By George Palczynski (November 2017)
Parade, Don Li-Leger
“Thou must now at last perceive of what universe thou art now a part, and of
what administrator of the universe thy existence is an efflux.”
– Marcus Aurelius, The Thoughts of Marcus Aurelius—Roman Emperor
A Mal Mot—When A Bon Mot Just Won’t Do
Advice; I am compelled. There may be, in our postmodern malaise, no more edifying piece of practical advice, I think, than:
If you come upon the beast who is of the disposition “life sucks, then you die” gather up your children, take hold of your dear beloved and run, Run fast, RUN until the beast can no longer be heard. That beast is the devil’s own pet.
Imagine so gauzy a cloak so thick in the warp and weft of despair as . . . “life sucks, then you die.” It is a most favored locution of the indubitably healthy, the obviously well provisioned, and the sort who could not describe one misery of their own to lament, even if a cocked revolver was held to their temple.
Now it’s evident that most such utterances are merely attempts at blasé airs. Indifference to the great things in life is, presently, most always has been, the height of sophistication. “Life sucks” drips off the tongue like saliva because it’s difficult to swallow that what we ought confess is our character and its own skew. But . . . it’s better to give life a slap across the mug than get one, deservedly, across one’s own.
Of course, few give consideration the conclusion that dogs the trail of such bantering observations . . . but some do—to dire consequences.
The rise is not piffling.
Sorry, You Lose
If you ‘are’, if you are ‘being’, if you are aware of ‘being’, if you are ‘I”, sorry, you lose. You cannot not be, you cannot not have been, and you cannot become un-‘I’. You cannot belatedly opt out of having been. You’re stuck with life. Live with it.
If someone is holding a copy of, or wishes to discuss Sartre’s Being And Nothingness . . . run. Life, in the most mundane of its moments is more interesting than claptrap.
Elsewhere . . . I hadn’t expected this:
“When I said to him, and proved to him, that the existence of nothingness was absurd, he cut me short, calling me silly.”
Giacomo Casanova (to his landlord Dr. Gozzi—a priest)
Someone here is somewhat confused. The good doctor (and priest?) insisted creation was wholesale creation—ex nihilo. Signore Casanova says he can prove that the existence of nothingness is absurd. Is the argument between them at cross-purposes from what would appear to be the expected disposition for each man? This is what happens when ‘nothingness’ is delved into. ‘Nothing’ confuses man more than any ‘something’ ever could.
The ancients chime in:
“‘Nothing’ cannot exist by the following line of reasoning: To speak of a thing, one has to speak of a thing that exists. Since we can speak of a thing in the past, this thing must still exist (in some sense) now, and from this he concludes that there is no such thing as change. As a corollary, there can be no such things as coming-into-being, passing-out-of-being, or not-being”
Parmenides (Greek philosopher)
Aristotle quips on Parmenides:
“Although these opinions seem to follow logically in a dialectical discussion, yet to believe them seems next door to madness when one considers the facts.”
Nothing will sooner make the sane man mad as pondering upon ‘nothingness’. With all there is to ponder, with all there is that man has, to this century, given so little thought, can we not put off, finally, the significance of ‘nothingness’?
Nothingness can be synthesized into “almost something”. Really. “Not yet” has a ‘somethingness to it, depending on, I suppose, one’s point of view The view from the pit must be nothing like the view from the mountaintop.
Thesis: The Absolute is Pure Being
Antithesis: The Absolute is Nothing
Synthesis: The Absolute is Becoming
– Friedrich Hegel
I don’t know. One might aver, “no harm, no foul”, and get on with those quotidian moments that seem never to be absolute. I’m for that.
There is not much use to it—nothingness—as far as I can gather. Of all those who insist on delving into ‘nothingness’, the contemporary militant Atheist seems to be alone as a great proponent. It turns out Nothingness has purpose—it is the foundation of Atheism. In ‘nothing,’ no gods are possible. It needn’t make sense; it needs only to sound like it had dripped from the lips of a devoted scientific explorer, or deep end of the pool thinker.
Eastern philosophies accept the concept of “nothingness” to mean “an egoless state of being in which one fully realizes one’s own small part in the cosmos.” This of course gives the advantage of the material high ground to Western philosophies. Surrounded by matter and energy, and forces and laws that it had discovered, it opted for an egoist state of being. When so lofty a perch is reached, it is almost inevitable the ego will belittle gods and elevate man to a considerably great part, in the end, an indispensable part, of the cosmos.
The New Atlas
Though man is not the creator—there being no need of one—he is the reconstructionist of evolutionary chance gone awry. The random walks of evolution were without clear purpose at origination. Yet, following the byways, the trails, and the micro adaptations made sense. It was at this juncture that man became enamored of playing GOD, what with micro adaptations being within his wheelhouse. What reckless, random, evolution had made come to pass, man could fine-tune to a clockwork and a paradigm. All matter of things would be brought to heel, climate, ocean levels, humans, and human nature, down to (up to?) human contentiousness. With the genome mapped and the synapses of the brain having had their purpose accounted for . . . oh my . . . what man has now in store for man. If God had flubbed it—utopia—man would give it breath.
And no more random walks up the evolutionary trail; Man would fill the gaps. The great rectifier of the recklessness of laissez-faire evolution would make it all right, as it ought have been from the start. Man is beneficent, man is munificent, and so man had undertaken to recreate man. If, per chance, he yells into the cosmos, “I am that I am” you will know his secret. He is not an atheist—he does not not believe in God. He merely has someone else in mind for the position.
“Every man would like to be God, if it were possible; some few find it difficult to admit the impossibility.”
