Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Dear Palpatine

May 01st, 2015 by Vader

It was unavoidable.

I once joked to His Majesty that he ought to come up with his own answers to the questions posed to “Abigail Van Buren”, the advice columnist persona created by Pauline Phillips and continued after her retirement and death by her daughter. I should have known from the immediate gleam in his eye that this was going to be no joke.

It began yesterday.

DEAR ABBY: I’m 45, employed and earning plenty of money. I’m in a great relationship, my kids and grandkids are healthy and happy, and my parents are alive and well. I enjoy the small things in life, fishing, reading, the beach, mini vacations, bowling, etc. I raise funds to feed the homeless.

So what’s my problem, you ask? Abby, I’m not really sure what my purpose is in life or if the way my life is, is normal. I feel content — even happy at times — but I’m troubled because it seems a lot of people do the exact opposite of what I am doing and they all have a purpose. Some of them are going to school, raising kids, having relationship problems, money issues, etc. They seem to be doing so much, and I feel like I’m doing so little.

What is normal for my age? Should I be doing more? Most times I feel happy, but on a day like today I feel unfulfilled. Do I need to do more? — WHAT IS NORMAL?

You can read what “Abby” suggested here. It’s the usual pablum. The comments added by readers were worse.

But then there’s His Majesty.

There are a number of possibilities here, which I will explore in turn.

The simplest, and perhaps most likely, explanation is that this is a subtle form of boasting. You are announcing in a public forum that you have it all, but are such a good person that you cannot help feeling you should be doing more. If this is the case, the correct response is, of course: Get over yourself. When you can honestly report that you’ve helped clear land mines in some Third World hellhole, then maybe you will have the right to boast publicly about the quality of your life.

The latter is, incidentally, superb advice for almost any ex-politician or fading celebrity. If nothing else, it would reduce the burden on the rest of us having to hear about them.

Another possibility, though less likely, is that you have been wrestling with some deep philosophical issues. Most people really aren’t bright enough to grapple with the Terrible Questions effectively; you may be one of them. Still, you deserve some credit for at least feeeeling the questions, even if you have done a piss-poor job of articulating them.

What is real? Ultimately, the only reality we know is the fact of our own existence. Or, to be more precise, the only reality I know for sure is the fact of my existence; you may well be a figment of my imagination. However, this retreat to solipsism is unconstructive. But it does point the way to the ultimate purpose of existence, which is to expand one’s self. You have, of course, heard many a celebrity go on about self-realization, and so perhaps they too, in their inept way, have sensed this fundamental truth.

How do you expand yourself? By incorporating more of reality within your own person. I am using person in a broad sense to include your sphere of influence, not just your actual physical self, which is fairly unimportant (and, if you are like most Americans with grandchildren, probably quite unattractive.) It is the goal of all thinking beings whose eyes have been opened to increase the sphere of their influence, in hopes that it will someday encompass all of reality. You may find The Screwtape Letters and, even more so, Screwtape Proposes a Toast to be useful guides, though of course not in the way C.S. Lewis intended.

Raising money to feed the homeless? Pfffth. If you  had real political skills, you’d run for public office, so as to be in a position to put real pressure on others to give you control of their blood and treasure, and for many worthy causes, not just prolonging the suffering of a band of insignificant mental defectives. You need some real vision. But I doubt you have those skills, so you’ll have to find something better matched to your means. If you have some writing skill, you might start a political blog, for example. Or you might have enough just enough political skill to participate in your local government, where zoning laws provide a surprising amount of scope for governing your unruly neighbors. Do this long enough, and you may even be immortalized with a brass plaque on some public work. At the very least, you can become the terror of your immediate neighborhood. There is nothing quite so satisfying as knowing that everyone around you trembles at your approach.

Or you may be suffering from simple boredom. How anyone can possibly be bored, in an age of unmatched access to information, is beyond me, but then I’m a thinking Sith. If you don’t like thinking, and nothing in your letter indicates that you do, then this is also an age of unmatched access to various forms of dissipation. I recommend saving up for a vacation in Las Vegas. It will give you something work towards, and, with luck, the sequelae of your visit will occupy you for the rest of your life.

Sometimes I’m glad I don’t eat breakfast any more. But the Sith in me is saying that this is at least an honest and entertaining answer, unlike Abby’s.

