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conformity and culture

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conformity and culture

Postby klewlis » Fri Jan 16, 2004 11:03 pm

my little sister just turned 18 and is going through an anti-establishment phase. she was explaining to me why she will never shave her legs again:

but it's just not natural. It's too, corporate America. I wan't to douse the fact that people think that if you /don't/ shave your legs, it's not natural. Seeing as women have been on the earth for centuries upon centuries and shaving only came up around the 1920's.... I mean, it just seems so un natural to me. To quote an article I read...

"There comes a time when social conformity begins to gnaw on you. Ideas and actions are not right merely because everyone else does them; they have just never been questioned."


my response:

what do you mean, "natural"? body hair is an evolutionary remnant from the days when humans needed the hair to keep warm and protect their skin. now we have clothing and warm houses, so we no longer need body hair, and any that we have (or don't have) is purely for aesthetic reasons anyway (except for the hair on our heads, which still serves to retain heat in the winter).

no technology is "natural"--from fire to eyeglasses to computers, it's all simply an extension of our own cababilities, which is neither inherently good nor bad. or you could say that it is ALL natural, since it is all a part of our evolutionary development as a human race.

how can you say that shaving your legs is too corporate america, and then spend all your time on the internet, which is far more a part of corporate america? you wear clothing, you drive cars, you listen to mp3s, you fly in airplanes, you own a cell phone, you watch tv... but shaving your legs is not natural? why stop there? why not stop cutting your hair and fingernails? why not run around naked and live in the bush?

anyway, i'm just pointing out that *non*conformity can be just as mindless and pointless as conformity, but you have to think everything through carefully and find the best balance. remember that ideas and actions are not necessarily *wrong* just because everyone else does them, either.


discuss. :)
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Re: conformity and culture

Postby annis » Fri Jan 16, 2004 11:31 pm

klewlis wrote:discuss. :)


Yay!

This is one of my pet peeves, this "if it's natural it's good" meme. I like to point out that dying in childbirth is quite natural, too, but I don't see too many pushing a pro-dying-in-childbirth agenda.

On the one hand ([face=spionic]me/n[/face]) I think it's good to worry a bit about the state of the natural world. Partly this is a matter of hybris, but frankly my biggest concern is fouling my own home. But ([face=spionic]de/[/face]) people seem often to confuse this sensible concern about what sort of world we're leaving behind us with some notion that all of the natural world is good, and I cannot see how anyone who isn't a deep fatalist can accept this. A tornado is good? Intestinal parasites are good? Mass gamma burst planet-fry is good? Nature isn't all sunrises and bunny rabbits.

It turns out that the part of our immune systems responsible for allergies is also in charge of keeping parasites out. Interestingly, in places where people have a high parasite load, there are no allergies. When a culture gets the economic backing to improve hygiene and drugs, the parasites go and allergies come. This includes awful auto-immune diseases like Crone's disease, which (gross) can be quieted by giving the sufferer some nice intestinal worms. Quite frankly, I'm happy to be unnatural and sneeze around cats in preference to having worms.

(Sorry about that. I just read Parasite Rex so my dinner and party conversation is now largely about Toxoplasma gondii and parasitic wasps that lay their eggs in other bugs.)

So I go with Dawkins on this. Darwin is a great way to explain the variety of life on this planet, but it's no basis at all for a system of morality. What's best about humans appears precicely where we refuse to serve as designed.

In the grand scheme of moral questions, I am indifferent to leg shaving. (I do worry about shaving my face, because I look like an animal with a horrible skin disease is living on my face if I don't.) It's not really clear to me that refraining needs to be justified. But as you point out, it is perhaps not the strongest anti-corporate statement one could make.
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Postby benissimus » Sat Jan 17, 2004 4:44 am

I wholeheartedly agree with both of you. Nothing so simple or cosmetic as not shaving your legs (or face) really has any important justification. What is important is that we have control of ourselves and make the choice for our own sake. As soon as someone takes away that choice, by forced conformity on the one hand, by popular conformity on the other, that is when we are truly forced against our own nature.
Last edited by benissimus on Sat Jan 17, 2004 7:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Kalailan » Sat Jan 17, 2004 6:01 am

