Saturday, April 13, 2019

Moi, je suis le centre du monde

Espousing the doctrine that existence means my existence and my mental states is perhaps not as egregious as the belief of the solipsist that there are no thoughts, experiences and emotions other than one's own.  Both postulates however venture dangerously close to egotistic self-absorption, a tolerable immersion for a child but not the sort of candid condemnation even the millennials might prefer. There is a difference between griping about the world one's parents constructed and choosing instead to go "deep down into life and not caring a damn" (P. G. Wodehouse).

The questionable utility of philosophy is a matter I succeeded to resolve in the same polarized way I deal with everything else - that is, a declension somewhere in the middle, the grey between the white and the black, an equal division of the ethereal and the grounded, a balance of the visceral and the cerebral.  All of which plainly advances the proposition that nothing is easy, it all depends, and generally don't push it!

To be perfectly truthful, I needed a job.  My undergraduate degree in Philosophy hadn't met with accolades from either my father (who said when I told him my choice of study, "It's your bed, you make it, you sleep in it" or my professor who commented on my art history thesis, "You might as well say art is fart").  I was ambitious enough to recognize that I preferred having something to do other than teaching what I hardly understood. Oddly though when I began the study of law, the usefulness of syllogistic reasoning instantly became apparent. The lapse into the rude vernacular of law equipped me with a seemingly specious antidote to esoteric logic. It helped too that it came with an element of mystery such as that possessed by snake charmers and clerics. A bit of enlivening theatre always helps, I find.

As one grows old and is forced to succumb to the disintegration of one's mind and body, there are few alternatives remaining. There is a mixture of rise above it, grin and bear it, don't sweat the small stuff or - the final resource - "let the shit go down the street" (an adage I first heard from the senior lawyer whose law office I assumed when I began practicing). In the end all that matters is how you feel when you get out of bed in the morning.  All the rubbish about "cogito, ergo sum" is quite redundant to the pain in one's spine or head; and I really could care less whether it's my reality only or that of another universe.

This doesn't imply that nothing matters.  Certainly, other things matter - things like over-the-counter pain killers, regular bowel movements and whether one's pants fit. I find there is an inherent persuasion to honeycomb and Nanaimo bars (consumed at any time, at any meal, in any quantity).  Some things are just plain digestible, whether physically or intellectually - not to mention the spiritual implication if you feel obliged to excite a less prosaic apology. Eventually we all become hardened to the necessity to enjoy life - or what remains of it - at any cost. Disguising the evaporation of time with surgery (whether remedial or cosmetic), deferring to the spontaneity of alcohol, indulging the scope of one's riches in whatever material object presents its allure, or presuming to enlarge one's breadth by travel or art - it's all a race to the finish line. There is only one direction; viz., forward.  There is no going back at any cost or with any effort. And the only possible winner is you.  In that respect solipsism is plausible.

Meanwhile I contented myself with the traditional undertakings, the details of which don't merit repetition except to say they were no more fanciful than everyday stuff. T. S. Eliot may have been right. Nonetheless I derived considerable elevation from the occupations howsoever trite. More to the point, my new pants fit - perfectly!

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