January 23, 2005
Promises in the Mist
I've always considered myself fortunate to have an innate curiosity about science, computers, religion, philosophy, culture, and politics. It's a pleasure to read different perspectives on the source of wisdom and the foundations of truth. My first seven summers between teaching were spent intensely reading Plato, Gould, Goethe, Kant, Augustine, Hawkings, Homer, and many others. I've listened to others speak about what's important to them and why, and I've tried to keep an open mind to what is Truth, what is Real, and what is Possible.
But now, at the other end of a long time spent searching for the above, I find myself disappointed. You see, there always seemed to me to be a promise made to anyone participating in the "Great Conversation" that there was a sort of destination awaiting anyone willing to spend the time and effort reading the difficult stuff. One day, you wake up and feel enlightened; you've arrived and congratulations, here's the secrets to it all. Here's Meaning, Purpose, and Morality. Use it for good and not evil.
I think, though, that I can only honestly say that the more one reads, the less one understands. To think about the human condition enough and maintain intellectual integrity is to whittle down the options to futility and nihilism. Not a despairing, kill yourself type meaninglessness, but an accepting, let's-all-laugh-or-we're-gonna-cry type existence, an acceptance of the impossibility of knowing anything for certain except what wells from within. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Beckett's Waiting for Godot, Frost's Fire and Ice, and Sartre's Nausea have risen in importance for me as I've aged, but even they are vindication, not direction.
I remember seeing a sig line on Slashdot that said: "There are no paths out here; there are no trees." That sums up nicely how I feel. I should have seen it coming when reading Job's or Faust's or Hamlet's words, but I guess I didn't want to admit that, when you glimpse behind the scenery of life, there's only scaffolding and rigging. Just keep reading. Nothing to see here.
Oh, and Molly's got some long overdue pics available!Posted by tat at January 23, 2005 07:17 PM