It’s no secret I enjoy French philosophy. Recently I noticed a pattern in the thought of a few of my favorite writers. There’s a feeling that life, at its core, is full of lack. Lacan writes that desire is lack, in the sense that I want something I don’t have. In order for desire to continue, I must never actually get what I want. Lyotard writes that meaning is always deferred. When we speak of an object we have its word and the concept for it in mind, but we never get to the object itself. Baudrillard thinks that the world is simulated and the Real has become so real it isn’t real anymore.
Inherent in these thinkers’ approaches is a belief that nothing is as it seems. There’s an illusory quality to the world they sometimes fear, sometimes revere.
Most people don’t find value in discussing what’s missing in our lives when we’re surrounded on all sides by people and stuff. Studying big ideas, even when they illuminate our shortcomings and insecurities, gives me a sense of purpose. I appreciate the mystical qualities lurking behind Appearance, the poetry operating beneath the steady unfolding of the world.
But I can’t take these abstractions to heart in my daily life. Yesterday I met again with a woman I really like. Sitting across from her in a downtown café, I saw her face, heard her voice, sensed the fullness of her being. Were her private thoughts inaccessible to me? Of course. Was she in her body interpreting her world separate from me? Of course. But she was still right here in front of me.
Thoughts about Lack and Deferred Meanings and Simulated Reality were the furthest from my mind. I just wanted to reach out and hold her hand, to submit to the whims of her Mystery.
The essence of Being shines brightest in the presence of someone you care deeply about. It’s the beauty of conversing with a woman you yearn to understand, knowing all along you’ll never know her completely. But trying nonetheless.