Man’s will, as all can intuit, is motivated by a rewards-based system: the expectancy of pleasure in wake of pain, and joy after sorrow, strength after weakness, health after sickness – all of which demand significant reserves of energy to both express and fulfill, to say nothing of the sustenance required to simply maintain the body’s various organs; energy not only defined in terms of fuel but also respite from the excessive use of that fuel, activities that might otherwise be compromising a man’s ability to recover and adapt. These needs, expressed as hunger, thirst, fatigue, boredom, desire, etc., only intensify the longer the body “perceives” it’s being unduly deprived, never mind if the object of that perception is helpful or hurtful, illusory or in actual fact.
What’s more, standing perpetually between man and the objects of his desire are various emotional, psychological and physical Obstacles that the Will must overcome in order to consummate its ultimate purpose in the expression of pleasure; Will seen here as the semi-conscious vehicle of desire, “desire” synonymous with “dissatisfaction” – primarily with one’s present conditions; Dissatisfaction and the Obstacles it projects which must exist so that the Will can begin to actualize itself as Will: Obstacles providing the necessary resistance to enable the Will to bring forth “what is” from “what is not”.
Without Obstacle there can be no Will, and where no Will, no Obstacle – nor any of life’s activity. For it is only through the dynamic relationship between Will and its antecedent that Life can unfold, even the life of plants, rocks, stars, etcetera.
Wherever Will triumphs over Obstacle, we see the awareness of the latter recede into something that can be approximated as memory, while the former realizes its purpose by dissolving into the senses of the ever-present now, bringing forth the perception of pleasure – even ecstasy; triumph that witnesses the intermittent nullification of both, whose unfortunate, though unavoidable, perception brings ecstasy crashing to the earth with a fury commensurate to the speed and height of its ascent.
When the novel perceptions of pleasure become common and ordinary – i.e. when they exceed the body’s ability to maintain their expression as extraordinary – the dynamism of life springs forth anew, inflaming in man desires which again reveal themselves as a dissatisfaction with one’s present condition, desires that found their ascent upon the former peak of one’s greatest sensual profundity.
So ravenous is Life’s yearning to grow and develop that even when a man starts to move towards his new goal, Life’s Obstacles immediately begin to harangue him as if he hadn’t: prodding and plaguing him onward with unending dissatisfaction until he achieves his goal or else settles for something less; the new goal which always exceeds the old now comfortable and familiar; familiarity which, through its safety and ease, does indeed breed contempt in one’s self towards one’s self when acquiesced too often.
Such is the restless dynamism of Will in which a man spiritually thrives or dies. And while a more or less linear evolution would seem intuitive given life’s relentless ferocity, the reality proves anything but. For not only does the ubiquitous access to the lesser rewards of familiarity desensitize man of his appetite for greater (albeit more difficult) aspirations, one quickly discovers the higher the Will ascends the more Fear abounds, namely, the fear produced by the growing awareness of one’s ever-alienating Subjectivity: that which reveals life’s objective meaninglessness by way of the attainment, ironically, of one’s most “meaningful” experience; experience which can only be had in the body, and each one necessarily different from the next in the way it perceives and interprets sensual impressions; “subjectivity” which can be defined as your inability to experience my meaningfulness; incapacity which destroys even the idea of objectively and by it, any “true” potential to share significance with others in equivalent terms.
Through the awareness of the horrifying existential effects of sensual subjectivity is the linear evolution of life in the body and mind perpetually stifled, suppressed and otherwise derailed; evolution which, because it differs so vastly from man to man depending on one’s strength and development of will, ultimately determines one’s Willful-Spiritual order of rank in his self-identified hierarchy, his position therein which plays a fundamental role with regards to the way he values life and its entails.
As with all things in nature, there exists not a single hierarchy among men but many, each governed by the mandates of a group’s highest implicit value, that which assumes the form of a certain currency by which its members continually trade or “project outward” so as to demonstrate their level of competency to the rest of the group. The degree to which these demonstrations are interpreted and either accepted or denied as legitimate will determine whether a man ascends or descends in order of rank.