My own reaction to the column was disappointment (but, alas, not surprise) that there was no mention whatsoever of religious involvement. Two scriptures come to mind:

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

This is not, of course, an answer that His Majesty could be expected to put forward. It is nonetheless the serious answer.

His Majesty also responded to the second letter of the day:

DEAR ABBY: I recently bought a new cellphone and was assigned a number by the company. I have been receiving calls and messages for the person who had the number before it was given to me.

At first, I would let the caller or texter know that the person he/she was trying to reach no longer had this number. However, it takes up my expensive minutes to make those replies. Am I under any obligation to contact these folks, or can I just ignore their contacts?

HIS MAJESTY: Ignore them. If the person who previously had the number didn’t think these people were important enough to forward his new contact information to, why should you?

You know, for once, it’s hard to beat His Majesty’s answer.

I fear he may be wearing off on me.

Comments (11)
Filed under: There are monkey-boys in the facility | Tags: , ,
May 01st, 2015 10:05:29
11 comments

Zen
May 1, 2015

It has never ceases to amaze me how many people write in or call in to such advice columns or radio shows with what could only be described as masochism. In spite of an anything goes culture, some people seem to want to be told that some things are just unacceptable. It seems, there is a primal desire by Man to be rebuked by prophets, but if prophets are passe, then the advice columist du jour.


G.
May 1, 2015

His Majesty sounds just like the school counselor at me and Dr. Franklin’s Alma Mater.

*How do you expand yourself? By incorporating more of reality within your own person.*

I actually think this is a profound insight, though probably not at all in the way HM meant it.


Vader
May 1, 2015

His Majesty is profound, in a way. But he is also proud, and therefore cannot conceive of anything inherently greater than himself. I think this is the root of his agnosticism.

It reminds me of how Nietzche was profound, but most nihilists who came after were astonishingly shallow.

Or perhaps of the sinners banquet in Screwtape Proposes a Toast. (For any unfamiliar with the work: I have not forgotten an apostrophe.) Nietzche, and His Majesty, are sinners with some crunch to them. Modern celebrities talking about self-actualization are overcooked, soggy sinners.


Jeeves
May 1, 2015

His Majesty has an unmatched capacity for being droll and horrifying at the same time.

If I may be forgiven for taking the liberty, it seems to me that boredom is a manifestation of the first wrestlings with the terrible questions. It is the deep sense that we are meant for higher things, and tempus fugit


Pecos Bill
May 1, 2015

I cain’t say I savvy all what yer sayin’, Mr. Jeeves, but it seems to me that there’s work to do and time’s a-wastin’.


J. Smith
May 1, 2015

I think the notion of expanding ourselves by incorporating more of reality in our beings is correct when properly understood.

His Majesty apparently cannot conceive of expanding his sphere of influence by anything other than force majeure. In this respect he reminds me very much of someone I wrestled with in my early teens.

There is another model which was taught to me once while I was being involuntarily detained: “… thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.” The circumstances under which this came to me made for a rather powerful contrast.

The alternative to expanding your sphere of influence by force is to expand it by love.


G.
May 1, 2015

Thanks, Brother Joe, that’s wisdom.


Bruce Charlton
May 2, 2015

wrt: The original letter – one way of reading it could be the cry of: ‘Is this all life has to offer?’ to which the Abby reply is: “Pretty much – yes! So (try to) Be Happy with what you have – because that’s all there is.”

In other words the situation in Ecclesiastes – in this world, and a mortal life, ultimately all is vanity.

And from this there is no honest escape, and despair is the only honest reaction. So the counsel of Abby, although she perhaps does not realize it – is a counsel of despair – bleak, nihilistic, hope-less.

Unless there is more, unless there is something beyond this life, and something different and better in kind – once we have raised the question of value we truly have no grounds for hope; which is why secular self-help does have the cumulative effect either of evasiveness and spin – or else it induces a deepening despair.

The choice is stark, and ought to depend on what you think is true. If religion, strictly Christianity or something like it, is false then we must live without hope (or with only a delusion of hope) as best we may and by arbitrary criteria; or if it is true, then potentially everything is changed because hope is real.


G.
May 2, 2015

It doesn’t matter how black the night was, in the dawn.


Bookslinger
May 2, 2015

I appreciate my home more after camping out.


Vader
May 2, 2015

Bruce,

Your analysis is spot-on.

I think His Majesty positively relishes rubbing in the nihilistic point of view. Otherwise, his second answer is essentially, at its root, the same as Abby’s.

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