From ‘A Tale of Two Liars’

Written by Isaac Bashevis Singer

As a tree has its shadow,
Let me have my love,
As wax melts in a fire,
Let him burn to my touch,
Now and forever,
In me be his trust
Trapped in desire
Until all turns to dust
Amen, Selah.
 

That Spinoza would wish to maximize the active affects is understandable in light of his characterization of life led under the sway of the passions. Such a life is one in which the individual exercises little effective self-control and is buffeted by external circumstances in ways that are largely random. “The man who is subject to the [passive] affects,” Spinoza writes, “is under the control, not of himself, but of fortune, in whose power he so greatly is that often, though he sees the better for himself, he is still forced to follow the worse” (IV Preface). Life under the sway of the passions is a life of bondage.
It is from this rather pessimistic diagnosis of the human condition that Spinoza’s ethical theory takes off. In view of this, it is not at all surprising that his ethics is largely one of liberation, a liberation that is directly tied to the cultivation of reason. In this respect, Spinoza’s ethical orientation is much more akin to that of the ancients than to that of his fellow moderns. Like the ancients, he sought not so much to analyze the nature and source of moral duty as to describe the ideal human life. This is the life that is lived by the so-called ‘free-man’. It is a life of one who lives by the guidance of reason rather than under the sway of the passions.
From ‘The Ethics’ by Benedict de Spinoza