When one looks at something – an object, an idea, a shared concept, or perhaps a Truth – so much of ourselves comes along with it.
When one looks at another person, listening to them speak or watching their motions – sensing their feelings and intentions – so much of ourselves comes along with it.
It is so easy to generalize in the interest of expediency or the self-preservation of what we hold true. It is so simple to laugh about or dismiss something that challenges something within ourselves, something that we claim as a Given – a prima facie definition that lends us comfort or security.
Yet we all experience those unsettling periods – sometimes lasting only moments – sometimes for hours or days – where all the world around us shifts into the Unreal, leaving us exposed to the terrifying vastness of all possibilities that exist beyond the small little shells we have constructed to contain ourselves within.
In our days of perfect order, where the mechanical certainty of well-ordered events and schedules are disrupted only to small degrees, we take comfort in the mundane. We improve ourselves, or gather more for ourselves by means of the tools and processes given us by the histories of our progenitors. Our long history of agreements, or rather, prevailing doctrines, guide us and help insure our prosperity by the adoption of normalized behaviour, and even moreso, by the adoption of normalized attitudes.
Religious people throughout history, bound together by common beliefs, have established institutions, both great and small, that revolve around canonical self-reference, if not, canonical solipsism. Depending upon how powerful any group was, the people not within that group must either fear or desmonstrate a “healthy respect”.
More recently, as priests are replaced with professors, a new canon has emerged. This canon, though in most ways a marvelous, powerful, and potent force toward the benefit of all, easily becomes twisted and exploited by those coming in contact with it just long enough to extract what information and resources they require to achieve their hedonistic objectives, and to promote doing the same to others in justification of their exploitations.
It’s an odd thing, this “modern” cannon – rife in detailed empiricism, rich in the artistic accomplisments of the spirit, seething in the techniques of human control – both individually and collectively, deluged with both contradiction and resonance, and framed immaculately in hope and despair – desire and self-sacrifice.
In such a glorious place, how do we so rigidly cling to the illusory safety of what we feel we want or need – when what we want or need changes, as quickly as a commercial? How is the ideal we maintain for ourselves, which most people cannot even fully grasp, yet knows, limits them to a role of unfulfilling minor achievements while, with certainty, so much more could be achieved.
From where does this fear originate – this self-doubt?
We tell ourselves that as we grow older, certain realities become apparent. We tell ourselves that we must make compromises – and begin making them – then the best of us wonder when we should stop compromising – but the majority never do.
Some rebel after hitting a breaking point, and nearly anything involving others becomes a compromise of themselves – regardless of whether that other is beneficial or detrimental. They will dominate, or perish.
Some learn that compromising is no big deal at all – it leaves them with what they really want, and they never have to put themselves on the line. They become the fertile ground for the powerful to root themselves within.
Some never compromise – not out of anger or rebellion – but because they know what is important. And these people move Outside, often in obscurity, simultaneously admired and disliked by others.
Considering the great mechanics of our many interconnected systems – the great collaboration of agreement, bound together by greed, that keeps our very lives functioning – the notion of Compromise is a key issue, as long as our souls survive.
At universities, Philosophy departments dwindle, often relegated to the smallest corners and basements. Literature and arts, studied by only by the lazy and freaky people, is held in disdain by the majority – a simple requirement they must fulfill. The jocks, swarming to the schools of business and commerce to achieve the greatness they never could within their sport. And finally, the monsterous quantities of money flowing into the technical sciences where the lure of financial stability and the hypnosis of many little things can occupy most of our greatest minds.
And then the greater hordes that never even enter a univerisity — utterly untouched by the higher forces, who will work in regularity toward whatever ends are provided to them — live out their days in whatever entertainment or momentary undertaking catches their fancy. Ironically, these people often become the most judgemental and self-righteous of all, finding pureness and absolution in their simple choices just made to survive.
While each, no matter where, as they wake in the morning, can feel the humanity within their hearts – have felt the same pains and longings, to varying degrees, and have known great lonliness.
And so I look at this person I see in front of me, knowing so much about them, and so very little. All of us, just standing, or sitting, or laying, or fucking, or staring off into some place that is just our very own, where nobody else can go – all of us, just right here.
And I remember a commercial I saw a few nights ago, asking if I had ever felt detached, anxious or uneasy around others – if I found it difficult to focus on the tasks I needed to complete. If I felt tired, or withdrawn. And they offered me a pill.
The cannons of Science, Psychology and Sociology, intermingling in this tiny capsule. Strange how they all grew out of Philosophy – and how Philosophy is dwindling. Perhaps this is the result of the marketplace – the Laws of supply and demand. Perhaps the canon of Philosophy has swallowed wholly its own tail.
I imagine a feeling – and confusion – of knowing something, and being uncertain in that knowledge. I see my friends and family, and I speak with strangers. I notice the common threads. I watch explore the strenghts and weaknesses, the certainties and the doubts.
A Philosopher visits a Psychologist, in weakness and despair, knowing full well the foundations of their disciplines, and asks a question – what is wrong with me? The psychologist answers with a question – forcing the philosopher to examine himself. Then the philosopher looks outside, back to the psychologist, asking if the answer is within him. The psychologist answers with a question, leading the philosopher back within. The philosopher grows angry, saying, is this all you have learned from us? This circular solipsism? Why should I not just see an Psychiatrist and get a pill? The psychologist says, this anger is good – now carry on.
In the functional sterility of interactions, no true risk is assumed. The egoism of knowing that you do not know, and the paralysis of fearing that you do not. And worst of all, the foolishness of believing that you do, or that it does not matter.
So I imagine Normality and Expansion – a pill and a sacrifice – a death and a rebirth. And I imagine a poem – a combination of words – words that each of us knows, words brought together and arranged in a way that we cannot understand — yet, somehow, we know and feel to be true.
Then I look at this person here, once again, seeing so many things. And he is looking at me, with all his histories, decisions, accomplishments and disappointments – all the joys he has discovered, all the fears – and all the tendernesses and strengths – his loyalties, and his betrayals. And then I compromise: I do not hug him, and cry – I smile, and shake his hand.