I read you talking about shaving legs as if it's something that she has to do!

it's entirely her choice whether to shave her legs or not.


to klewlis:

while some of what you write is true, the damage that is done to people because of the need to fit in the ideal of beauty is great at some times.
take a hairy woman. she feels quite bad because of it, and has no reason to.

and i do agree that it's wrong that everything natural is good.
i meet lots of people who just want everything natural.
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Postby chad » Mon Jan 19, 2004 6:53 am

aristocratic roman men used to get body waxes, using plasters and stuff. so it seems that even cicero and his contemporaries were slaves to the influence of modern corporate america ;)
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Postby klewlis » Mon Jan 19, 2004 4:22 pm

oh no, I didn't mean at all that she *should* shave her legs. I was simply questioning her reasons because I had a sneaking suspicion that they were a result of adolescent anti-establishment(ism?), as indeed they are. I simply wanted to help her start to question and discuss some of these things. Personally, I don't care if she shaves her legs or not. :P

As for making statements, refusing to do things such as shaving one's legs seems to be rather weak and futile... the only company who could notice would be Gilette. But perhaps it is simply the beginning of a young person's quest to change her world, and as she learns and matures she may direct her energies into more productive ways... in which case I'm all for it--in the meantime hopefully she can learn to evaluate such things thoroughly.

The idea of "natural is good" fascinates me as well, and I love William's examples. Where did this natural is good idea come from? Was it a reaction to "progress"? Have we always had it? Sometime in the past year I was reading about this, but now I can't remember where so I will have to locate it.
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Postby Episcopus » Mon Jan 19, 2004 4:59 pm

Well women nowadays have become just pretty things to look at, that is, those who have influence over adolescents. So it becomes "normal" for all to follow. Usually amongst men unshaven legs of women are considered nasty. Many of the aforementioned ornaments paint their faces with too much makeup that makes them look nasty.

Yet respect to your sister :wink: for that resistance. Sweet.
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Postby Emma_85 » Mon Jan 19, 2004 6:23 pm

I'm not sure where exactly this idea that natural is good comes from. I don't think it's something that we always had.
But Rousseau could be blamed partly for this 'natural is good' idea that came up again in the 60s. Where Roussau got his idea from I don't really know...
Maybe Plato? :?
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Postby klewlis » Mon Jan 19, 2004 7:59 pm

we see the same thing in the current proliferation of "herbal remedies", which is sprung from the same idea--natural must be better than artificial, so instead of drugs use herbs. The general public never figures out that sometimes artificial is better and even safer than some "natural" stuff. It's really very interesting. My mother disapproves of my using Tylenol for a headache or Nytol for my chronic sleep problems, even though I do not abuse them in any way. That must be where my sister is getting it from.
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Postby bingley » Tue Jan 20, 2004 5:48 am

chad wrote:aristocratic roman men used to get body waxes, using plasters and stuff. so it seems that even cicero and his contemporaries were slaves to the influence of modern corporate america ;)


Augustus was rumoured to use hot walnut shells as a depilatory for his legs. I've often wondered how he (or rather his slaves) got the walnut shells without breaking them.
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Postby Keesa » Tue Jan 20, 2004 2:57 pm

klewlis wrote:we see the same thing in the current proliferation of "herbal remedies", which is sprung from the same idea--natural must be better than artificial, so instead of drugs use herbs. The general public never figures out that sometimes artificial is better and even safer than some "natural" stuff. It's really very interesting. My mother disapproves of my using Tylenol for a headache or Nytol for my chronic sleep problems, even though I do not abuse them in any way. That must be where my sister is getting it from.


Ahhha! At last, something I can argue with. Granted, the idea that all herbs are beneficial, and no herbs will ever harm you is wrong-dead wrong, as they say. (Ever tried nibbling on a foxglove flower? Well, obviously not, because you're still alive and reading this post.) But I do think that herbal remedies, when you use them carefully and really know what you're doing, are much, much better for you than the articficial, man-made drugs (not all of which are artificial. Asprin is (or used to be) made from an extract of willow bark.).

