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"a second characteristic of the perfect nature on which philo lays great and frequent stress, is typified and symbolised in isaac. it is joy. laughter is the meaning of isaac's name, and joy is his peculiar grace. isaac represents that highest virtue, which is given by nature without a struggle, and its "prize" is joy. his name is the emblem of his mind. for laughter is the bodily emblem of the invisible joy of the mind. laughter is the ideal ([greek omitted]) son of god. joy is the best and fairest of the happy states by which the soul is wholly filled with cheerfulness. joy differs toto coelo from pleasure. 'true and genuine joy ([greek omitted]) is only found in the virtues of the soul. the wise man rejoices only in himself, not in his environment. but what is 'in himself' are the virtues of the mind, of which it is proper to be proud; his environment is his bodily health or his riches, the boast of which is not permissible.' joy, he elsewhere says, 'has this peculiar quality. other good things have their own activity, but joy is a good common to others and peculiar to itself, for joy is superadded to all other good things.'

philo makes a most characteristic use of a verse in genesis where, at the promise of isaac's birth, abraham is said 'to fall upon his face and laugh. he fell not from god, but from himself. he stood near to the changeless god: he fell from his self-conceit. it was indeed natural that his mind should have been swollen and raised up by such a promise. but abraham, convicting us who are wont to boast at trifles, "fell on his face and laughed in his soul." his face was solemn, but he smiled in his mind, where great and unmixed joy had come to dwell. and every wise man who receives a good greater than he anticipated will, like abraham, fall down and laugh together."

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( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
all_unnecessary
Feb. 9th, 2010 07:52 pm (UTC)
Receiving a good greater than one anticipated
I was thinking about this yesterday - it's a much nicer version of Kafka's Abraham. Have you read Avital Ronell's Stupidity? The pages on the Kafka tale are full of win.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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