Monday, 26 March 2018

My philosophy of existence

     I don't have a philosophy of war and peace, or human bondage to irrational desire, or the greatest happiness for the greatest number, or the liberation of the proletariat, or any other fancy conceit. My philosophy is me. I am my philosophy. My sole interest is in the fact that I exist — and what means or what I can do about it.
     I'm not saying I'm not moved by Wittgenstein's mysticism in his Tractatus and 1914–16 Notebooks, or Russell's romanticism in 'A Free Man's Worship', or any other display of concern for the human predicament or the fate of the human race. But I call it 'displacement activity'.
     This is my philosophy, this is what I teach: The topic you should be concerned about is you, and only you.
     And what of me?...
     I'm not a god, looking down in pity on the world and its creatures, or a Jesus or Gilgamesh looking to sacrifice myself for the benefit of all humanity. I am more remarkable than any of these, not less. It is massively more improbable that I might have existed than either a god or a christ. I have no reason to exist at all. And yet here I am!
     Now, what comes next?
     The hardest thing to shake free is the feeling that I should be doing something important. Instead of frittering away my time, playing computer games or listening to 80s pop music or watching TV sitcoms. For what benefit? Does it make me happy? If not, then that is a reason for looking around for something better to do. The only valid reason.
     The only thing I have that is truly mine is my libido, the flame of my desire. Wanting something, or wanting to do something, or do something to someone, is the only reason for existing. (I kind-of want to be writing this, but am not exactly heated up about it, it's just least irritating activity I can think of for the moment.)
     Do I really want nothing? Is that it? Not at all. I look forward to the things I know I will enjoy. And after I have enjoyed them they are not nothing despite what Bradley says (desires as 'perishing particulars', Appearance and Reality). I take pleasure in the thought that I was pleased. But then again, I'm no hedonist. I see through all that. After a certain point, pleasures begin to irritate me. I'd rather have nothing than to be irritated.
     What I would really really like to do is write something down that was the true measure of all this. A universe with me in it. Unthinkable without. But I can't. Every attempt is lame, beyond belief. Clowning around, when I know that no circus would ever hire me. (Not that I care whether the others are laughing, with me or at me.)
     'The thing you thought you saw, out of the corner of your eye, do you see it now?' I have the same feeling I had back then. That there is something. But I just can't get a fix on it. I can't get it into focus.
     I accept the person that I am. I embrace the person I have become. How could I not when my being here now, my Doing, is the ultimate reality? This is all I have to work with. Palette, brushes and paints. There's nothing else, nor could there ever be. (Which is not to say or imply that the task is somehow 'artistic' or 'aesthetic'. That's way more than any mere facts could justify.)
     Talking about the 'person I have become', I was telling my daughter yesterday about an incident from my early childhood. Impossible to give a date, although I could have been 7 or 8, maybe 9. Snuggled up in bed in the dark with our German au pair girl, she telling me about the fire bombing of Dresden and other German cities in World War II. The terror. How liquid phosphorus fire poured down basement stairs burning everyone cowering inside to embers.
     You'd think that would have some impact. What else happened between us? I have no recollection at all. Just that one memory fragment. I don't even remember her name, although I when I try to see her I picture a roundish face, long blonde hair. We had a number of au pairs, French, German, Austrian, even one Greek. I remember them well. But not her.
     Something else happened yesterday: the ninth anniversary of the death of my wife June. I wrote this epitaph for her web page June Wynter:
Every human being
Successfully navigates
The course
Of his or her
Own life
It's the one journey
With a guaranteed
Destination
     Taken from my Filofax notebooks. The thought came to me, maybe a couple of years ago. It's kind of depressing yet also liberating. I laugh in the face of 'success' or 'failure'. June was racked by remorse over her failure to realize her artistic ambitions. I regret nothing. I see through it all.

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