I will agree with you on the "natural is best" idea. It can be best. But it isn't always. People seem to assume that because it's herbal, and it's natural, it has to be good. They (at least the ones I've come into contact with) don't seem to realize that there are certain things you must and must not do when using herbs as medicines, just as there are things you must and must not do with drugs.

At the same time, you can't approach this from the other side-that just because something is artificial, it's better! Personally, I would rather take a cup of peppermint tea for a headache any day. Herbs are very gentle, and there's another benefit (to taking them the way I do, in a tea, not a pill); when you take a Tylenol, you pop it in your mouth, wash it down, and go about your day. With a cup of peppermint tea, you have to boil the water, steep it, then sit down and drink it. It's a longer, slower process, and I think the relaxation is as healing as the herb. I'm not a scientist or a researcher, unfortunately, so I can't talk in terms of studies and chemical balances and any of these other things. I just use herbs, and they do work. But you can certainly take a Tylenol if that's what you prefer.

Standard disclaimer: I am not a doctor. The information on herbal remedies included in this post are my personal opinions only (well, except for the bit about foxglove being poisonous), and are not intended to diagnose or treat any illness. Never try to mix drugs and herbs without consulting a physician. Know your herbs before you use them. Never use more than one herb at a time, or one herb for extended periods of time, without consulting a physician or an expert herbalist. End standard disclaimer.
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Postby wally_2004 » Tue Jan 20, 2004 8:05 pm

Personally, I would rather take a cup of peppermint tea for a headache any day. Herbs are very gentle

How gentle IS foxglove...or bo-tox for that matter? I'm not convinced that herbs are in any way better than artificial drugs. several things worry me about herbs: a) they aren't regulated by the FDA (I'm sorry, but theres a big difference b/t hemlock and ginger) and b) the herbs have to be harvested from somewhere, maybe most are grown on farms, I have no idea, but if not, it seems to me that it would be better to take meds from the test-tube than to rob them from the rain forest.
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Postby Lex » Tue Jan 20, 2004 9:08 pm

Keesa wrote:Ahhha! At last, something I can argue with. Granted, the idea that all herbs are beneficial, and no herbs will ever harm you is wrong-dead wrong, as they say. (Ever tried nibbling on a foxglove flower? Well, obviously not, because you're still alive and reading this post.) But I do think that herbal remedies, when you use them carefully and really know what you're doing, are much, much better for you than the articficial, man-made drugs (not all of which are artificial. Asprin is (or used to be) made from an extract of willow bark.).


I think we should all remember at this point the dying words of Socrates, who said "I drank what?"

As for the leg shaving thing, I think an 18 year old girl will soon realize that sex is also natural, and that natural unshaven legs are quite likely to prevent this from happening. So this phase is naturally self-correcting! :lol:
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Postby Emma_85 » Tue Jan 20, 2004 9:38 pm

Grrr... legs are fine, but it's just plain stupid what else you have to shave. I won't go into the details here, I hope you all know what I'm talking about :evil: .
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Postby annis » Tue Jan 20, 2004 9:48 pm

Emma_85 wrote:Grrr... legs are fine, but it's just plain stupid what else you have to shave. I won't go into the details here, I hope you all know what I'm talking about :evil: .


A prickly topic, indeed.
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Postby klewlis » Tue Jan 20, 2004 9:56 pm

Keesa wrote:Ahhha! At last, something I can argue with. Granted, the idea that all herbs are beneficial, and no herbs will ever harm you is wrong-dead wrong, as they say. (Ever tried nibbling on a foxglove flower? Well, obviously not, because you're still alive and reading this post.) But I do think that herbal remedies, when you use them carefully and really know what you're doing, are much, much better for you than the articficial, man-made drugs (not all of which are artificial. Asprin is (or used to be) made from an extract of willow bark.).


But why? Do you have any basis for saying that herbs are better, aside from a vague feeling that natural is good and you enjoy relaxing with peppermint tea? What makes herbs inherently better than artificial medicines? Instead of Tylenol, would it be better for me to smoke some pot for pain relief, since that is "natural" too? I can sit, relax, and enjoy a joint as well as I can peppermint tea. ;)
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Postby annis » Tue Jan 20, 2004 9:57 pm

Keesa wrote:But I do think that herbal remedies, when you use them carefully and really know what you're doing, are much, much better for you than the articficial, man-made drugs ...


