Diversion, Misery, Humility (Pascal)

I never get sick of reading Blaise Pascal’s Pensees. Even though I’ve read them before, when I come back to them they still challenge me, grip me, and make me think! Today I was re-reading around #160-#190 of the Pensees. Here are a few quotes that I underlined several times. They have to do with misery, diversion, and humility:

169 – Despite these miseries, man wishes to be happy, and only wishes to be happy, and cannot wish not to be so. But how will he set about it? To be happy he would have to make himself immortal; but, not being able to do so, it has occurred to him to prevent himself from thinking of death.

171 – Misery. The only thing which consoles us for our miseries is diversion, and yet this is the greatest of our miseries. For it is this which principally hinders us from reflecting upon ourselves, and which makes us insensibly ruin ourselves. Without this we should be in a state of weariness, and this weariness would spur us to seek a more solid means of escaping from it. But diversion amuses us, and leads us unconsciously to death.

174 – Misery. Solomon and Job have best known and best spoken of the misery of man; the former, the most fortunate, and the latter the most unfortunate of men; the former knowing the vanity of pleasures from experience, the latter the reality of evils.

180 – The great and the humble have the same misfortunes, the same griefs, the same passions; but the one is at the top of the wheel, and the other near the centre, and so less disturbed by the same revolutions.

 Blaise Pascal, The Harvard Classics 48: Blaise Pascal: Thoughts, Letters, and Minor Works, ed. Charles W. Eliot, trans. W. F. Trotter, M. L. Booth, and O. W. Wight (New York: P. F. Collier & Son, 1910), 66.

[Note: Used copies and the Kindle version of the Pensees are inexpensive (Link).]

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015