I liked my last post and enjoyed adding a “Time Crime Update” to the end of it. Again, the idea of copying and pasting the exact iteration of the blog post back into this journal just doesn’t move me. The blog is the blog and this is the field from which it is harvested but then when I skim through the thing prior to posting it usually benefits from some contextual massaging and that’s that, so be it. My idea that the DOP will stand as my massive life’s work, if not exactly a magnum opus then at least the major evidence that I wasn’t sitting on my ass for eleven or twenty or whatever many years watching my life bleed out.
I nevertheless still imagine The World as Personal & Cultural Mythology (WPCM) becoming real because, yes, one of the laws of nature seems to be that writer dudes (because it always seems to be men) must maintain a fantasy of publishing their multi-volume tome of perceived genius that, if it by chance gets started never comes close to completion, let alone publication even as an indie version. It’s a little crazy, this predictably in us male authors with a mind towards non-fiction. It’s a little different than the novelist stereotype where we envision publishing the so-called next great American novel or what have you. With non-fiction, that is, the grand, self-congratulating vision is of the intimidating volume or multi-volumes of dense prose functioning as our version of a unified field theory, the explanation for everything or, akin to me, the new Schopenhauer. The World as Will and Representation and all that.
Regarding Schopenhauer and the variations in the translation of his book title, I’ve discussed at length somewhere in the DOP my preference for this interpretation, namely, identifying a more subtle and I think more interesting and useful sense of it than “idea,” a word I typically despise when it comes to philosophy as it is notoriously overused and functions as a misnomer. So-called Idealism being a strikingly frustrating example: the philosophy of Idealism is not about ideals; rather, it is about ideas. Schopenhauer, then, wasn’t writing about the world as an idea but the world as an experience of representations, a version of phenomenon, similarly, I think to the Hindu idea of samsara (Schopenhauer appreciated Indian philosophy) – as wiki points suggests, everything exists merely as an object in relation to a subject – of things that perhaps existed in some other, truer form behind the representation, an impenetrable mask akin to perhaps the “philosophy” expressed by Ahab in Moby-Dick. The problem I have with Schopenhauer, however, is that he seems just another Kantian, suggesting that we never experience the thing-in-itself, an idea that strikes me as perhaps merely a language problem, a semantic quirk.
That is, akin to the idea that God, say, is something beyond our comprehension, that not just words fail to suffice as description but even any thought we attempt about God fails to encompass or reveal or identify the truer nature of the Divinity or the Atman (to keep things Schopenhauerian), that any thought we can have about God fails, that somehow there exists a thought beyond thought, this strikes me as absurd. We have only our thoughts. Anything else that is supposed to exist beyond our thoughts, beyond our ability to comprehend even a part of it, while perhaps indeed real in its own parallel universe type of manner, is of no use to us, hence why establish the paradox? This is why I describe the God-beyond-our-ability-to-comprehend-God idea as a language problem. The words, that is to say, create a problem where there isn’t one and an idea of nothingness that can’t get past its somethingness. In short, our thoughts, for better or worse, cannot get out of their own way. In this manner it seems to me that I agree with Schopenhauer, even in the sense that we create the world we experience (see the DOP entries on Northrup Frye and the creative imagination), even if it can be said that in doing so, we distort it.
Indeed, this beyond-all-manner-of-thought perspective to me fails at the outset; it is self-contradictory in the sense of simply by stating the non-existence of something you have thereby created an image of it. It seems impossible to me to imagine the absence of anything. Imagining a null space or blank nothingness, for instance, merely establishes an image, hence idea, of null space or nothingness. Though I’m rushing through this and being less than completely rigorous (my impatience!) the reader hopefully grasps something of my argument.
In terms of Schopenhauer’s so-called Will, the ultimately intangibly universal influence or what have you that moves us, I just don’t have any use for the idea. It’s akin to our inferior understanding of gravity as a universal influence – we can use very proficiently the tools we’ve managed to cobble together, the modern physics that does so much fantastic work – regarding how gravity works, but it’s not the whole story. There is intuitively something lacking. WHY gravity? Why do two objects in a vacuum attract each other? Start there. Gravity has yet to be explained by science but there is no legitimate reason why it someday couldn’t be.
