Guarding My Heart and What Flows From It (Argumentative Essay Example)
Arendt’s Position and Argument
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Proverb 4: 23
The current paper argues that Arendt’s position on the importance of thinking and judging is significant for personal usage, and that the role of memory is a key in learning, preparing, and facing new challenges in the future. The paper then applies elements of Arendt’s argument to the attitude of Pancrace, and explains why he is a non-thinker. The last part of the essay presents the argument on what it means for me as an individual to judge myself and how culture’s influence or input into this judge out to be minimal and why.
In the society ruled by standards, norms, laws, and regulations, and carried by human beings who are, to an extent, blindly tied to tendencies of self-interest, emotion, acceptance, insecurity, and worst of all, thoughtless action, thinking and judging are incredibly important for many reasons. Indeed, throughout the time, standards change, norms change, laws change, and beliefs change, but what does not seem to change is the fundamental human ability of thought and judgment. Arendt states his understanding of thinking and judgment and describes its importance, “thinking – the soundless dialogue of the I with itself – can be understood as the actualization of the original duality or the split between me and myself, which is inherent in all consciousness” (Arendt 7).
I am not only myself, but I am also perception of myself. This “original duality” or distinguish division of self from the self, is an active relationship ideally found in all conscious human beings, but despite the fact that everyone can be a thinker, not everyone does thinking. Therefore, the only one that can think got me is myself. Further than this, thinking is “the disposition to live together explicitly with oneself, to have intercourse with oneself, that is to be engaged in that silent dialogue between me and myself” (Arendt 42). This ‘disposition’ or state of being clearly cognizant and transparent of myself can only be achieved through this ‘dialogue’ or self-reflection. In this sense, thinking is a relationship I have with myself in which I am engaged in a dialogue and interactions with my inner self or internalized self; it seems to be like looking inwards and engaging mentally within the space of my mind, knowing and conversing with myself intimately.
To realize this question and understand how I am or how I see myself in this way is the only way to acknowledge my existence as more than one, and to befriend or create harmony between this split disposition of my thinking and identity. ‘Dialogue’ appears to be a profoundly intimate interaction and is vital in that. Such act can only be successfully done between entities who sincerely love or care for each other. “This living-with-myself is more than consciousness, more than the self-awareness … To be with myself and to judge by myself is articulated and actualized in the process of thought process is an activity in which I speak with myself about whatever happens to concern me” (Arendt 13).
I can escape judging or disapproval of other but will never escape myself. Thus, I must love myself, and in order to love myself, I must comprehend and consider determinations that would result in my perception of myself. This process, this engagement, stands for thinking. It is the discovery and determination by me with myself to create these self-set limits, and the result of which is judgment. Judgment is “the faculty that judges particulars without subsuming them under general rules which can be taught and learned until they grow into habits that can be replaced by other habits and rules” (Arendt 37). Judgment, unlike thinking, is concerned with determinations of particulars or things “close at hand” (Arendt 38).
By “subsuming them under general rules,” which historically many have done, would be living “thoughtlessly” and without being in accord with oneself. It is as though you follow present reactions and justifications to things without reflecting on yourself, thinking, instead of discovering them as new, without preconceptions. Thus, the judging process, being the by-product of the liberating effect of thinking, realizes it, making it manifest in the world of appearances, which means that thinking cannot be viewed as knowledge, and it is a mere capability of telling right from wrong. Thus, thinking is a mental activity, which non-appears by definition, in a world of appearances and has a tendency to generalize. Arendt shows that “every mental act rests on the mind’s faculty of having present to itself what is absent from the sense” (8).
This is limited to images of absent objects, while memory only “stores and holds at the disposition of recollection” (Arendt 8). For people to think about somebody or something, it must be removed from their presence; as long as they are with a person or store the disposition of a person/object, individuals do not think either of it or about it. Thinking always implies remembrance. Every thought is strictly speaking an afterthought (Arendt 10). This is especially significant, since it implies that the notion of memory is not a passive thing but instead a very active way of thinking, which occurs when either I remove myself from my current appearance driven circumstance and evoke a memory thought process, or those about whom I think are no longer present.