Why?

Very many drugs we'd consider artificial are ultimately derived from some natural thing, from plants, fungi, or whatever. And these sources will often have additional substances just as hepatotoxic as a Tylenol and Vodka chaser. The drug version has removed all but the desired agent or agents.

when you take a Tylenol, you pop it in your mouth, wash it down, and go about your day.


Exactly. I don't want a gentle drug when I cannot breathe out my nostrils. I want one that works right away!

With a cup of peppermint tea, you have to boil the water, steep it, then sit down and drink it. It's a longer, slower process, and I think the relaxation is as healing as the herb.


Well in this case, sure. But I don't see any particular virtue in a laborious herb process to treat something unrelated to my stress level.

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Postby klewlis » Tue Jan 20, 2004 9:59 pm

wally_2004 wrote:How gentle IS foxglove...or bo-tox for that matter? I'm not convinced that herbs are in any way better than artificial drugs. several things worry me about herbs: a) they aren't regulated by the FDA (I'm sorry, but theres a big difference b/t hemlock and ginger) and b) the herbs have to be harvested from somewhere, maybe most are grown on farms, I have no idea, but if not, it seems to me that it would be better to take meds from the test-tube than to rob them from the rain forest.


There definitely needs to be regulation for herbal remedies as there is for drugs, since people will do any amount of crazy things thinking that it's perfectly safe. The fact that artificial medicinces must be approved by the FDA (or each country's equivalent) indicates a standard of quality, safety, and effectiveness that certainly makes *me* feel better than simply taking some herbalist's word for it...
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Postby klewlis » Tue Jan 20, 2004 10:02 pm

Lex wrote:As for the leg shaving thing, I think an 18 year old girl will soon realize that sex is also natural, and that natural unshaven legs are quite likely to prevent this from happening. So this phase is naturally self-correcting! :lol:


Well, I don't think this is going to be a problem since she is planning to get married next month and apparently the boy is somewhat of a hippy type himself and doesn't seem to mind... but that's another story... lol

Anyway, I was thinking more about the "natural is good" thing and it seems to me that it may be a postmodern reaction to the so-called age of enlightenment, wherein everything was about progress, technology, etc., and people like to react against that with things that are older, more traditional, and more comfortable. what think ye?
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Postby benissimus » Tue Jan 20, 2004 10:34 pm

Natural is more comforting to me. Herbs taste better than medicine. Some guys like hairy legs. Am I being laconic?
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Postby annis » Tue Jan 20, 2004 11:43 pm

klewlis wrote:Anyway, I was thinking more about the "natural is good" thing and it seems to me that it may be a postmodern reaction to the so-called age of enlightenment, wherein everything was about progress, technology, etc., and people like to react against that with things that are older, more traditional, and more comfortable. what think ye?


Well, I hesitate to call this postmodern. There were people reacting to the Enlightenment before it even got off the ground. (I will elide for the moment the question of whether it is appropriate to speak of The Englightenment as a single or even coherent thing.) Emma took a jab at Rousseau earlier, and certainly it's popular to pin some of this on him, but I don't know enough about the Romantic period to say if he originated these ideas or of he was simply the spokesman for a Zeitgeist.

I think the whole process of modernization - increased population density, heavy industry, completely different working and social arrangements - is the ultimate source for a lot of this. But I think there are several strains of thought leading to the "natural is good" popularity.

We can all probably agree (yes, yes, except the Ayn Rand fanatics) that a iron smelting factory is an unlovely thing. Or, to misquote Douglas Adams, "there is no language that has the phrase 'as lovely as an airport.'" So all these changes and, frankly, the ugliness of the modern industrial process alienates people. People who have probably never farmed, never had their meals destroyed by pests, but who might get the idea that whatever came before the stinking factory must have been better.

The current natural health movement is pushed partly along by nasty, invasive medical procedures. I suspect also that medicine is in part a victim of its own success. So much progress has been made that when modern medicine fails people sometimes get the idea the whole thing is falling apart. And an herbalist is usually much cheaper than an M.D.

