Wednesday, January 12, 2011
If Kierkegaard had Seen More Trees Sartre May have Seen More Exits
This is a continuation of the posts "Sound of One Tree Clapping in the Theater of Time" and Roots of Our Tree Worn Useless by Time
The path goes forward toward an escarpment, raising the question of an exit.
But the path always goes forward, unless you have a strange proclivity for walking backward. And it has an exit, even if that was once the entrance. If I turn around I can retrace my steps back to where I began and the path before me will still go forward. Life always goes forward; the direction it takes is up to me.
There is always an exit.
On this spot one could simply leap off the overhang and it would be an exit one way or another.
I'm not planning on exiting that way nor turning around. I am also sure there is an exit somewhere along this precipice.
I have faith there is another way down to the creek other than risking suicide or a badly battered body. Sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees; sometimes we can't see the exits for the trees either.
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard is considered the Father of Existentialism; Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre is probably its best known icon.
I don't like labels. There's where you find no exit. Someone puts you in a box and there you are. You let someone stick a label on and you are letting someone else define who you are.
Hey, I'll give you a label. I'm old as dirt so label me dirt. Every time you turn over a spade-full you'll find something different. If you think you'll just find a lot of mud, that's fine as well. You get stuck in mud, you sink in mud; mud sticks to you and mud's hard to get rid of.
Speaking of soil consistency, this path is dirt. Fortunately it is cold and the trail is frozen and not muddy. Up on this ridge one wouldn't want a slimy walkway with the danger of slip-sliding away.
And what if I did slip and plunge off the ledge? Here I would be in tune with existentialism; that is, I wouldn't be looking to see whom to blame, assuming I was still in condition to see anything. The bell I rang tolls for me. No one else pulled the rope. What should I do, be like so many and look for deep pockets to sue?
I chose to wander into these woods. I can see how close the path comes to the edge of nothing along here and I should be taking my caution, especially since I am completely alone. The last thing I ever want is to come and find the park powers-who-be have erected a chicken wire fence to protect me because some fool was careless and stupid, but had a good lawyer (something of an oxymoron). I dislike these litigious souls who take risks, injure themselves in the process and then decide they have fallen into a money pit, the greedy, self-absorbed (fill-in whatever bad personal noun you please). I accept the existential premise of personal responsibility.
On the other hand, I don't believe in the Existential concept that the world is absurd.
I believe in God (you don't have to because that is another Existential idea called Free Will that I ascribe to), but belief in God is my bias. We all have a worldview based on a bias. If you don't believe in God, then not believing is your bias. You may have additional biases. It doesn't mean we can't like each other, only that we see things a bit different. We need to see that up front and accept it and then understand we may not agree on everything.
Therefore, disclosures said:
When God made the world it was perfectly fine until he cursed it and he didn't curse it because it was absurd. The curse came about because of the absurd behavior of people. Adam and Eve had everything and threw it away over a piece of fruit they didn't need. That is pretty absurd, but we see the same absurdity occur over and over throughout history right into our own times. When someone like a Tom Capano, who perceptibly had everything, murders a mistress and tries to blame another mistress, neither of which he really needed, is that not absurd? I certainly believe living in this world is full of absurdities. And this just fits more Existential hat hooks, some things aren't rational and decisions can come with consequences and stress.
But lets cut to the heart of why I don't consider myself an Existentialist. I don't accept that the basic purpose of existing is the individual's lifelong search for Self.
I'm sorry, but I don't have to search for my Self. I've known my Self since I was at least twelve, if not earlier. And since I know my Self from childhood, my lifetime search is for redemption. Some people worry about their alienation from their true self. Stop worrying, you and I want alienation from our true Self. Tom Capano didn't achieve alienation from his true Self and look what happened.
Go to a bar and talk with drunk people. They will say very outrageous things and when they sober up they will say that was the drink talking. That is not who I am. Wrong, that is exactly who they are, that is the Self reveled. When they are sober they control their true Self; when they are drunk the truth comes forth.
Existentialists believe one's human nature is chosen over the course of life as the sum of choices made. Baloney, human nature is set in stone and it isn't focused altruistically on your fellow man. If you think the natural nature of man is good, then you must be illiterate and can't read the morning paper. Human nature comes as your birthright, not as a choice and it just becomes a matter of when you know what it is and how well you keep it under control.
Now I know many people will not agree with me. Or put another, I know I don't agree with a lot of people. A lot of people think a newborn baby is a clean slate and pure as new fallen snow (and how pure is that new fallen snow, by the way?). My guess is that people who believe that never had a baby and never raised a child. If you have had a baby, if you have been through the terrible twos and the fearful fours, then you have seen and experienced raw human nature.
The baby, the toddler, the child has to learn to control that nature, but they don't have to learn to have that nature.
Ah, we have found an exit from the cliff. The nature of this downward path was too steep and difficult to gain traction upon. Somebody at some time realizing this put boards across the natural curve to provide foot holds.
We nail boards across our Selfs to allow us to exist civilly with each other.
Have you ever thought about these trails? Where did they come from? Who made them? Paths don't just suddenly appear because one person decides to hike through the woods. Have you even been in a woods and decided to make your own path? You leave the trail and cut across the humus. If you come back the next day can you see where you walked? Probably not. Even if you left some track when you passed through it doesn't take long for the wind, the rain, the snow and changing seasons to obliterate your footprints. I cut across the forest between trails at the end of this walk and you couldn't see where I stepped immediately after I did.
It takes someone repeating the course over and over or many people going the same way. It also takes time to wear a grove through the land. The trail goes where it does because in most cases the pathfinder followed the path of least resistance. Notice here how the path follows the natural curve along the rim down into the gorge below. It is the cooperation of nature and man.
It is how God and man interact, I believe, in this world.
We'll bridge that subject some other time. For now we have found the exit off the hill.