Hence, I have to withdraw from immediacy of desire, which always stretches out for the desired object or person. This is solidly connected to the understanding of the memory’s capability of making present of objects/individuals that are absent, allowing to stop seeing the past of oneself or to pause to get oneself ready for the future. However, not every memory is active in this sense, hence, if I were to simply recall an event without examining it in depth, it would just be a recollection and not a solid memory. This is important, because it sheds light on the issue of reflection; remembrance is a sort of reflection of desires. When I remember something, I am actively thinking about people or experiences that evoke some sort of soundness driven responses within myself, which is why I often come to realizations when revisiting memories, like most people do.
Therefore, this is crucial for new challenges, because, sometimes, the ability to remove myself from the physical challenge to remember and use my memories to inform my actions about the desire of conquering challenges, and, sometimes, distancing myself from the challenge I am facing to think through and draw on past experiences, helping to see present truths about my challenge that I cannot realize while in the midst of it. This form of reflection is frequently referred to as passive, but it is, in fact, the complete opposite. It is something, which Arendt highlights, especially about the fact that it is important to think of remembrance and memories not in a passive and romantic sense, but instead just as a different but equally important way of thinking. Remembering is the way we process and store information that we cannot process or store when we are in the present situation.
In Machete Season, Pancrace presents a perfect situation in which his attitude is completely inactive, where he could have benefitted from stepping back and using remembrance as a thought process, or removing and distancing himself from the situation to actively think instead. The discussion of torture and killing demonstrates the attitude on the issue. Pancrace talks about torturing, which was additional activity to killing. He demonstrates how some people were afraid of killing, which stimulated them to do it slowly, while others were afraid of doing this because of being weaklings. Some were killed and tortured, because they did not care, while others committed actions, being stimulated by ferocity. However, Pancrace killed “not think[ing] about such fiendishness, I was hurrying to get through the day’s schedule” (Hatzfeld 130).
This situation eerily demonstrates the realities of dangers of not thinking within yourself can result in. Pancrace thought in terms of himself and in the dualistic way that Arendt speaks of in which we engage in during the internal dialogue between us and ourselves, instead of factoring in the position of neglector, and the group he was working with, as the killing and torturing resulted “from an individual decision or a small meeting” (130), he would have been able to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong, essentially distinguishing between being a thinker and non-thinker. He has realized that the choice and life neglecting in this situation is an allusion, and the reality is far more grotesque.
The issue with subscribing to a group or to a certain society, and their predetermined judgments, is what we essentially turn over out ability to think of ourselves in regards to the group or society we are subscribing to, and the result can literally be detrimental. This “original duality” which is present within each and everyone among human beings is there, thus, it is important to question and internalize every situation/person/experience the life presents to be capable of examining and dissecting it within the confines of individual self, in a safe space where no outside influences can disturb the though process.
That is the main reason why subjecting oneself to the societal norms, regulations, duties, or standards can sometimes go against the inherent nature of the individual to think within oneself. It is highly significant to be in touch with oneself in that way, and Pancrace’s case revealing his inability to distance himself from all external factors surrounding him, including his ethnic group and his societal dues, and the fact that he has been given with the right to take someone’s life, ultimately lead to the death of innocent people. He let himself to be a non-thinker, and, consequently, that resulted in the fact that he has endangered his own heart and his own sanctity.
In reference to myself, I must always remember that the present is fleeting, and that despite the fact that it can actually feel abnormal, it is an inherent ability to be capable of sometimes pulling back from the challenging situations and examine and take everything around me before responding and reacting. Despite the fact that it is a common perception that in every situation people are to respond promptly to every action, it is also inherent to me to be capable to pull back and retreat into my own mind, and decide calmly and safely how I would like to proceed and think about what is going on around me, without feeling pressured to respond in a timely fashion. In fact, it may just be for the best to do that in situations that permit it, to protect myself from external factors that would otherwise disrupt my thought processes and lead me to the consequences that I ultimately do not desire. Furthermore, when it comes to the thought process that concerns judgment, only my personal judgment should factor into my actions.
