Contemplation. What good is aimless thought? Does it sharpen? Does it build? What purpose or function does it serve? How do I know what I think if I can’t see what I say? Why wait for the day of judgment to see what I really think about matters? Most people keep it in. They are unknown to themselves. What do people think about in their free time? I think about too much. Far too much. Everything and anything. Mostly the abstract. I often find myself wrestling to reconcile certain paradoxes, or trying to merge dissimilar ideas into an attractive whole.
I am usually not present. I try, I try desperately to be present. I recognize that being present is happiness. Being present with the moment is being eternal. Eternity isn’t bound by feeble notions concerning infinite temporal duration. Eternity is beyond time, open to ultimate possibility, residing in some place of timelessness. Those who seek eternal life must look no farther than the present. The present is our eternal life.
The present. What is the present? This moment. Now. It is a phenomenon. It is a phenomenon that is all encompassing. Nothing escapes the now. In all of time and space, no matter how respective one point from another, there is an eternal inescapable now. We cannot escape its grip. Physically, we cannot escape the now. Nothing can. What about psychologically? Can we mentally escape the now? How would this be possible?
The now is defined by sensations- sense data and impressions- registered from the external environment. Can we escape these sensations? Can we recreate sensations and alter our consciousness so that we find ourselves attending to sensations that are not present? Surely. Any recall provides this mental escape. Memories allow us to revisit mental states. They recreate the sensations within us and allow us to inspect and judge their perceived nature according to what the present confirms.
When we imagine, or reflect, or think, I believe this is what we do. Perhaps reason is as much of a vice as it is a gift? In that, it removes us from present demands and causes us to become preoccupied with demands that are distant and far removed from the now.
Perhaps this is why faith plays such an instrumental role in theology and religion? Living in the present requires a blind attendance to the now. It requires that we hold off judgement, criticism, analysis, and react to an intuition that embodies belief.
Belief forms the sum of man’s experience. It is the core of his being, a amalgam that wholly embodies actuality.
I was recently thinking about my life and what I want out of it. What is it that I want from life? Everything really. I wouldn’t mind money, fame, solitude, poverty, adventure- whatever. I could take it all, be it all, do it all. I suppose I could be happy with anything really. I say that because it’s all too often that I find myself happy with nothing; the absurdity of life, the trivial nature of existence. Life has no meaning as soon as one loses the illusion of being eternal. But how does one lose that illusion? Straying too far from the present, perhaps?
I spoke with my father and voiced my concern about continuing along with economics as a major. While the discipline fascinates me to no end, it doesn’t provide my curiosities enough stimulation. I would like to follow my passions on conviction alone. I don’t want desires transplanted from outside me as dictated from the world. I am my own master. My conclusions are my own.
So I was thinking of finishing up all my major requirements in Philosophy next semester and pursuing courses more liberally. I’d like to take some classes in English and writing, math and physics, possibly chemistry, history, anthropology, sociology and, why not, some more classes in economics. Sure I can take more philosophy classes, but as a philosopher, why stop with philosophy? Philosophy is concerned with truths, with facts and the paradigms where they reside. It is concerned with existence, meaning, and life. Any discipline of study will afford me the material to think more critically about life. Studying new disciplines will only add to my language, build my vocabulary, and allow me to think beyond my current capacity for thought.
“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.”
— Ludwig Wittgenstein
Pursuing unfamiliar domains of thought and experience provides the unique opportunity for new acquaintances and carries me to a proximity in which I can more closely engage life in general. Repeated exposure with any unknown soon renders a familiarity that becomes known to us. We learn the idiosyncrasies, coin meaning and expectations. New language expands my world, my conception of life, my understanding of existence.
Introspection. More introspection. What is introspection? A self-examination? Personal reflection? A mediation? –spect comes from L. spectrum “appearance, vision, apparition.Intro- comes from L. intro “on the inside, within, to the inside.”
Introspection: 1670s, from L. introspectionem, from introspectus, pp. of introspicere “to look into, look at,” from intro- “inward” + specere “to look at” (see scope (1)).
The relative nature of our world fascinates me, particularly words. We treat them as these definite building blocks and act as if they maintain a univocity. The reality is that all language, all words that comprise language, has been past down and inherited by each successive generation throughout the ages.
We rely on a semantic content that is fixed, previously agreed upon and assigned. If it were not, communication would be near impossible. The fixed semantic content we attribute to words is not inherent, rather it is borne out of normative conventions that allow for a smooth exchange of understanding.
When I write it becomes much more evident of the relative nature of words. If I understand the content of a word in which someone else lacks there will be a gap in communication. Metaphors fill this gap. Metaphors. That’s another interesting phonomenon I’d like to study in more depth. Metaphors. Hot is red. Cold is blue. Why do these seem so intuitive? We describe certain people as being ‘radiant’. Of course they don’t shine or glow, but we associate nongermane concepts to things such as personality that illustrate the particular semantics of our expressive language. Is it true or false that a person is radiant? Or that someone is blue? Nietzsche captured the relative nature of language and the misguided assumptions of their truth and falsity in this passage with beautiful simplicity:
What then is truth? A movable host of metaphors, metonymies, and anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding. Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions — they are metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force, coins which have lost their embossing and are now considered as metal and no longer as coins.
-Friedrich Nietzsche, in On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense (1873)
As per usual, I have been giving quite a bit of thought to relativity. The relativity of life, meaning, purpose, language and the like. Freedom as well.
If we wish to go beyond, to expand our minds and our worlds, we need to reexamine not just what language we use, but how we use it. Just as we cannot apply the same tool for every task, we cannot apply the same language for every problem. As Abraham Maslow said, “To the man who only has a hammer, everything he encounters begins to look like a nail.”
We must actively question which language tools we are apply to certain matters and situations. The unknown and unfamiliar, or anything that leaves us feeling disoriented or ‘wrong’, should never deter us from exploring the limits of our current conceptions. Learning and growth is a result of continual revision and adoption.
So long as man feigns the familiar, he will be forever trapped. If it does not occur to us to pull rather than push, we will be endlessly imprisoned in unlocked rooms that open inward. Life is open for all; seek the way with astute self reliance and courageous humility.
Anyway… need to continue writing that novel.