SELF-DEFINITION
by David Eide .

Whenever I begin to read philosophy I am swept up by it again. I am back at that moment of consciousness when things have options, when the world is new, when eternity is flowing through the mind and stopping occasionally at precious moments as Athens around 400BC or London of Elizabeth’s day.

And then, as the vision subsides, the intercourse with the real, with the actual conditions of things that always seem pale and nonsensical and which, from the point of view of ideas, are nonsensical.

I lost my interest in philosophy when I saw how it had receded to the specialist cubicle. What a retreat! What an affront to the glory of ideas. These cubicle philosophers have the pretentions of schoolmen, thinking in themselves that they are the only one's looking at the definition of things. So that, in their own way, they are the priests of the arcane. And yet, without question talented energy spins its web in this cubicle. There is nothing more discouraging for someone who commits himself to thinking, than to see the universe of thought bound up in different factions all very defensive so their positions and sacrificing truth itself for a little pride and a little power.

What a degradation of philosophy! Can you imagine any number of great thinkers content with receding to the cubicle, intimidated by the arrogance of the age, pressured by the claims of economy to throw over truth for expediency? Where is the commitment to the present? Where is the commitment to the truth?

This is one reason why the figure of Christ is so much more appealing than the clammy, withered scribblings of the cubicle type. Christ stands bold, he shares his power with the people, he deliberately threatens the power of the vain and proud and is sacrificed for it. Well, the day a philosopher is sacrificed for his philosophy is the day I take up philosophy. Socrates was the last, although you could include Seneca in that small group. Bruno no doubt. Socrates, Seneca, and Christ were all sacrificed by the madness of the powerful and, therefore, marked out exactly where they were at that moment and proved that the existence of ideas is a reality.

We want the truth then, as well as the publication of the truth when it meets the healthy skepticism of human beings.

* * * * * * * *

Just as I had no intention of becoming philosopher I have no intention of becoming a technocrat. I have read a great deal of the technical matters that float around the newspaper; budget and trade especially, econometrics and indicators and methods of assessment. All of it is dreadful stuff but something drew me to it.

It bothers me that I have drifted from the literary aspect. But to be quite frank, I cannot perceive a literary "way of life", a literary weltanschauung. Aren't literary technicians’ technocrats in this fashion?

You cannot escape your own time, this is evident enough. Something in the literary mind certainly wants to escape the present. It experiences this present as a degradation, as something that has slipped out of some greater harmony or greater ideas and is simply existing now in transit to further degradation.

The mind wants order and structure. It wants play and ideas. Starved of these and its overwhelming urge is to experience evil.

This is why, finally, there must be art and philosophy and healthy institutions that are pulling out the very best from people with temporary charge of the institutions. These are not inspirational times I am afraid.

America simply presents a huge amount of statistics and patterns of life and structures involving millions of people and billions of dollars. Pity those who must interpret what is going on. We must sift through it and take what is important and leave all of the rest. We much take our freedom seriously and make the right choices. Where is the Muse? Where is the inspiration? Where is the spirit of things? Where is life we have dreamed of?

All that appears is the grinding machinery of economic units consuming and devising all sorts of phony codes in relation to the conscience.

Nature herself lays passive under the continuous attack and threat of the American waiting patiently for the time that the beast leaves the scene and she is able to live again.

These criticisms appear every generation and do nothing in the long run but mollify the sense of truth. And the sense of truth is not winning out in America and the fear is that a great event will come and wipe it from the scene.

Well, this pessimism is common enough. Collective thought, attenuated as it is by a lack of discipline, is always redeemable to the easy categories of pessimism and optimism.

* * * * * * * *

I think now my father wanted me stashed away somewhere, safely, in a profession. A profession that would demand that I commute in the morning and develop a life-style and call him on the phone and complain about house payments. I would have been happier I am certain. He was looking out for me and worried I would wax my wings too much and fall from the sky. What scene is so compelling that we grow wings to rush to it?

  • A summit meeting between a Russian and an American?
  • Perhaps the knowledge of the drug conduits that have been created 20 years since the summer of love?
  • Perhaps the sense that comes when we know that corruption is destroying the innards and one day the shining body will collapse into the black and putrid ashes of its old dreams.

when do we alight, then, on our own land?

Asked to receive so much detail from the sheer activity of restless greed our own minds must partake of it as of a diseased animal.

So now, where is our truth? Where is our vaunted freedom that was to lead us to the promised land? In the end the man and woman who sucked from the dream are not crazed in lonely old age, merely waiting the end in stupefaction and cursing the world that has grown strange around them.

1987


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