Judgment, in this sense, is a duty. It is my duty to be cognizant and aware of everything happening or related to myself. This does not presuppose that I should not be able to judge others, it actually merely means that other’s judgments should not factor into my actions as severely as my own judgment does. The reason behind the fact that each person is equally capable of passing judgment as the next, but the internal thought process through which judgment is created is different, and it differs for each person and is reasonably grounded. This is namely because of the fact that each person is special and unique, with different objectives and goals, various outlooks and different hearts. Hence, personal judgment is essentially crucial than any other form of judgment, since it pertains to my goals, actions, experiences, outlook, and heart. Machete Season depicts a dire outlook on what the culture’s influence on judgment could be, and, although, that is certainly not the case everywhere, it still points to the fact that the society’s and culture’s judgment should have a very minimal role in terms of my own judgment, and how I formulate it.
Since every human has the inherent and primal ability to think for oneself, something that is present even in little children, we should not be expected to give that say to subscribe to whatever judgment culture or society offers us instead as we grow older, to do so would be to give up some of our thought processes. There is a reason why children are so fearless and honest, and it stands for the fact that they have yet to succumb to the specific thought practices and judgments that society makes individuals trade for their own, as children grow older, and this holds true for every society. Instead, I choose to hold on to my ability to judge and refer to myself, since it will ultimately steer me in the direction of my own goals, and not into the directions, which society or culture would have me pursue. This not to say that a culture or society should have no input, but that input should be optional, and a mere consideration instead of a set direction.
Therefore, the role of thinking and judging is highly important. At the same time, memory is a mental capability, which is significant for learning, preparing, and facing new challenges. Memory, being an active way of thinking, provides the possibility of removing oneself from the current activities-driven condition, observing the past through the memory thought-evoking process to what is in the future and which actions can be used to conquer possible challenges. As the ability to think is inherent and primal in each individual, it should be used to think each for oneself and not completely and thoughtlessly adhering to judgment of the culture or society.
My argument about Plato stands for the fact that he views unnecessary desires as degenerative to the human condition, which is why wisdom and courage are necessary to quell unnecessary desires and maintain necessary ones. I will then argue that these unnecessary desires as Plato argues are detrimental to the justness of the human condition through the example of Alphonse’s first kill and changed demeanor towards death in Machete Season. Lastly, I will demonstrate how wisdom and justice can protect hearts from unnecessary desire that will otherwise lead it astray.
The human phenomenon of desires is an important one in Plato’s discussion of maintaining justice. Plato believes that justice is the same thing as the advantage of the stronger (Plato 16). To Plato, wisdom and courage are imperative to manage desires of both beneficial and harmful nature, being two among the most important virtues. Plato asserts: “the kind of power and preservation, through everything, of the right and lawful opinion about what is terrible and what not, I call courage” (Plato 108). In case of warrior, Plato demonstrates that a warrior’s courage stands for the quality, allowing a person to preserve the appropriate and correct opinion concerning dangers regardless all possible pains and pleasures. Thus, he illustrates the significance of the ability to remain rational in both states of pleasure and pain on what I truly advantageous to oneself and not to be tempted by certain needless desires that might rise during a state of duress or elation. In addition, Plato defines wisdom as “the knowledge that supervises [ones] actions” (Plato 123). When discussing three different men, including one following the rules, the other making war, and the other deliberating, Plato states that a single man can be defined as, as there is an inner constituent “spirited parts [which] preserves through pains and pleasures” (128).
Plato demonstrates that only one of them can be outlined as courageous being driving by the inner governance of actions regardless circumstances. In addition, the same single man can be outlined as wise, as he has a “little part [ruling] inside of him and proclaiming [terrible and which are not] things, in its turn possessed within the knowledge of what is beneficial” (Plato 442b-c).
The above-mentioned quotations concerning wisdom and courage contribute to the argument that Plato presents the collaborative efforts required by the soul to recognize and address desires as either beneficial or harmful to maintain harmony and, in turn, justice within a human being. Plato outlines necessary and unnecessary desires, specifically stating that it is highly important to restrain the love of unnecessary desires and pleasures. Necessary desires are those, which are good, being those “we aren’t able to turn aside” (Plato 237), and those which human beings cannot do and live without. On the other hand, unnecessary desires and pleasures stand for those, which do no good and can be eradicated by early training. For instance, such desires as eating, drinking, and making money are necessary, being healthy, but only up to a specific point beyond which they are alike hurtful to body and mind, which means that the excess should be impeded. On the other hand, the desire of spending money is unnecessary, being rightly outlined as expensive pleasure.
