“Benign Shabbiness”

In an essay I struggled with (if for nothing else, because part of its logic would seem to be a defense of euthanasia, as well as the fact that the essay also seems to confirm my long-held suspicion that he is ultimately a Greco-Roman pagan with the excesses of such worn down by cultural Christianity), Sir Roger Scruton posits an compelling vision of how the virtue of courage prepares us for dying a timely death:

With courage a person can go about living in another way…This other way is not the way of the welfare culture in which we are all immersed. It does not involve the constant search for comforts or the obsessive pursuit of health. On the contrary, it is a way of benign shabbiness and self-neglect, of risky enjoyments and bold adventures. It involves constant exercise–but not of the body. Rather, exercise of the person, through relationships with others, through sacrifice, through the search for opportunities to be involved and exposed…Of course you should drink, smoke, eat fatty foods–but not to the point of gluttony. The purpose is to weaken the body while strengthening the mind…

Each of us must decide for himself what the life of benign shabbiness requires of him…The main point, it seems to me, is to maintain a life of active risk and affection, while helping the body along the path of decay, remembering always that the value of life does not consist in its length but in its depth.

“Dying in Time,” from Confessions of a Heretic, pp. 149-150

This is a decidedly different view of life from that promoted to us by various industries and our popular culture; this is a vision of life that tells us that death is to be accepted and embraced–but not heedlessly run towards in suicidal hedonism!–and that, having understood the reality of death, we must live, as beings that are a part of a world, a culture, a civilization. The last bit–depth, rather than length–is something the ancients (and even our grandparents) understood, but that we, sometime in the last generation or so, have forgotten. Well, most of us–including, I must admit, myself sometimes.

How can I live in benign shabbiness? How can I embrace the reality of death? How can I do that while still being true to my ethics, metaphysics, and faith?

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