Monthly Archives: December 2013

No Ledge

I was reading a philosophy book recently and stumbled upon a random line break. The word “knowledge” jumped to another page, splitting into “know-ledge.” This led me to “no ledge,” a metaphor expressing the essence of knowing as I’ve approached it since college.

Pragmatic people see education as building a foundation of facts and figures, a baseline for measuring objective truths. They think that learning enhances mastery over the world, that it’s a tool used to increase confidence and stability.

But dynamic thinking is all about vertigo and disorientation. It’s a shock to your system. Searching for a different angle, you look out the window of your high-rise apartment and find there is no ledge. How far will you stick your neck out to glimpse what lies below?

Most people venturing into the unknown have a fallback plan that maintains the status quo. If things get too scary, they retreat to their comfort zones. Thoughtful people ask serious questions with no clear solutions. Excited by the prospects of deeper truths, we devote our lives to following ideas wherever they lead. Sometimes we have to catch ourselves before tumbling all the way down.

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Hidden Depths Of Meaning

British philosopher Colin Wilson died December 5. I hadn’t heard of him until the news of his death. Then I found an essay Wilson wrote for the July/August 2006 issue of Philosophy Now, entitled “Phenomenology as a Mystical Discipline.”

Wilson’s discussion of Immediacy Perception and its relation to Meaning Perception struck me with wonder. Immediacy Perception is our awareness of what’s directly in front of us; it’s what we’re looking at or focusing on right now. Meaning Perception is our feeling about what’s happening before us, its significance beyond this moment, and our spiritual connection to it.

Our greatest insights, Wilson argues, occur when both types of perception converge. He writes of the English poet Rupert Brooke who “on a spring morning… sometimes walked down a country road feeling almost sick with excitement.” Brooke was amazed by what he saw on his walk and by the creative act of Seeing. Wilson describes such moments—“looking at things as if they possessed hidden depths of meaning”—as mystical.

It’s like viewing family photos, studying the smile on each face before me, and recognizing the power of love. Or walking up my driveway on a cold night, the habit of reaching for my keys rendered almost magical when recalling the comforts of home.

This, to me, is philosophy in action. When I pull back the curtains of existence—defying all the worry, pain and sadness—I long to see the light behind my world and all the meaning emanating from it.

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Filed under Life, Philosophy

Buy American

This week I received my copy of The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures by Jean Baudrillard via Amazon. It’s one of the firebrand postmodern cultural critic’s most important books, originally published in 1970. It comes from Baudrillard’s early period, before he abandoned his Marxist techniques.

I enjoy a good old-fashioned critique of materialism; it makes me feel superior to the herd, if only for a moment. But I like to accumulate STUFF too. If there’s a hole in my heart, why not fill it with STUFF?

Way back in my small-liberal-arts-college days, a history instructor asked us to describe American culture in one word. “Freedom,” many said. “Justice.” “Democracy.” “Equality,” someone whispered. I had to mix things up. Be a little less idealistic. “Consumerism,” I said with a smile.

It’s no secret that corporations entice us with STUFF to take our minds off of jobs that allow us to buy STUFF but make us miserable in the process. We’re kept endlessly entertained—distracted, really—so the system can chug along, chewing up our souls for fuel.

But I’m being too serious. I mean, who wouldn’t want an iPad Air for Christmas?

Baudrillard wrote somewhere that TV shows exist to enhance the commercials. I laugh and cry at such observations. I’m so frightened and amazed by consumerism that I bought a book about the dangers of buying STUFF on a site where people can’t stop buying STUFF.

There’s no escaping the almighty dollar. Besides, revolutions cost a fortune. And I’ve used up all my personal days.

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Filed under Philosophy, Politics

Pebble Poem

BLASPHEMY

My life is a word
on the tip
of God’s tongue.

I take my father’s
name in vain.
There’s no reason

for my being here
beyond expression.
My life is a thought

ahead of its time
each moment reached
already gone.

It’s a miracle
to feel so small.
A pebble poised

to alter tides.
The moon beside
itself with laughter.

c b snoad
12-1-13

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