Monday, September 24, 2007

This is what happens when you forget to make yourself shut up:

I wrote this/these between two and three am this morning. Please enjoy responsibly:

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I sure am alive. I wish I knew how I knew, though. There’s no way for me to actually prove to myself that I am. That whole thinking-therefore-being idea is bunk. Who’s to say that I’m not some recursive blip of data or information floating around in the ether of reality that has somehow managed to trick itself into interpreting itself as real, completely independent of the actual physical world? The answer to that is other people, I guess. Another person’s brain is the only proof that I exist. That doesn’t make sense, you’d say. I have to explain it to myself this way: everything I think might as well never have been thought at all, if I can’t expose it (or air it out, vent it, so to speak) to someone else and then have it returned to me with their fingerprints on it. This doesn’t mean proposing a business plan to a partner and then revising it to incorporate their suggestions. This means looking at someone’s face and knowing that I have a face. Telling a joke to my friend and hearing them laugh tells me what humor is, when paired with both my own laughter at my joke and my laughter at theirs. To contrast this, an example of something I might as well never have thought at all would be a joke I told myself, that I laugh at (or don’t). If I tell myself the joke, and then forget about it, and so it never influences anything else I ever do, then there is absolutely no point in having told it, which means that it was a wasted thought, which essentially means it was an empty thought, in that it is a period of time in my life during which nothing (might as well have) happened. A life of nothing but these empty stretches of time would be functionally and essentially indistinguishable from non-life. The only thing that fills these stretches of time with meaning is the way they influence further action towards the end of perfect mutual comprehension with someone (ideally, everyone) else. So, a lack of others to commune with voids one’s life entirely of meaning. That’s what I think.

But what do I mean when I say “meaning”? Very quickly, this question reduces to “What does it matter if I live my life entirely in a state of un-ending excruciating physical pain versus a life of uninterrupted blissful pleasure?” Basically, why does anything matter? We have to draw a baseline at the physical, but exclude the hedonistic. “Meaning” is drawn from the balance between the physically painful and the physically pleasurable, at its basest, but it can only really be understood once it is contextualized by thought. A person who I am attracted to can influence me to any number of feats that perpetuate our interactions without ever resulting in actual, physical pleasure (i.e., sexual satisfaction), but that doesn’t mean that all of the benefit I derive from our interactions doesn’t reduce to physical pleasure. If I find someone physically attractive, it absolutely shades everything I think about them. The significance I give to the time we spend together is measured in terms of good (being with them, thinking that I mean something to them, etc.) and bad (the opposite), but these terms, i.e. being with, meaning something, ultimately are built on the foundation of physical pleasure and pain. (We can expand the definition of pain to include the absence of pleasure when we are expecting it, which leans towards disappointment.) One question to ask is what hurts more, the presence of something painful or the absence of something pleasurable? At first the answer seems blatant, i.e. that a red-hot poker on your arm hurts far more than an absent pleasurable stimulation. But when you look at what these things “mean,” a contradictory answer arises. AT THIS POINT I GOT TOO TIRED TO KEEP WRITING.


THEN I COULDN'T GO TO SLEEP:

I always open up a blank document on my laptop when I feel like I am in the mood to have something particularly significant to say, but I never actually say anything. Mostly it’s when I am in a lonely mood, or am feeling restless. I mainly want to say, most of the time, that I am unsatisfied with my life as I perceive it at this exact moment, despite the fact that I am satisfied with it at almost every other point in the day/week/whatever. The reason for this is pretty simple. I want something I don’t have. What I want is something that may or may not exist: someone who makes me feel like I have something I don’t deserve while simultaneously making me feel like I have something I deserve. Another way to phrase this is: I want to feel as if I have managed to attract the attention of someone who, under ‘normal’ circumstances, would never deign to spend their attention on me, while at the same time never having to worry about losing their attention. This is the same thing as holding out for a super model girlfriend. So that’s what I invariably want to express whenever I open a new Word document, and instead I ramble and obfuscate my paltry whining with what I take to be fancy wordplay and philosophizing until I get tired enough to fall asleep.

So what does everyone else think? Is there something to this life, or is it chemical and nothing more? Does that feeling we sometimes get exist independently of ourselves, or is it only our perceptions of reality phrasing something too grand to comprehend in language we can interpret? Is there really something called love, or is it what happens when two people want to have sex with each other? Is there really something called love, or is that what we say when our brains want specific things that fall in specific categories? There are only two categories, though. Hard, physical, empirical truth; and subjective, un-testable noumena. The first category is only comprehensible to our minds through the language of mathematics; the second category is only comprehensible to us through the language of culture (so, the language we speak and write in, and all the images we instantly can interpret without having to process them). The first one is there whether we are or not. The second category only exists with human beings. So what does that mean? I means that, because love is not measurable with math, it doesn’t exist without us, which means it’s essentially a fabricated device to help facilitate interactions between humans, much like language is. So we, as humans, stand halfway between the two. Math came first, and we have to understand it. Love comes after, and we have to understand it. This is existential ramble #2 of tonight.


4 comments:

kate said...

goddammit i will have to let you read my story.

of course love exists without humans. gosh. just because you can't measure something with math does not mean it doesn't exist.

knigt said...

yes you will have to let me read your story.

Gan! said...

Oooh I have a better counterpoint which is that language is not "fabricated."

knigt said...

I already know what you think. And I agree with you. But that doesn't mitigate how wrong you are.