Friday, February 3, 2023

George Costanza’s Guide to Better Living - WSJ

In the classic “Seinfeld” episode, “The Opposite,” George Costanza laments during lunch his terrible instincts and their resulting life choices. Hearing this, Jerry Seinfeld observes, “If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.” Inspired, George approaches an attractive woman dining alone and against all instinct tries honesty: “My name is George. I’m unemployed and I live with my parents.” She agrees to a date.

Such wit and wisdom! So what if it’s merely sitcom dialogue? The cannonade behind George Costanza’s newfound approach to living has lit the Western sky for centuries. Support is found in the intellectual artillery of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Ignatius of Loyola and C.S. Lewis.

In the 13th century, Aquinas wrote that original sin disrupted man’s natural predisposition to virtue. If fallen man no longer invariably knows and wants what’s good for him, recognition of this fact is an important step toward right action. In acknowledging how often he was his own worst enemy, George Costanza filled the Angelic Doctor’s prescription.

Centuries later, British writer C.S. Lewis advanced this thought in “Mere Christianity.” Self-awareness wasn’t enough. Rather, “if you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road.” Lewis knew good and bad habits led men in opposite directions. The rational reaction to realizing a compass is broken is twofold. First, stop in your tracks. Second, find true north. George Costanza took both steps.


It's a thought.

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My colleagues and I often quote the two greatest American Philosophers --George Costanza and Homer Simpson: "Whatever I Say -- Do the Opposite" and "Don't Try"

Has worked out well for us over the years.

S_L Est. 1942 NY NY USA

Posted by: SchmuelNachman | Feb 3, 2023 3:59:28 PM

Lewis was Irish. Except, no doubt in the eyes of the sort of Irish (including some of my ancestors, alas) who view all other sorts of Irish as not Irish at all and properly subject to ethnic cleansing and genocide.

Posted by: dearieme | Feb 4, 2023 2:46:13 AM