Monday, May 20, 2019

Venustas Ergo Venustas

I find the world much more difficult and obscure than most people do. I have friends to whom it seems obvious that a person belongs to herself: a statement which I find fascinating, bizarre and indefensible. But to them it is self-evident. I have friends for whom it is self-evident that there is a God who created people, and who believe that they therefore belong to Her: again fascinating, again bizarre, again indefensible. 

It's not clear to me that we exist, in any way similar to the way we imagine we exist, anyway: so Descartes' clear starting principle is for me the iffy conclusion of a dubious chain of assumptions. What are my responsibilities, even if I was created, even if by some unknowable fiat I not only exist, but belong to myself, even if "I" and "myself" are meaningful categories that can be meaningfully linked by a property relationship? That's not clear to me either. To me these are speculations in the outermost spheres of wild hypothesis. To my friends, they're daily realities worth killing and dying for.

Really. I'm not making this up, I'm not trying to invent difficulties. I'm just saying it's dark, to me: I stumble through an obscure world of shifting shapes and dissolving outlines, punctuated by moments of brilliant, wounding, transcendent beauty. 

Which vanish almost at once, leaving behind longings, traces, puzzlements. Descartes, bless his heart, was sure that he existed. For my part, I'm sure that the experience of beauty can exist, momentarily at least, however we conceive of the experiencer. And that's about as far as I get with first principles. This is why I'm so fun at parties.


Melinda Fleming said...

Thich Nhat Hanh once said "Who knows how we should be with each other?", after a young adult asked what he should do with his mother, who wanted more conversation from him. I thought I knew how to answer that young man (of course he should talk more with his mother!). Shortly thereafter, however, the subtlety of Hanh's response began to creep up to me.

Now, here, I would ask: “How could we know how to be with each other, if we do not even know what we are?”

The only value that seems to stand up to any kind of permutation, seems to be basic kindness in the here and now. And even this - just putting it into words - lends itself to all sorts of dogmatizing.

Because my words are like bricks, they tend to build walls. So: all I should say is “I’m with you man.”

Melinda Fleming said...

Just ran across a blog post by Dave Pollard over at How To Save The World titled: "Did Early Humans Have Selves?" Interesting read.

Dale said...

:-) :-) :-)

Thank you, Melinda. Yes, exactly. Kindness in the here and now, and light on the dogma. Off to check out Dave Pollard...