Game On – Seeking Pain and Pleasure

2012.Jul.10 Tuesday · 1 comment

in Game On

Yesterday I started off with a little “encyclopedia game” with a randomly selected Wikipedia page on Dog Latin. While there were many directions I could have gone from that page or the various other pages on the topic I pulled up, the most interesting one, and the one that caught my eye as it fulfilled the requirement of “things I don’t have a f*king clue about” (phrased a trifle differently in the video), was Lorem ipsum. Now, you know Lorem ipsum – you’ve seen it a zillion times. It’s a paragraph of text that shows up in brand new websites before the programmers have gotten around to putting in planned content. It shows up in software packages as “sample text”. It’s been used for decades, since the early days of typesetting, as a placeholder, long before the internet. It generally reads something like:

“Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.”

Now a quick and superficial search says it’s all nonsense, meant to look like Latin, but isn’t really. Some folk even refer to it as “greeking”, from the old “It’s all Greek to me” phrase meaning it’s all nonsense. But here’s the thing. It’s not. Not really. While it’s true that there are some problems with the grammar, and a few of the words are either misspelled or perhaps even made up, it’s actually selected lines, paraphrased, out of a two millenia old text roughly entitled The Extremes of Good and Evil written by Cicero in 45 B.C.E. So while not proper Latin, it’s also not completely random, nor completely nonsense.

The original text takes up a couple of paragraphs, which I won’t bother to reproduce, but they basically translate (according to H. Rackham’s translation of 1914) as:

“But I must explain to you how all this mistaken idea of denouncing pleasure and praising pain was born and I will give you a complete account of the system, and expound the actual teachings of the great explorer of the truth, the master-builder of human happiness. No one rejects, dislikes, or avoids pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but because those who do not know how to pursue pleasure rationally encounter consequences that are extremely painful. Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but because occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?

On the other hand, we denounce with righteous indignation and dislike men who are so beguiled and demoralized by the charms of pleasure of the moment, so blinded by desire, that they cannot foresee the pain and trouble that are bound to ensue; and equal blame belongs to those who fail in their duty through weakness of will, which is the same as saying through shrinking from toil and pain. These cases are perfectly simple and easy to distinguish. In a free hour, when our power of choice is untrammelled and when nothing prevents our being able to do what we like best, every pleasure is to be welcomed and every pain avoided. But in certain circumstances and owing to the claims of duty or the obligations of business it will frequently occur that pleasures have to be repudiated and annoyances accepted. The wise man therefore always holds in these matters to this principle of selection: he rejects pleasures to secure other greater pleasures, or else he endures pains to avoid worse pains.”


{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: