“You've got to do your own growing no matter how tall your father was.” (Irish Proverb)
For a time here lately I have been finding myself in a position to question the ideal of existence and how it applies to me. It is my belief that I am serving penance for the arrogance I have towards some schools of philosophy. I liken myself as a thinker of great thoughts and have, indeed, spent much time in the contemplation of varying ideas and have read and studied quite a few. I originated this curiosity back in the ‘70’s when a guy I was getting drunk with asked me a question that, to me, made absolutely no sense. At the time I gave it little consideration due to a mentality at the time that young men existed to get inebriated with liquor, high from whatever psychedelic material came available, and laid as much as possible. In later years, while at university studying at the knee of a philosophy professor who I thought much of the question came up again, and I resisted the urge to fade into flashback city. It was the old “if a tree falls in the forest…” gig and I still had no clue how to answer. Twenty years later, I still don’t.
I also delved into conversations of mind and body, existence of God, and (most vexing) the existence of my own self. I learned all the terms: Ontological Arguments, Empiricism, Epistemology, A Priori, A Posteriori, A Fortiori, causality, Platonism, pluralism, pragmatism, rationalism, realism, relativism, skepticism, Socratic Method, Teleological Argument, Theism, Thomism, and Anselm's Ontological Argument.
The English language was never meant to be spoken this way.
Learning these things served, at the time, to further show me that I probably needed to stick to things that I understand. I chose to live life in the realm of the understood and leave the great question to others who delight in being intensely perplexed.
I made this grand and seemingly wise decision to no avail. I became a writer and the focus of my life became (paraphrasing a Twelve Step slogan) the getting and using and finding the ways and means to get more…words.
Along with this getting and using etc. came the principle of understanding the words I use. Understanding the meaning behind the words that I string together in order to make a cognizant piece. And this meant that I had to learn about whether or not I exist.
I was sitting in a meeting the other day of my favorite Twelve Step group, reading about the theory of existentialism on my smart phone when another member sat next to me and asked me what I was reading. I told him and he scrunched up his eyes and asked me why the F%@# I needed to learn that. Slipping into the ease and comfort of sarcasm I sat up and announced that I was in search of evidence that I really and truly exist.
He reached over and slapped the hat off of my head. “Feel that?” he demanded. I said that I did and that it hurt. “Well there’s your answer. If you can feel you exist.”
Still sputtering in righteous indignation, I attempted to launch into a debate and possibly an argument, such as a philosopher would, when he held his hand in the air. “Dude I got run off from the bridge I have been sleeping under and it is going to be 34˚ tonight. Do you seriously believe that I can think myself out of being cold?”
Therein lays my issues. I spend time sitting in my comfortable apartment with heat, electric, water, food, and electronic media to entertain myself while other are lucky to even get out of the wind for a few minutes. All my great and grand thoughts seem to fade into oblivion in the face of confronting irrefutable proof that I, as many others do, in fact, exist.
I got the muse for this piece from a writers group I belong to and they wanted to know what my reason to exist was where it concerns writing. Being the ever complicated fool, I thought the focus too narrow and decided to write one of those great and grand pieces about how I intellectually can solve the problem of existence. I let it ruminate and percolate in my brain for several days. I looked things up, and cut, copied, and pasted really cool things to put into it. I started an outline.
And then I deleted the entire batch of bovine excrement.
Looking at that guy, remembering having my head slapped, and realizing the reality of life in the world today brought me back to my initial issue with existentialism as well as philosophy. The crap is too hard to read, and is not relevant in my life as I am living it today.
What is my reason to exist? Today it is to write this piece and cook some baked ziti. Tomorrow has no real plan because it does not exist and will not exist until when, and if, I wake up tomorrow…if there is a tomorrow.