Saturday, March 13, 2004

Greeny-brown, Viscous Stuff

Horribly wrong, but usefully wrong. Camus, when he wrote that the only important philosophical question was suicide.

Usefully because it gets to the point. Cut the bullshit. If life isn't worth living, then all other questions are irrelevant.

But wrong, because it fatally miscasts the question as an intellectual problem. And sends legions of depressed people off to the hopeless task of thinking their way out of despair. Nobody. Nobody. Nobody ever thought their way out despair.

It's not an intellectual problem. It's a problem of perception. Camus understood that under the skin -- his books are all about learning to perceive connections, intimacies, that have been hidden denied explained away elided buried in platitude.

But of course Camus lived in the blinding glare of the enlightenment, as we mostly still do, and the enlightenment insisted with deadly grim inexorable savage intolerance: the way we perceive things is inalterable, and it is utterly correct. Nothing could be stupider, hah! than those medieval monks, working to purify their hearts so they could see more clearly. No no. We already see with absolute perfect clarity, our perception allows us to directly grasp the reality of the world. Sometimes we need a microscope, or a telescope to make the images big enough for our perfect understanding to grasp them, but once the information gets to our eyes, we're home free.

Despair is a problem of perception. It's a problem, not of seeing too much, but of seeing too little. We sit on the ocean bottom, convulsively stirring up the mud, and solemnly observing that there's no way to see through water, because it's greeny-brown, viscous stuff. Well, just look at it! It is!

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