Plato argues that there is a requirement to have a system of checks and balances of all sorts so that harmful desires will not go unchecked in a well functioning – and therefore just – system. In this sense, Plato is arguing that entertaining unnecessary desires would show that there is a flaw in one’s internal system, and while that may not be bad imminently, they may just “do no good” (Plato 559a). The more unnecessary desires that are given into from youth, the more likely a person is to create a malfunctioning internal system where courage and wisdom being two important virtues, do not exist and hence only injustice can come of it. Plato defines injustice as both “vice and lack of learning” (Plato 29). Therefore, justice in this sense is a process that one must be training for from youth, as “all those unnecessary of which a man could rid himself if he were to practice from youth one” (Plato 559a). Hence, while unnecessary desires do not mean bad they do not mean good either, they are viewed as deterrence from the path that leads to a just human condition, one that we must be wary of from youth onwards.
In the case of Alphonse, he entertains an initial unnecessary desire of killing, which does not do anything good, that disrupts his internal system. In the depicted experience of his first kill, he shows no remorse or reflection on the extremely abhorrent act he committed. It is a classic example of a malfunctioning internal system, in which the inner wisdom needed to quell unnecessary desires is not functioning, and the courage needed to recognize the unnecessary desire of killing is also not in place. Instead, Alphonse kills an elderly man who posed no threat to him but fell in his path during raid, he “hacked him across his back with an inkota-a sharp blade for slaughtering cattle” (Hatfeld 22).
This illustrates the unnecessary desire to kill that Alphonse experienced, his life and health was not threatened, but instead, he and his fellow young comrade silently hacked at the defenseless elderly Tutsi. This depicts the true gruesome nature of human behavior when left unchecked. The group mentality that dominates, and the casual way that one can slip into this unjust human condition by not practicing denying unnecessary desires and not using inner rationale. This paints a tragic image of what human can easily become should they not master justice within himself or herself and instead rely on mass though instead of individual thought. I myself, like most people, am guilty of sometimes entertaining small unnecessary desire that I know are probably harmful to m in the long run because it is easier to fall into temptation than question it.
Both wisdom and justice contain rationality at their core. They connect in the sense that for a person to be wide they must thing objectively and broadly, and to be just the same, though the process must be applied as well. Justice is the ability to create the greatest and most beneficial outcome overall, and the wisdom is the ability to conceive of how to create such a thing, in this sense, one must be wise to be just. States of pains and pleasures make people susceptible, which means that wisdom is truly required in those state to remain objective and focused on doing what is the best and just. This is imperative to guard and also rule ones heart. The hart by fat is the most difficult thing to understand and control, it drives our action and reaction, for it contains essence and every desire both good and bad. Nonetheless, it does not presuppose that bad or unnecessary desires should be nurtured. Wisdom should be the primary instrument for understanding the nature of the desire and courage is necessary not only to save the world, but to face oneself and understand that the chosen path is wrong.
The heart is such a powerhouse that it is imperative that one be capable of isolating it and using wisdom to ascertain what exactly is motivating inner desires to able to judge which desires are beneficial, and will therefore sustain and protect the heart, at the same time outlining the desires that should be ignored, as they come from dark parts of the hart that wish potentially harm the hearts condition. Heart is the core of every action, it is what motivates both wisdom and just actions, it is what simultaneously complicates everything. All actions are instigated y the hear, so it’s the hearth doing all the heavy lifting, while the wisdom and justice take a secondary role to whatever it is a person values. In term of being just and how wisdom influences out ability to just, although being wise obviously is important to make just and fair decision, it is not necessarily a precursor. In order to just, one must make a decision that is right for everyone and everything involved in whatever situation.
Therefore, against terms like ‘just’ and ‘wise’ that are so all encompassing and open-ended can take on a life of their own depending on the person and the situation. So might need a religion to be just, others might need spiritual and moral guidance, and others still might view being just through a survivalist lens. In short, despite the whole plethora of binary terms, reality is in no way binary, and therefore, these terms take on the shape of whoever is try to use them in reality.
