Imitation of a 19th Century Philosopher


This is an imaginary essay that a philosopher of the 19th century would write.

Enjoy.

———————————

The man of low, or what we shall call here not only to preserve the conventions of propriety and formality, but as a well-meaning gesture of understanding for him, normal, intelligence, has much difficulty engaging some of the more rarified mental faculties that are necessary precursors to singular thought and idea.  To this man, then, engagement defines itself as the primary function that precipitates deep thinking.

The genius, on the other hand, is forever in the predicament of attempting to disengage various problematic faculties of the mind that deluge him and thus render focused attention unattainable.  Once disengagement has occurred, the genius is granted a respite from the blur of thoughts and is able to focus the power of his intellect on save one or two.

And while the man of normal capacity of intellect takes a simple pleasure from overt display of a self-formulated answer to a problem that, more often than not is of a practical nature, the genius is distinguished by finding much joy in the process itself of unraveling and dissecting a conundrum, even if, it is emphasized, the end result is not an answer readily perceived as concrete, reasonable, and exclusive.

     These two, then, are the main, but sometimes innocuous differences between the ordinary thinker and the savant.  But what of the similarities? What traits of mental and emotional character instance themselves in these two ostensibly different men?  This question requires a detailed look into the lives of each.

     Certainly, the genius would argue in unequivocal terms that he is an island, would try to isolate himself as much as possible not just from the average man, but from all other evidenced genius.  Not only does he despise the mundane and, what he perceives to be, the superficial, it is justifiable to say that he resents the presence of novelty not directly evinced by himself.  He seeks the state of “Nietche’s Ubermann” – the elusive transcendental qualities of perfect self-sufficiency and self-mastery.

And indeed, it is a fact that he will usually lead a life of social reclusion, quitting much of the possibility for friendship so as to better align himself with the arts and sciences, and with his work.  This foregoing of potential happiness derived from social contact is a solid testimony to his will and constitution, for no one can deny the suffering and confusion that must necessarily accompany a life of solitude.  Even the aforementioned joy the genius partakes of by virtue of his intellectual pursuits cannot provide him refuge from the inevitable tides of Loneliness and Depression that rise ever higher as he progresses in his craft.

All his works are tragic labors of love, to the discerning observer.  They represent the horrendous agony, the sea of tears, the incalcuble number of hours in which he has spent starving himself emotionally and physically to create the sublime.

     That he is consumed utterly by the demands of his vocation should go without saying, yet is not widely understood, I think, how this almost preternatural consuming nature of his work transforms him, bit by bit, into a human of extreme depravity and madness.

He sacrifices all, and in the end, himself, on the altar of his ideals.  To see an example of this we must hardly look further than the most obvious and well-known of painters, Van Gogh, who in his unbowed earnestness for the absolute, relinquished his ear fearlessly, cutting it eagerly from his body.  There is no forfeiture too great, no task he is unwilling to do in the name of the enlightenment of the mind.

     In his final stage, the genius is by most accounts no longer human.  His work has so obscured any other interest or habit of mind that it is impossible for him to act in anyway unnatural to it.  Misery, happiness, ennui, all no longer hold meaning for him as relative contextual entities, and thus only affect him in the form of an impetus to work longer hours, to eat and sleep less, etc.  He will feed off these emotions in the same manner that a sportsman will harness nervous pressure to excel at his game.

     Now that we have acquainted ourselves lightly with the life of a genius, such as it is, we will move on swiftly to bring the life of an ordinary man under scrutiny, and so have a better framework of knowledge in our employ to correctly identify the similarities between them.

     Unlike the obsessive and self-destructive nature peculiar to the man possessed of much intellectual wealth, the ordinary man embodies a rational and cautious temperament.

He settles comfortably enough among life’s quaint trivialities, and as a consequence of his simplicity, allows himself to be blown freely by fate, passion, and circumstance. His worries are practical, and his ethos unremarkable in style.  Yet if he were to struggle determinedly against instances of willful malfeasance, resolving to abide by the universal laws of kindness, how can we say that his time on earth was any less beautiful than the tragic days spent by the genius?  For the average man has more space around him to move gracefully and effortlessly, if he so chooses.

     The subtle scent of a rose many not invoke awe or sense of mystery; the unseen pattern an ant makes with its movements on the earth beneath his feet may escape attention; he will certainly never know the rapture and intensity of solving a differential equation of Calculus.  Yet because he is so empty, his body can more easily be filled like a vessel with the ineffable understanding of God.

The Congregation


monks

The men came to congregate tonight;
wearing faces of brave, rigid skin
that drew taught over their flacid jaw bones,
and furrowed, worried brows that crinkled heavily
and buried the gentle glowing eyes they had deep
underneath,
To the point where their vision
lacked seeing, and their tongues could not
speak with such strong burden.
Inside their fragile organs cried the
collective song of sorrow;
a song unbearably inaudible through
their tough exterior.
Nothing could be said, nothing could be
communicated.
And yet, they rushed together in tides
so harmonious and full of intent
that one looking on would be amazed at
their order and unity of work.
The moon hung in the sky above, swinging
a slow rhythm to their movements below.
They swept through plains of darkness and
shadow, their determination creating a palpable
wave of sadness, so that it seemed the very
atmosphere they breathed out was misty with
tears.
All through the endless night they tirelessly worked –
hands deftly weaving, building, creating,
suffering.
No rests were taken, no respite
was given, and no words were spoken.
Mortle and pistle was mixed with the
blood from their bodies, and stuck bricks
together, one on top of each other to form
an endlessly high wall that ran for miles
in every direction, surrounding them and sheltering
them a cove of black regress. Time and
movement fell away and no one
could any longer discern objects from
observers, good from bad, love from
hate, truth from falsehood.
And so the great city was fortified and rose
up from the dust where the men could live
without living, and recline into a pose of
non-duality.

The Affliction of Suffering


Hey all… So, I’m a big slacker.  I’m still trying to get all my research notes together so that I can write something comprehensible about the Minnesota Vikings.  Until then, here’s a piece I wrote about suffering:

suffering

Suffering afflicts mankind; we are consumed and ravaged by it.  Its forms are incalculable in number.  When we perceive this, ostensibly there is no end to it.

I tried to think of the best way to live, under the assumption that I must necessarily bear suffering along with me:  to optimize comfort in an environment that is intrinsically one of discomfort.

The primary concern is of developing and consciously maintaining a vice – one that brings with it temporary bursts of pleasure, though inevitably is accompanied with much lasting pain and suffering.   The reason for this is that without a controlled and conscious vice, one will unconsciously take on habits that may or may not bring one enough pleasure or happiness to be rationally considered as a viable option.  By being both conscious and conscientious, we can pick a suitable vice that maximizes comfort while minimizing the suffering caused by it.

A second concern to someone wishing to optimize his level of happiness in this world is to practice appreciating and dealing with suffering itself; to realize that life is suffering and happiness the exception to the rule, thus developing emotional, physical, and mental tools for accepting the truth of this reality.  Figuratively running away from suffering produces unnecessary, extra suffering.  One must learn to embrace it.

A third point of interest for a person learning to cope with the torment of life is willfully trying to fix a specific problem in one’s life that is causing one distress.  Although this is a practice that many people exercise, it time-consuming and greatly uneventful, excepting the extra suffering that gets heaped on what is already presently there.  Even if one would succeed in eradicating a particular flavor of suffering, a new, or several new ones, would appear in its place.

I had a cigarette in the snow, feeling cold, while my dog whined inside because he wanted to be let out.