Richard Cory, by Edwin Arlington Robinson

“Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
‘Good-morning,’ and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.”

There are many interpretations to this poem, some simple and trivial (i.e. money and status don’t equal happiness) and some more complex and speculative. The message of the Guide for a Young Patriarch regarding happiness yields a very simple interpretation of this poem. Since happiness is the method your genes apply to control your behavior (see dear nihilist your happiness is also meaningless), Richard Cory’s story is just a story of defective/unadapted genes and another weak person completely controlled by his genes and happiness.

Dear Richard Cory had everything he needed, but still, the masters of his life made him miserable and suicidal. He was too weak to escape. He probably had to ability to think logically but his defective/unadapted genes made him kill himself for no worthy cause. This just shows how pathetic and powerless it is to blindly follow your happiness.

Modern western culture glorifies happiness and thus gives the genes even more power over our lives. Viewing happiness as more important that any other value is one of the major themes of feminism and individualism (e.g. I’m unhaaapppy divorce, justification and legalization of infidelity, normalization of single parent households…).

Viewing values, order and genetic lineage as more important than happiness is a form of rebellion against the cult of individualism. The definition of freedom must include the most basic freedom to be able to act, knowing misery and pain will come to you, and still pursue your chosen action.

BTW: In many cases genes do contains valuable information, if your body hurt, it is probably for a reason, gut feelings are in many cases right (e.g. disgust at disfigured people is a method to prevent disease) even if the culture frown upon it. However, we should be strong enough to over rule our genes when needed and know how to live in peace with the emotions created by our genes.

(For the new reader, here is a link to the latest draft (pdf, 14/Jun/2012) of the Guide for a Young Patriarch which is based on the posts made in this blog and attempts to organize them into a consistent message.)

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3 Responses to Richard Cory, by Edwin Arlington Robinson

  1. Breeze says:

    Don’t fall for the quasi intellectual mistake of reducing everything to simplified evolutionary arguments. Life is far more complex than mediocre minds who need to explain everything away in terms of neo darwinism can understand.
    You should read some true accounts from people who have lived through hell and kept going. Read books from those who survived wars, depressions and the worst life has to throw. The idea of happiness is very new. Happiness, when used in most contexts, just means comfort. There are people, particularly men, who do not like comfortable and actively seek out other sorts of life. The mainstream media will not mention these sorts lest the sheeple become discontented with their bread, circuses and soma.

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