Thoughts on Something Aristotle Wrote

This weekend’s been difficult, painful and harsh on me, for reasons so complicated I don’t know how to broach them here. So I’ll just post a good quote I found from Aristotle’s Poetics:

Tragedy is essentially an imitation not of persons but of action and life, of happiness and misery. All human happiness or misery takes the form of action; the end for which we live is a certain kind of activity, not a quality. Character gives us qualities, but it is in our actions ?what we do ?that we are happy or the reverse.

This is important to remember. We always have choices to take actions, or refrain from actions. Which ones we take upon ourselves, or refrain from, can make all the difference. It may feel like nothing we do makes any difference… we sometimes feel so keenly that we cannot succeed, cannot be loved, cannot find happiness; sometimes it is something as simple as feeling we will never get grammar in a foreign language right, or manage to get some project done. Sometimes it’s fear of a life of loneliness or of poverty or failure in one’s career, or even the danger of death.

But as long as we are alive, there is always some small thing we must be able to do. The intelligent mind always comes around to looking for what exactly that is, and finally seizing upon it and acting. Action is the only way we change ourselves and the world. Action is everything, which stands in contrast to the model of self we often get in the modern North American cult of victimhood. Feeling victimized changes nothing. Trying to beat the victimization away and rise up may not result in success. But it is doing something, and that is better than merely surrendering to feelings.

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