Philosopher Confronts Two 4-Month Old Aphorisms (re-edited)
What is philosophy but a certain psychological approach to the conduct of life?
What is philosophy but a certain psychological approach to the conduct of life? Philosophy is life, or at least the moderately self-aware attempt to work it out: always past and forever changing. The latter, as any writer can attest, is far and away the most difficult element of the practice to endure. For he knows that what he writes this very moment will, if his powers remain up to task, be tomorrow overcome, surpassed, improved, clarified, condensed, if not outright refuted and destroyed. More than anyone then is he the first to sabotage the present in order to avoid the humiliation he’ll doubtless feel towards himself in future; future which never fails to transmute the deeds of present into comedy and caricature. Unfortunately, if such continual self-reinvention was not the case, the writer would already be on his way down, probably to death – spiritual, artistic, aesthetic: the rest of his days the never-ending attempt to either recapture the wonder of some prior glory, or else the perpetual renouncement for the sins of regrettable youth.
For by such does the writer measure his worth: am I producing? Am I becoming? Am I, alas, still worthy of this great and nebulous power? Always on the precipice of his own demise he pens his tracts, forever life’s futility staring him in the face as Gorgon.
And if such torments the writer of fiction, how much more those self-proclaimed Philosophers of our times? – the ones who, without schooling or formal training or linguistic indoctrination of any kind, attempt by their own stupid willfulness to forge from the aesthetic wilderness something upon which they alone can stand and must, something that no one has ever felt or said before, no matter how small the stone that accommodates the foot.
The following two pebbles I’ve (more or less) left in the state they were initially crystallized only four months ago. To resist their annihilation has been no easy task, especially in light of the ground gained since, that which has distanced my taste so far from these sentiments as to render them completely indistinguishable from the horizon behind. It’s not so much I don’t believe in what I said, but despise the way I said it: so matter-of-factly, so confident of their broad veracity and sublimity of insight, as if their profundity would stand for all time.
“At this rate,” I remember saying, “I’ll be the greatest thinker to ever live.”
Around such trite and innocuous opinions a man must build his aestheticism I suppose, lest he never exercise the necessary audacity to overcome the inertia of embarking on anything at all, inertia everywhere amplified by the cacophonic demand for “truthfulness” and “objectivity” that assaults our modern ears from every conceivable turn and angle.
Such rocks, ground however fine, make the mortar without which no wall could be built, no house erected, no city laid, no nation doomed to rise and fall as Fate decrees.
Death as Life Elixir – all growth must be seen as an increase in the will to the terrible, the awful, formidable, the stupefying; the will to grow as the will to destroy; the will to life, the will to death.
For death and the presence thereof is the great elixir of life. The supreme Enabler: the potion which imbues all things with meaning, intensity, pitch, tenor – life most beautiful in death, and death in life: in destruction lying always the promise of greater life, more to create and remake.
The mark of greatness then is a willingness to embrace the life-giving power of one’s own death, that which may enable one, in the end, to even laugh at such a thing. The man of supreme power is he who can not only laugh at his accusers and judges, but at the entire moral spirit animating his sentence; at the tomato and rotten cabbage thrown at his face on his way to the gallows; at the gallows themselves, the priest; at the towering figure holding the battleaxe overhead, he with sour ale on his breath whose bulging arms tremble with reticence.
To the Noble-minded, every area of life is reckoned essentially hard and difficult, even rest, hobbies, travel, domesticity. And that hard is good and thus life good and may there be more of it, with no part any better or worse, none requiring our faithful surrender but all a challenge to be overcome, surpassed, conquered.
To take this view of life, Hope itself needs to be overcome or at least brought to heel. For in order to live now – to embrace the immediacy of the moment in which all “truth” lies – one can little afford to defer an ounce of precious energy to the will-less want of future fulfillment. For he who remains a “slave to hope”, as one who loves too little and infrequent – a habit that stymies one’s ability to feel in general – possesses neither the capacity to enjoy the fruits of the thing he defers nor the knowledge of what to do with them should they ever come his way.
The opposite type, however, he who has trained himself to love both pain and pleasure in equal measure, is able to enjoy all things precisely because he’s learned to love more and broadly, deeper, more violent, his capacity for experience being that much greater than he who isn’t as broad, deep, violent.
For most, Hope is God – and His rightful worship: the deference of Life again and again to something forward, beyond.
The opposite declares a different god, one who dwells not in the promise of machines or blue-vaulted utopias but in the effervescent Now. His Eternity is the moment, in all that is passing, dying: the glowing spear in your hand as you arch across the sky to tragic doom, the doom of the clouds and sun, the stars and moon who will each in their own turn meet that fiery end, the same as you.
Devil walks into bar. Orders drink. Asks Philosopher sitting next to him: “And what do you do?”