I could go on. A lot of philosophies claim to be natural (Daoism, Stoicism, Epicureanism), but when you look closer you see that the definition of nature they're working with is already construed in the image they want. You learn special tricks to make sure you get the correct interpretation of Nature necessary for the philosophy to keep working.

But I have a go game shortly (or, as mingshey would call it, baduk), so I'll cut it short for now.
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Postby Kalailan » Wed Jan 21, 2004 8:20 am

Instead of Tylenol, would it be better for me to smoke some pot for pain relief, since that is "natural" too? I can sit, relax, and enjoy a joint as well as I can peppermint tea. ;)


Why not? what is the difference between pot and legal narcotic drugs?
do you think that it is more damaging? think twice.

why is taking drugs to relief physical pain ok, while taking drugs to relief emotional pain wrong?
thats very hypocritic.

i was once asked, when i refused to take some painkiller, "why suffer?"

i don't take artificial legal drugs to relief pain just like i do not take ilegal drugs to relief emotional pain. they both don't fix the problem, just the symptom.
and then if you don't feel something is wrong, you will not fix it. thats my objection.
Pain has a reason.
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Postby Emma_85 » Wed Jan 21, 2004 1:37 pm

I agree with you Kalailan to some extent, but sometimes it's difficult to treat a headache without painkillers (depends what sort of headache) and then all you can do to make life a little less painful is to take some pills. I agree though, that if you can get rid of the pain without tablets you should try that first, but not if the other remedy is a 'natural' drug. I don't think there's much of a difference between a natural and synthetic drug. Sometimes you have a headache because you need sleep, so instead of taking any drugs, you should just go to sleep.
Emotional pain is nearly always much worse than physical pain, but the thing is that just like with your body, it's no use to hurt to hurt the body just to relieve pain and it's no use to dumb down your consiousness to relieve its pain. There are other things that can help you there, like friends for example.
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Postby annis » Wed Jan 21, 2004 2:23 pm

Kalailan wrote:i don't take artificial legal drugs to relief pain just like i do not take ilegal drugs to relief emotional pain. they both don't fix the problem, just the symptom.


Sometimes you have to fix, or at least minimize, the symptom before you can address the real problem. Sometimes the inflammation response is good. But it can be damaging just as often if it lasts too long.

Pain has a reason.


Yes, but if the pain has a cause outside my control, then there is no reason to suffer piously. If I get a terminal, non-operable cancer I want morphine freely available, and lots of it. When my appendix was removed, I had nice pain killers for that, too. I stopped taking them the first full day after surgery - I hate being that fuzzed out - but for that first day it did an important job. And if I should go schizophrenic then I really do think I should be encouraged to take a good anti-psychotic. It doesn't solve everything, and it certainly isn't a cure, but it can silence the voices and moderate the paranoia.

All pain may have a reason, but not all pain is instructive or ennobling.
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Postby Lex » Wed Jan 21, 2004 3:28 pm

annis wrote:We can all probably agree (yes, yes, except the Ayn Rand fanatics) that a iron smelting factory is an unlovely thing.


Just in case this was directed at me.... for the record, despite being a diehard libertarian, I'm not an Ayn Rand fanatic. She was a terrible novelist, a fifth-rate philosopher, and from all accounts a rather nasty person to be around.

And no, I don't think that iron smelting factories are aesthetically pleasing. :wink:
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Postby annis » Wed Jan 21, 2004 3:55 pm

Lex wrote:
annis wrote:We can all probably agree (yes, yes, except the Ayn Rand fanatics) that a iron smelting factory is an unlovely thing.


Just in case this was directed at me....


No, no!

There have always been Randians and post-modernists at the margins of my usual social circles. I have strong instincts to preempt certain objections of theirs I don't have the energy to deal with for the 1000th time.
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Postby klewlis » Wed Jan 21, 2004 6:49 pm

Kalailan wrote:Why not? what is the difference between pot and legal narcotic drugs? do you think that it is more damaging? think twice.


well, first off I was talking about Tylenol and such, not narcotics. Narcotics, artificial opiates, etc, can be *very* damaging to a body and mind, as I see regularly at work.

why is taking drugs to relief physical pain ok, while taking drugs to relief emotional pain wrong? thats very hypocritic.


