Mea culpa: a confession from one of last year’s men

Posted on April 8, 2017

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In principle, the weather is perfectly predictable.

The weather seems unpredictable only because there are so many variables at play. It is impossible to account for all of them. One day, supercomputers may be able to do it, but, for the time being, the weather will remain unpredictable and seemingly mysterious.

In principle, we humans are also perfectly predictable.

We seem unpredictable only because there are so many variables at play. It is impossible to account for all of them. One day, supercomputers may be able to do it, but, for the time being, we humans will remain unpredictable and seemingly mysterious.

Once upon a time, we imagined that the perfectly predictable weather had agency. In the future, we will say “once upon a time” about the agency we imagine in ourselves today.

*

History is one of the spoils of war. It is well known that the victors write history in their own image.

Our memories are also a spoil of a kind of war.

Whoever we have now become remembers the past in its own image. Memory, like history, is an invention of the present moment and not a window into a time beyond now.

We share memories like we share other delusions. We tell and retell plausible fictions until they align and our memories seem to be the same. We do it because we are a we.

Our past is a portrait of now. Memory is another kind of forgetting.

*

Everything we experience and think and know and believe is created by a three pound lump of flesh that never directly encounters the world it renders.

Everything we experience and think and know and believe would count as a lie, if there were anything outside of everything we experience and think and know and believe by which to assess it.

Then, the universe goes bump in the night.

*

Ideas have always mattered to me, for as long as I can remember. They have, at times, mattered to me more than people.

I hoped — I think — that I would find an idea so high and wild I would never need to find another.

Lead would turn to gold. Women would swoon. Men would follow.

I was wrong.

People matter more than ideas. People are the warp and the woof of living, history and progress.

Ideas are not irrelevant, of course. They can unite people and bridge communities. They can be the catalyst for social units larger than the tribal communities of our ancestors.

Ideas are imperial. Philosophers have always longed to be king. Truth is a bondsman’s means to lordship.

One more cock thrusting into the night.

*

There are thirty million people living in Uzbekistan — thirty million people that my life will not affect in any meaningful way, thirty million people I will never encounter, know or understand, thirty million people whose very existence is essentially non-existent to me.

There are almost fourteen million people in Ontario. There are about a million people in Ottawa. I have six hundred friends on Facebook.

Like most humans, the greatest number of individuals with whom I can a maintain a stable relationship is between 100 and 231. Of them, there are probably only a handful of people I encounter often enough to affect meaningfully. I can’t even be sure that I truly know or understand them.

The people of Uzbekistan are everywhere.

*

I still sometimes catch myself writing an acceptance speech for the world’s greatest person award. I always start by naming and thanking the teachers who have influenced me the most. I doubt any of them truly knew or understood me.

This longing for global recognition seems almost impossible to extinguish, especially when the world is falsely imagined to be a village and the longing for recognition is clothed in the lambskin rhetoric of progress.

It is attachment to this longing — and not desire itself — that is the source of all suffering.

We already live in the kingdom of heaven. We don’t know it only because we look for it beyond the local horizon of now.

All lives are local, a life is for living, living happens now, and, once experienced, it can’t be recovered. Happiness is — and always has been — here, now, and a verb.

*

I’m thankful I am introvert. Like a beast with its horn, I have torn every idea that has reached out for me.

Posted in: Philosophy