto the pages and screens of today their combined force would never so much as put a stain on the achievement of a Dostoyevsky. However immoral and malicious a life people may lead, the combined total of their sins would not take a day off the life of a Cato. As the achievements of man rise ever higher, the failures of men are condemned to the boundless depths below.

It is easy to lose faith in your ideal. The world is flooded with the imperfect, the fake and the mediocre, with manipulators trying to shift public opinion just long enough for their hands to grasp the purse and hypocrites filling the public eyes, ears and mind with so much noise and fog that nothing becomes certain and opinions change by the day, or worse, are embedded so deep that change is made impossible. The public doesn’t care for your ideal, it doesn’t value your art and it doesn’t share your morals.

But why do you care? Is it the common opinion that shapes your beliefs, the fickle judgement of the mob that forms your values? No. Those are your own. You may choose to lead your life by the values of others or by your own, but in the end these is only one person whose judgement will matter. Men can survive by surrendering their values, but they cannot lead a life of man.

All this is to say the following: since it is you who is going to be the judge of your life, you must live it in accordance with your ideal. Your actions and your work must be a reflection of it. It is doubtless that your ideal will be assailed daily, sometimes by direct assault, mostly through mindless negligence, incompetence and folly. The only way your ideal can be damaged is through a gradual weakening of your will to live by it, through a continuous infusion of doubt and uncertainty in its integrity and its potential. But since the power of the ideal does not reside in the idea but in those who pursue it, the strength of the will to carry on becomes the measure of its success. In this way, each attack must be transformed from barrier to fuel, from an impediment to a chance to exercise your resolve. The strike must become the spur. This overcoming of resistance is what leads to the formation of values, and it is only through the persistent effort of the idealist that the fragments of the ideal will enter our world.

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Further Reading

Proust wrote that the true voyage of discovery is not to visit strange lands, but to possess other eyes, to behold a hundred universes that each of them beholds. Thus, in the words of Ruskin, what good books give us is not mere knowledge, but sight.

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