I wasn't talking about emotional pain either. anyway, I don't necessarily think that smoking pot is "wrong". :)

i was once asked, when i refused to take some painkiller, "why suffer?"

i don't take artificial legal drugs to relief pain just like i do not take ilegal drugs to relief emotional pain. they both don't fix the problem, just the symptom.
and then if you don't feel something is wrong, you will not fix it. thats my objection.
Pain has a reason.


well this of course is from a male perspective. Not all pain indicates that something is wrong, as any woman can tell you--it is often simply part of life. I have absolutely no qualms with generous (not abusive) use of painkillers for the cramps, headaches, backaches, etc, that come with being female. Now if I had an actual health problem and were simply ignoring it by taking drugs, then of course that would be an issue. But as William said, if the pain can be eased while the problem is dealt with, then I'm all for it.
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Postby wally_2004 » Wed Jan 21, 2004 6:58 pm

Will wrote:
All pain may have a reason, but not all pain is instructive or ennobling.


Sorry, but I'll have to disagree with you there. All pain can be beneficial in a certain sense, but that all depends on the person that is suffering. If you are tough enough to take it, then there are few things more noble than to suffer with dignity. It sickens me how society seems to make pain the ultimate evil of the universe. I know they're cliched, but every one of the "seven deadly sins" ranks way above pain on the "things worth fighting against (and spending $millions on)" chart.
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Postby annis » Wed Jan 21, 2004 9:56 pm

wally_2004 wrote:Will wrote:
All pain may have a reason, but not all pain is instructive or ennobling.


Sorry, but I'll have to disagree with you there.


That's what the Academy is for. :)

All pain can be beneficial in a certain sense,


And what what certain sense is that? What benefit do I get when my messed up shoulder acts up? What new have I learned from today's pain that I didn't learn well when I first injured myself? What about tomorrow's pain? And next month's?

but that all depends on the person that is suffering. If you are tough enough to take it, then there are few things more noble than to suffer with dignity.


There are two problems with this.

Every day we are confronted with oportunities to behave virtuously (nobly) or not. Enduring offensive people with grace, listening patiently to co-workers' ramblings, responding sensibly to sudden changes in work, in life circumstances or in health. It is not clear to me how being dignified in the face of pain is nobler than being dignified in the face of, say, the loss of a job. What's special about pain?

In fact, and this is my second point, should suffering pain with grace not be considered a lesser nobility? Acting nobly to fellow human beings requires actually doing something, and arises out of one's virtue and understanding. This demands choices. Experiencing pain is passive, often a matter completely outside our control. Pain requires nothing of us but to suffer. I can choose to inflict my distress on other people or I can refrain. This choice is hardly unique to pain.

Isn't it nobler to respond with dignity to the full range of afflictions life offers, rather than master a few?

I'm not denying that pain can be instructive, but I don't see how extended pain - especially when a trivial remedy exists - is necessarily especially ennobling or instructive compared to other distressing events in our lives.

It sickens me how society seems to make pain the ultimate evil of the universe.


What society is that? I've never noticed this.

Even so, there are several philisophical and religious schools that have strong moral agendas but which are also dedicated to relieving suffering, including the Stoics and the Buddhists. And Epicurus:

Just as there is no use in medicine, unless it casts out the illness
of bodies, so too there is no use in philosophy, unless it casts out
suffering from the soul.
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;
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Postby Episcopus » Thu Jan 22, 2004 7:46 pm

It all depends on how hairy your sister's legs are. If they are lightly haired, naturally, then that is rugged perfection.

Shiny waxed legs seem too shiny...like plastic...

That's my relatively aberrant post here...amongst the Buddhist discussions relating to hairy legs...

poilu...
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Postby bingley » Fri Jan 23, 2004 5:43 am

Somehow the idea of Cher Clueless advocating hairy legs for women doesn't ring quite true. :shock:
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Postby Episcopus » Fri Jan 23, 2004 11:56 am

haha true.

Yet "hairy" are not many women's legs; some have light type hairs invisible in many environments. So it depends.
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Postby mingshey » Fri Jan 23, 2004 5:26 pm

Hmmm... My wife hates my hairy legs, because the hairs often get rolling on the floor. But I don't want to shave my legs. :P
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