Evils Spared. Also, Irony

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Suave, mari magno turbantibus aequora ventis
e terra magnum alterius spectare laborem;
non quia vexari quemquamst iucunda voluptas,
sed quibus ipse malis careas quia cernere suavest. 1
An English translation never seems to shine so brightly, but the idea comes off clearly enough:
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‘Tis sweet, when, down the mighty main, the winds
Roll up its waste of waters, from the land
To watch another’s labouring anguish far,
Not that we joyously delight that man
Should thus be smitten, but because ’tis sweet
To mark what evils we ourselves be spared; 2
Which instantly makes me think of Christopher Hitchens and his quip in reply to a slightly (I think) disingenuous question put to him about what gives his life meaning. He said—and it’s worth the quote in full:
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Well, I can only answer for myself. What cheers me up? I suppose mainly gloating over the misfortunes of other people. I guess that has to be it…yeah, mainly crowing over the miseries of others. It doesn’t always work, but it never completely fails. And then there’s irony. There’s irony, which is the gin in the Campari, the cream in the coffee. Sex can have diminishing returns, but it’s amazing. No, that’s pretty much it and then it’s a clear run to the grave. 3

  1. Lucretius. De Rerum Natura, Book II, lines 1-4 
  2. T. Lucretius Carus, Of the Nature of Things: A Metrical Translation. By William Ellery Leonard. London: J.M.Dent and Sons Ltd. (1916) 
  3. Christopher Hitchens, Frank Turek. Turek vs Hitchens Debate: Does God Exist?. Virginia Commonwealth University. (September 9, 2008). Retrieved from http://youtu.be/S7WBEJJlYWU?t=1h33m3s (timestamp 1:33:03 – 1:34:00) 
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