Most moderns, whether knowingly or not, belong to a “common” hierarchy that is more or less economically-derived, one that places its highest value in the rewards of economic or utilitarian productivity, values embodied in notions such as safety, surety, comfort, convenience, leisure, all of which are projected via various displays of wealth, material accumulation, academic and professional accomplishment, trustworthiness of reputation and so on.
Concerning the hierarchy in which most philosophers, artists and other “great minds” belong, their values assume an “aesthetic” or “existential” form symbolized in the nebulous though immediately recognizable notion of “authenticity”: a certain intimate proximity to the nature of man’s essence; proximity which is demonstrated through the communication of one’s unique understanding of Essence via works of art, literature or scholarship whose primary goal is to stand as an enduring testament of that Understanding; endurance which manifests as a certain “timelessness”, requiring, curiously, that the aesthetic embody the most well-formed type of the age in which he lives.
Producing their work from the ground of authenticity, thinkers project it onto the whole of the world under obscure veils of profound and inaccessible language with the intent that it may only be “truly” discovered and deciphered by those rare souls who speak, think and “feel” likewise, the reception of which in most cases comes after the thinker’s lifetime.
The greatest danger with this projection, especially in times of mass communication where the barrier between the great mind and the public is comparatively low, is the threat the outside world poses to the sanctity of the writer’s emotional and psychological solitude, that which is indispensable for the thorough study of the Self and is at all times vulnerable to the profanation of the grunting opinions of the herd, specifically from its more “cultivated” members: those knowledgeable, authoritative and accomplished individuals whom the great mind probably numbers as friends but whose frequent interactions he must continually oppose for no other reason that they relieve him of his intellectual loneliness and through it, the source of his aesthetic power; loneliness and the “madness” it produces the only true compass by which the Subjective Mind can successfully navigate the difficult shoals of his life and work; Madness which must not only be confronted each day but also sublimated in order to do that which has never been done.
The philosopher’s task is to chronicle the metaphysical history of his own body and for that no one is aid and all are detriment, even those he may look up to, admire and vice versa.
The more the thinker sheds his emotional loneliness to friends and peers by condescending the incommunicability of his revelations so as to conform to a language that may be understood by even himself, the more his aesthetic prowess wanes, leaving him with a depressed capacity to affirm his own ideas as “true”, meaningful, even important.
Every time he sees his listeners nod their heads, the thinker is deprived, little by little, of the abiding power that his unutterable whimsies grant him; power which is founded on his own peculiar understanding of his own subjective experience which alone enables a man authenticate his own existence.
Such channels with the outside world, once routinized and entrenched as sources of ever-ready affirmation, prove nearly impossible to resist whenever madness reaches out to touch him on the shoulder, madness which is indeed difficult for the body to continually bear – but bear it it must in order to grow in authenticity; affirmation that the thinker will soon become dependent in order to think any new thought at all, his former navigational tools having been left to rust and rot under sun and sands of the beach he tragically ran aground.
Unfortunately for he who is aware of these things is the reality that he does, in fact, still inhabit a body, and it in a world: one necessarily inhabited by Others, without whom the Writer-as-Subject could not, in fact, exist in the first place, having nothing to objectify or differentiate himself therefrom.
Thus, whether he’d like to admit it or not, the great mind is utterly dependent on Man – or in this case, Men – for the actualization of his own essence, the same as Will is dependent on Obstacle; “man” impossible if not for “men”, just as a physical thing “is not” but for the actual eyes that behold it. The artist therefore has no other choice but to write, think and create in the potentially debilitating light of others who will, in fact, view and ultimately appraise him and whatever glory he produces for either good or ill.
The challenge that remains for the great man then is to protect the sanctity of his solitude and the power it contains while yet in the “presence” of others, in the foreknowledge that in order to actualize his work and life at all someone else must exist whom he must also interact; a dynamism that enables the great thinker’s life and work to find its ultimate purpose across time, even if tragic and ultimately impossible; Purpose that if not occasionally ventilated upon the world would too soon fester and turn against the solitary soul in the form of actual Madness: that wretched prophet who calls forth the apocalypse not of some distant god on snowy peaks but the unveiling of its own terrible comedy.
(for R. R.)
Devil walks into bar. Orders drink. Asks Philosopher sitting next to him: “And what do you do?”