THE CONSOLATION OF PHILOSOPHY

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

The Consolation of PhilosophyTHE CONSOLATION OF PHILOSOPHY

Written by: Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius

Narrated by: David Rintoul

BOETHIUS (480 A.D.- 524 A. D., ROMAN SENATOR, CONSUL & PHILOSOPHER)
BOETHIUS (480 A.D.- 524 A. D., ROMAN SENATOR, CONSUL & PHILOSOPHER)

This translation of “The Consolation of Philosophy” impresses all who listen to it because of the beauty of Boethius’s writing and Rintoul’s narration.  Though one may either agree or disagree with Boethius’s religious philosophy, the juxtaposition of his poetry with chapters of Socratic dialog are a pleasure to hear.

Boethius is born into a rich aristocratic Roman family and achieves high office and continued wealth, even when Rome is conquered by a Ostrogothic King, Theodoric the Great. In the beginning of Theodoric’s reign, Boethius is a court favorite but in 524 AD, he is arrested and imprisoned for (according to Bothius’s writings) defending the poor and powerless from the new Roman Ostrogothic government.  During Bothius’s imprisonment, just before his execution, he writes and completes “The Consolation of Philosophy”.

One may think of Bothius’s book from two perspectives.  One, “The Consolation of Philosophy” is a treatise to justify God.  Two, “The Consolation of Philosophy” is a rationalization for mistreatment by others; i.e. “others” defined as both God and Mammon.

ROMAN MONEY CHANGERS (EXPULSION FROM THE TEMPLE)
ROMAN MONEY CHANGERS (EXPULSION FROM THE TEMPLE)

Boethius is visited by a vision of the “Lady of Philosophy” in his cell.  The “Lady” has been Bothius’s companion since childhood.  She sees Bothius shedding tears over his plight and asks why he laments his station in life after having so dutifully followed in the steps of the great philosophers of antiquity.  As the “Lady” recounts Plato’s and Aristotle’s teachings, she berates Bothius for his lamentation over loss of wealth, power, and prestige.  In a Socratic dialog, the “Lady” recounts the folly of those who covet worldly ephemera when “happiness” has always been the goal of human life.  Bothius begins to recollect the teachings of Plato and Aristotle that explain wealth, power, and prestige are fleeting values in life and never the source of happiness because of the constant fear of loss and the insatiable lust for more.

BOETHIUS' LADY OF PHILOSOPHY
BOETHIUS’ LADY OF PHILOSOPHY (In a Socratic dialog, the “Lady” recounts the folly of those who covet worldly ephemera when “happiness” has always been the goal of human life.)
OMNISCEINCE
The “Lady” reminds Boethius of the omniscience of God. 

The “Lady” reminds Boethius of the omniscience of God.  He knows all, sees all, and loves all.  Both good and evil are part of earthly life and it is only those who choose moderation in all things good that will find earthly happiness.  Bothius creates a Socratic dialog between himself and the “Lady” to question how God allows evil to exist, and whether man can have free will when God is omniscient and knows each human being follows a known path in life.  Bothius asks “…is there not chance in every person’s life that leads them in one direction or another?”

Boethius implies these questions are answered to his satisfaction.  He accepts God as omniscient.  Every listener will have their own opinion after completing Bothius’s story.  To some, the answers are the machinations of a man who rationalizes his bereft state; to others, the answers are a guide to life in this world.

In any case, “The Consolation of Philosophy” is a literary work of art.

LIFE’S IMPERFECTION

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

This is Your Life, Harriet Chance

Written by: Jonathan Evison

Narrated by: Susan Boyce

Johnathan Evison (Author)

This is a story for those who have reached a certain age.  Though written by a man, it is narrated by a woman.  In some respects, that is a weakness.  Having been written by a man, it may distort the measure of a woman’s life.  However, Jonathan Evison offers an excellent representation of what life and death looks like to a man.  The mistakes some men make in life are legion, both as a parent and husband.

JONATHAN EVISON (AUTHOR)

Evison speculates on an afterlife that says humans either die into nothingness or go to a place of peace and reconciliation.  Those are the only options in Evison’s story. 

The options are extreme but can be ameliorated by a gate keeper’s decisions about life’s led.  However, if you violate rules for a personal appearance to those left behind, you are doomed to the first extremity, nothingness.  Evison’s husband’ and father’ character chooses to violate the rules; in part because of his many guilt’s for living a selfish life.  It seems a penance he must pay to his wife, mistress, and children.

What makes Evison’s story good is the truth of what foolish, selfish men do in their lives.  Though life is ephemeral; either temporal or spiritual, many mistakes are made, both moral and ethical.

HARVEY WEINSTEIN

Harvey Weinstein charged with rape and sexual misconduct on May 25th 2018.

lolita

There is the horrid obsession of men with little girls described in Nabokov’s “Lolita”.  There is the vacuous life of Richard Ford’s main character in “The Sportswriter”. 

There is Russell Banks’ depiction of a morally bankrupt man/boy who prostitutes himself in “Lost Memory of Skin”.

Putting aside these extreme examples, Evison tells a story of the more common variety of male transgressions.  His observations ring true to listeners of a certain age.

INFIDELITY

Most men will see themselves in aspects of Evison’s story; not the extremes of Nabokov, Ford, and Banks but less than what a moral person should be.

Men who cheat on their wives.  Men who use work as an excuse for family neglect.  Men who fail to take responsibility for helping raise their children.  Men who demean their wives because they undervalue their contribution to life’s fulfillment.  Men who neglect their wives because of self-absorption.

HUMAN FAULTS

Evison notes many faults in the lives of women in his story but having been written by a man, his objectivity is suspect.  On the other hand, women do cheat on their husbands.  Women do neglect their children.  Women do drink out of boredom with house work and social isolation.  Women do demean their husbands because they undervalue their contribution to life’s fulfillment.  Women do neglect their husbands because of self-absorption.

Joe Biden (Candidate for President of the United States.)

Evison touches every human being’s faults in “This is Your Life, Harriet Chance”.  No one is exempt from human failing. 

Being of a certain age makes Evison’s story enlightening and entertaining.  Enlightening because a listener knows they are not alone.  Entertaining because a listener will enjoy Evison’s perspective on life’s journey.