Given the preceding arguments, it is evident that Plato views unnecessary desires as harmful to an individual’s health and justness, and that while they may not necessarily be bad initially, hey do lead a person down the path of injustice if not corrected. The prime example stands for Alphonse’s situation after his first kill and his lack of reason or reaction for dealing with desires and emotions in the first place. Alphonse reveals that the unjust path on which an individual ends up after giving into unnecessary desires, which are harmful to the inner harmony, disrupts inner justice. Lastly, it is also important to note that wisdom and justice also have a role in deciphering which desires the hear should and should not entertain and how to recognize whet the heart might not decipher itself through the objectivity and broad long-term lens that both wisdom and justice offer by virtue of rationality.
Foucault argues that wisdom and justice is a tool through which we connect with our surroundings and resonate with others. Culture is a context, which provides the possibility to share specific comprehending of social relationships, languages, and traditions with others.
Foucault demonstrates that the power, which is applied to the immediate everyday life categorizing the individual, marking the individuality and attaching him/her to their identity stands for their “law of truth, which he must recognize and others must recognize in him” (Faucault 3). It demonstrates that each individual is a subject to others, because of the dependence with others and control, which regulates their relationships, at the same time having individual identity. However, Foucault reveals this dependence and control might lead to struggles to protest against any specific forms of power which make individuals subjected to it. Foucault outlines three types of struggle: “against forms of domination, against forms of exploitation that separate individuals from what they produce, and struggle against the subjection” (Foucault 4). All of them are attempts to renunciate freedom, or power, or rights, as it is merely delegated to a limited number of people. However, power should not be viewed as an oppressive system, which limits the individual possibility to think, make decisions, and govern it the way their heart suggests. Foucault suggests that power “is a set of relations … by shaping [ones] behavior through certain means” (11).
The way one person behaves with other, formulates their relationships. The fact the someone has the ability or capacity to humiliate some, in such manner forcing someone become subjected to this power does not mean that this has to be practiced in live. This is specifically important to Foucault development of the concept of “rapport a soi”, standing for the fact that the type of the relationships a person desires to have defines “how the individual is supposed to constitute [oneself] as a moral subject of [his/her] own actions” (Foucault 20). The emphasis on the freedom as the factor in power relationships is extremely important, the reason being that if there is no freedom to act and react on both sides, then there is no power in both sides, as there are relationship to examine. Foucault does not state that both sides should be equally powerful or capable, merely noting that both sides have the freedom to act in accordance with the other’s power and have the freedom to dictate and select how they want to act. The culture is represented through numerous prescriptive agencies, including family, educational institutions, churches, etc.
The Machete Season reveals how the culture shapes power relations and attitudes. Leopord explained that killings were encouraged in his surrounding, turning the process of killing others in the cultural transference of knowledge. He explained that in case somebody merely pretended to strike or struck crooked, “we encouraged him, we advised him on improvements” (Hatzfeld 38). Thus, regardless the fact that the individual had inner desires stimulating not to be subjected to the general relations and powers prevailing in the surrounding, the culture and other people provoked to change decisions and even the state of mind and heart. The surrounding provided all kinds of possibilities to learn to adhere to specific norms and regulations: “he might also be obliged to take another turn at a Tutsi… and to kill a victim before his colleagues to make sure he had listened well” (Hatzfeld 38). The hear desires or fears have been neglected in face of predetermined rules and regulations operating in a specific environment. This is a case when power transforms into the oppressive system, breaking the inner nature in the name of existing norms, which have to be followed.
Culture is a joint understanding, which is meant to be shared and enjoyed with others through connection, and that, in turn, helps the heart expand and flow freely with other, it can facilitate acquiring what the heart desires at the basic level, important and meaningful connections. This can be achieved through experiencing cultural norms and approaches that allows for connections to be made. However, culture can also damage the heart by limiting its ability to connect if implemented incorrectly, it can distinguish between those who share a certain culture and those who do not and create limitations as to the connections that are made. This is dangerous and counterintuitive to what the heart desire, which is to flow freely by surely in the right direction of satisfying and fulfilling connections.