Dear Hobbes (h2so4 7)

Dear Hobbes, Sir:

I am currently involved in a developing friendship with a member of the opposite sex. Okay, he's a guy and I'm a girl. I just can't tell what he thinks of me. When he asks me to have dinner or a drink, how can I tell if it is a date? I was convinced that we were dating, and then he pulled the old friendly neutrality routine. How should I proceed?

--Definitionally Challenged

Dear Definitionally:

Vainglorious men, such as without being conscious to themselves of great sufficiency, delight in supposing themselves gallant men, are inclined only to ostentation; but not to attempt: because when danger or difficulty appears, they look for nothing but to have their insufficiency discovered.

Vainglorious men, such as estimate their sufficiency by the flattery of others, or the fortune of some precedent action, without assured ground of hope from the true know-ledge of themselves, are inclined to rash engaging; and in the approach of danger, or difficulty, to retire if they can: because not seeing the way of safety, they will rather hazard their honor, which may be salved with an excuse; than their lives, or happiness, for which no salve is sufficient. With a true man, you won't have to guess.

Sincerely,

T. Hobbes

Dear Hobbes:

I have been perusing the manuals provided by Emily Post, Miss Manners and the like, for signs as to how I might manage myself in company so as to avoid the bumbling habits that have been associated with me thus far in my life. I find that, however, while I look for consistent advice, I light upon only its opposite: chaos. Miss Manners says one thing and Miss Post another.

What am I to do?

--Numbed Bumbler

Dear Bumbler:

There is a difference of manners amongst men. By manners, I mean not here decency of behavior; as how one should salute another, or how a man should wash his mouth, or pick his teeth before company, and such other points of the small morals; but rather those qualities of mankind that concern their living together in peace, and unity. To which end we are to consider that the felicity of this life consisteth not in the repose of a mind satisfied.... For there is no such finis ultimus, utmost aim, nor summum bonum, greatest good, as is spoken of in the books of the old moral philosophers.

Leave aside Post and Manners, and open books by great men. A man can no more live, whose desires are at an end, than he, whose senses and imaginations are at a stand. Waste not your thoughts on these matters of no account. You must strive to see in yourself the pattern of other men. Whosoever looketh into himself, and considereth what he doth, when he doth think, opine, reason, hope, fear, &c. and upon what grounds; he shall thereby read and know what are the thoughts and passions of all other men upon the like occasions. In this way you will bumble not, my friend. Men are similar in their passions, though not in the object of those passions, which vary according to the constitution and education of each individual.

Trust in your own judgment. Felicity is a continual progress of the desire from one object to another; the attaining of the former being still but the way to the latter.

Yours,

T. Hobbes.

Dear Hobbes:

What causes women to wear white pumps?

--Avia, h2so4 staff member

Dear Avia:

I see that you have no faith in the pagan interpretations of Aristotle, though I did find his answer to you (in h2so4 #6) to be satisfying on all accounts.

My reasoning is much the same, though with different effects. Such choice of footwear is made only by means of irremediable ignorance. This is an ignorance of nature, not intellect. Ignorance of nature and its causes disposeth a man or woman to credulity, so as to believe many times impossibilities: for such know nothing to the contrary, but that such lies may be true; being unable to detect the impossibility. And credulity, because men like to be hearkened unto company, disposeth them to lying: so that ignorance itself without malice, is able to make a man both to believe lies, and to tell them; and sometimes to invent them.

Miss Manners says one may not wear white pumps save between Memorial Day and Labor Day. This permission is taken by the faint of heart as a commission to do so, when in fact it need not be. Cobblers, then, hearkening to the demand of the seasonally shod, supply unto the seekers such commodity, thereby spreading the proliferation of ignorant fashion. Meanwhile, the footwear appeareth in all manner of shop windows, producing in the weak-willed and unimaginative a desire to possess. The wearers, in their ignorance, believe they need such "fashion," in other words, they believe the lie. What is more, they advise others to adhere to it, both in practice and in exhortation; thus they invent more demand, and more lies.

Hold steadfast to your knowledge and creativity. The laws of nature are immutable and eternal; for injustice, ingratitude, arrogance, pride, iniquity, and the rest, can never be made lawful. For it can never be that war shall preserve life, and peace destroy it. In such a manner, the laws of fashion hold steady, even in their seeming whimsy. For it can never be that a shoe by a master such as John Fluevog, no matter how obscure its origin, might jar the eye upon entering the sphere of vision; and white pumps will not be made attractive, no matter the size of the demand and the purchase, nor the number on display at Leeds.

Yours,

T. Hobbes

[scribed by Jill Stauffer, ©1996]