– Bertrand Russell (Power: A New Social Analysis)
Through The Glass Darkly
Let us consult with a Monsieur Blaise Pascal about being/life. He seems in a black bile mood. From his Pensées:
Section II: The Misery of Man without God:
“We do not content ourselves with the life we have in ourselves and in our own being; we desire to live an imaginary life in the mind of others.”
“If our condition were truly happy we should not need to divert ourselves from thinking about it’.”
Section III: On the Necessity of the Wager:
“. . . it is not to be doubted that the duration of this life is but a moment; that the state of death is eternal.”
“Between us and heaven or hell there is only life, which is the frailest thing in the world.”
Section VI: The Philosophers:
“Man’s greatness comes from knowing he is wretched.”
Section VII: Morality and Doctrine:
“Who knows if this other half of life where we think we are awake is not another sleep a little different from the first.”
To meander about Pascal’s thoughts is like frolicking with melancholia.
But for most of his adult life, Pascal was beset with poor health and illness. Life skews outlook.
Bertrand Russell writes in A Free Man’s Worship:
“That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins–all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”
“Brief and powerless is Man’s life; on him and all his race the slow, sure doom falls pitiless and dark.”
Outlook skews life.
The previously mentioned Jean-Paul Sartre, in his modern masterpiece, “Being And Nothingness” muddles most everyone. Here an opinion from Wikipedia by some opinion maker.
“In Sartre’s opinion, consciousness does not make sense by itself: it arises only as an awareness of objects.”
This we may reflect upon epigrammatically as—”It is, therefore I am”.
To overthink thinking is not a sign of mental or spiritual health. Most modern philosophers are mad . . . or mad.
Being And Nothingness is one of the great classic impersonations of ‘deep thought’ that became the favorite tome of unsuspicious youth to praise but not read . . . or understand
Seems now Monsieur Pascal’s view is now much nearer the bliss of ‘la vie en rose’… yes? Context and contrast are the pinnacle from which all things should be viewed.
The difference is the difference between light and dark. The man of faith desponds of the present life for the joy of the resurrected glorified life. The man of reason commits himself to despair for the entire temporality of a brief sentience, all the while flagellating himself to illogic. Who would determine a thing be built safely on a foundation of unyielding despair? A crazy man? A man who hated life but was too great a coward to loose a tight grip on it?
Pessimist though he may be, cynical as he may sound, one man takes the measure of life and finds it difficult. The other man reasons himself and all others into nothingness. It is most always the case in such instances that the man of reason reasons himself into cul-de-sac from which the only out is annihilation. Why would he insist on lingering on the edge of doom, why not jump? He lies? He will not bend or kneel even to the concept of GOD? Afterlife? He wants no part of ‘more’. No. He will not accept Pascal’s proposition because of his doubts. He will not accept the wager because he is so deeply invested in so great, so immovable a faith as doom. He will lose it for ‘nothing’. Everyone has a GOD.
What’s It All About
What is the measure of our being? The sum of the points we score in life’s game? To have loved? But who, what? To have been good to others, kind, generous? To have been mindful of GOD or, at minimum, some transcendent otherness beyond our short temporal sojourn?
One fully expects Nietzsche is getting at something arcanely Nietzschean when he expounds in “Why I Am So Clever” the following:
My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it—all idealism is mendacity in the face of what is necessary . . . but love it.
Benefit the man the doubt and take him at his words.
If you have not seen traces of heaven on earth; if you have not seen the reflection of GOD in a human face; if you have never sensed, or suspected, the presence of an angel; if you have not experienced, seen, heard, and/or been moved by human goodness, selflessness, sacrifice, you have too little knowledge and no intimacy with the greatness of life.
If you can look at life in whatever dire circumstance and judge one life worthy and another an encumbrance or burden you have missed entirely the point of Life.
There is in Life, in ‘being’, something of the force, the essentiality, of GOD. Life, our very ‘being’, is the very first substantiation of man having been made in the image of GOD. What man might create, however beautiful his creation, however great is his love for his creation, however great his sacrifice for his creation, it pales next to what GOD had wrought. The one thing that does not pale, is not diminished, is our ‘being’. In Life, in ‘being’, we are as near as like GOD as the human will ever get. It is His first and greatest gift to that part of creation He himself called ‘very good”
“Existence is inherently, not to mention divinely, meaningful.”
—From the lips of Father Brown; from the pen of G. K. Chesterton
If ever, just once, you have been blessed by someone to love; if ever, just once, you have been forgiven a grievous trespass, if ever, just once, you had received unmerited grace; if ever, just once, you had felt, with all your being, pure joy; if ever, just once, you had mused that that there was one thing in your life for which you would have gladly suffered; if ever, just once, you had said to yourself . . . “life is beautiful”, then you have a most intimate relationship with being, a great awareness of the generosity of life, and an occasion for thanksgiving every day of your life and especially on Thanksgiving Day.
One day of meaningful, mindful, resolute, joyful weeping in earnest thanksgiving, remedies a lifetime of indifference. All of mankind, in the small discrete elements recognized as man, i.e. everyone, makes his greatest appeal for God’s forgiveness, for His grace, for His blessings when he is on his knees thanking God for life, for being. To thank God for Life is the beginning of all goodness.
God Bless, A Wonderful Life, and Happy Thanksgiving all—all the readers, the writers, and to all at New English Review, and to all ‘out there’.
George Palczynski is a student of Life without certificate or degree or expertise in any field. He claims only some knowledge in most everything and complete knowledge in nothing, making him generally smart but particularly stupid. Make of that your own speculation. He is content with the arrangement.
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