Purity

Good and ill are universally intermingled and confounded; happiness and misery, wisdom and folly, virtue and vice. Nothing is pure and entirely of a piece. All advantages are attended with disadvantages. An universal compensation prevails in all conditions of being and existence. And it is not possible for us, by our most chimerical wishes, to form the idea of a station or situation altogether desirable. The draughts of life, according to the poet’s fiction, are always mixed from the vessels on each hand of JUPITER: Or if any cup be presented altogether pure, it is drawn only, as the same poet tells us, from the left-handed vessel.

The more exquisite any good is, of which a small specimen is afforded us, the sharper is the evil, allied to it; and few exceptions are found to this uniform law of nature. The most sprightly wit borders on madness; the highest effusions of joy produce the deepest melancholy; the most ravishing pleasures are attended with the most cruel lassitude and disgust; the most flattering hopes make way for the severest disappointments. And, in general, no course of life has such safety (for happiness is not to be dreamed of) as the temperate and moderate, which maintains, as far as possible, a mediocrity, and a kind of insensibility, in every thing.

— David Hume, The Natural History of Religion

One thought on “Purity”

  1. We must not accept that there is no such thing as purity simply because we live in a world of dilutions. If we say there can be no good without evil and no evil without good, then we give up the right to judge evil behaviour. If we say there can be no happiness without sadness, then we destroy innocence. Indeed, you might not understand happiness before sadness throws it into relief, but you do not say “I was not happy then for I had not been sad”, but rather “I had no name for what I was then, but now I have been sad, I know it was happiness”.

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