A Taste for The Distasteful

Ambrose Bierce was a man whose upbringing uniquely prepared him for the challenges of his life. You could say he was born into Stoicism, given that his father was named Marcus Aurelius Bierce and his uncle, who became a General in the US Army, was Lucius Verus Bierce (the name of Marcus’s stepbrother.).

So while an ordinary person might have struggled through the U.S. Civil War, the turmoil of Reconstruction, the rough world of the western mining towns, the corruption of the Gilded Age and then finally, an early but epic death by Mexican firing squad, Bierce didn’t. He was as tough and sardonic as they came—and so we could say he not only thrived in these situations, but managed to see them with enough distance even as they were happening that his writing survives to us 110 years later with all sorts of wisdom and insight about the human condition.

One observation stands out (though there are plenty in his Civil War Stories and The Devil’s Dictionary) and is worth trying out today,

“Cultivate a taste for distasteful truths. And…most important of all, endeavor to see things as they are, not as they ought to be.”

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