But the Will? It merely repackages as atheistic the fundamentally theistic Mind-At-Large. I’m rather for Cosmos or Mystery, capitalized to indicate the currently ineffable, intangible quality of things as perhaps they really are. Note that I don’t claim for these terms a description of what isn’t. I don’t know what isn’t. This is not to be confused, however, with agnosticism, a conviction that I interpret as finally a condition of perpetual doubt; a surrender to being open to new information that may sway the result. One says, I don’t know whether there is a God or not, and I doubt the possibility, given Man’s millennia of struggle with the topic, of experiencing anything capable of solving the riddle, as it were. What answer would suffice? A bolt from the blue? A voice of authority from a burning bush? It’s a pervasive argument against knowing anything for certain.
I used to consider myself agnostic, by the way, being convinced in my middle years that unknowable things like the possibility of divinities were better left alone. I abandoned agnosticism for the very reasons I’ve just attempted to communicate: that in the end, the agnostic insists that which cannot be insisted upon. That is, we do know things by way of the experience of them and to perpetually attach a measure of doubt into every experience is again creating something out of nothing. Nothing begets nothing. If such circular nonsense is not an example of self-delusion, of a language problem, of allowing semantics and the limits of language, of words, to collapse upon itself, of imprisoning oneself behind bars that are merely shadows of bars, then I don’t “know” what is.
Am I arguing, then, for the legitimacy of direct experience? Without spiraling into a grand philosophy of my own, yes. That is, our direct experience is as direct as we can expect. With the caveat that objectivity is always slave to subjectivity. One person’s sense of everyday connectedness is another’s spiritual seizure. We agree upon things. Our shared biology ensures this. Our biological idiosyncrasies also ensure, well, idiosyncrasies. I’ve not gotten very far along with this, I apologize; I’m forever a reluctant philosopher even having majored in philosophy as an undergrad. I resort to philosophy, I suppose. While I immerse myself in mythology. Mythology is something a person can live with. And, again, not because it is a comfortable or even awe-inspiring fabrication – an intentional blindness to things as they perhaps are – but because a fully-functional mythology leaves the door open to all things personal and cosmic at once without the reservations demanded by philosophy or psychology or formal science or any other field on its own. Whew, enough.
Here, perhaps, I’ve spiraled into an explanation for writing sci-fi novels instead of the WPCM. Sci-fi novels are more fun. There is no joy in the process of grinding through the account of my world view in formal, scholarly, non-fiction, philosophy-of-mythology style terms. It is rather the reverse that jazzes me; viz., the mythology of philosophy and damn well everything else, yay!
Perhaps this is all pseudo-intellectual junk? Perhaps it’s mere unacademically vetted nonsense; the exact species unedited, unrefined, unscholarly blabber that clogs the blogosphere to everyone’s exasperated detriment, that pollutes it beyond any utility. Perhaps. Except that this is what I do: namely, write my way through things. I would likely be writing this stuff even if I managed to sell enough books to quit my job and live in luxury. That’s how VAPM (veritelically authentic personal mythology) works. And there’s no getting around it.
Meanwhile, I do not write whatever I want to write. No. Because my intuitions about what I want to write are, once I actually begin writing, appropriated by what can only be termed the muse. This is a creative act. This is, easily as much as my novels, the art-craft, the steady craftin’, the work of my life and that which I must do to have the experience of being properly alive. I continually seek to improve the quality. I seek mastery. I’m forced to settle with the professionalism that seeking mastery can bestow.
In this way I surrender to the blogging that I promised myself I would never surrender to. Life is Irony (another of my never-to-be-written book titles). One must, as Campbell suggested, abandon one’s plans so as to live the life that is waiting for you. When you engage in art-craft it is the same dynamic. We are born to express ourselves, to create the only life we are privileged to experience. Others have perhaps said it better. Coincidentally, (is there any such thing?), Nick Cave’s latest Red Hand Files speaks to it. I leave you with the link as the coda to today’s perhaps knotty post.
P.S. Here’s a lecture I stumbled across that by way of all its limitations and assumptions and steady craftin’ level of DIY granularity, does well to present the questions surrounding gravity in a digestible form.
Thanks for reading.