Thursday, January 26, 2006

Giant Tasks...

(Image from Dali's "Les Diners de Gala")

Faced with something big and new to do? Something so large and unruly that the mere thought of it makes you anxious and reach for the procrastination pills? You need a serving of dime store philosophy! So sit down, tuck that napkin into your collar, and open your mind. Bon Appetite!

But before we get to the main course, savor an amuse bouche of platitudes: Forget the expectations you think others have of you. Was the task assigned (aren't they all)? It will do you a load of good to forget the assigners and to make this endeavor an extension of your own being. It's the only way you're going to care about it enough to get it done in a way that's satisfying to you. Second guessing other people's wills will inevitably lead you down a nauseating hall of mirrors.

Speaking of will and nausea, today's main course will be rich filets of Nietzsche and Sartre served over a sliced banana smothered with ice cream and melted chocolate and topped with a homemade jus: Mom's "it's going to be alright" jelly jam.

Mr. Nietzsche wants you to force "reality" to submit to your individual creative might. He thought that because most of our words and thoughts (and therefore actions) were mere instances of denial, or "lies" to protect us from the chaos that is all around us, we should make these lies as creative as possible. Only the most colorful, exaggerated, and most importantly, "noble" or life affirming, lies can puff us up enough to face this chaos and invoke the full power of our lifeforce or "will" to conquer it. Anything else is a surrender. Any whiff of pessimism or false humbleness will give chaos the upper hand. This is why Nietzsche was fond of dancing, laughter, and a generally optimistic outlook. Sure he was coo-coo as clams, but so what? He gives you permission to access all of your potential NOW. No saving for rainy days, no acting nice so you can have an afterlife, no fearing time. So, your giant task is yours to hammer out, an opportunity to mold chaos to submit to your will. By placing something in the world that exemplifies your will, that is filled with your best poetic interpretations, your highest most nuanced imaginings, and your laughter and hottest dance steps, you will triumph in the face of the grand immutable flux and decay. Stuff that in your 401(k).

Now before you bang your inflated head into the ceiling, it's time for a smoking hot medallion of Sartre to reduce the swelling. Mr. Sartre, ultimately, also wants you to impose order on chaos, less the chaos of the world, more the chaos of your own consciousness. But first, he's going to make you sick. For as your internal consciousness perceives the external world, it notices that "being" in it is a dizzying and nausea-inducing concept. All the flesh and the trees and the space filled with stuff that exists outside our consciousness seems absurd, insane, overwhelming. So, we must begin to make some sense in order to avoid falling into this chasm of absurdity. Not only are you free to organize your consciousness as you like, but you are condemned to this freedom for your entire existence. You MUST create yourself (and the world you live in) in each moment. Feeling queasy? Good. Because here's where it turns around. The nice part about being the creator is that YOU determine the meaning of all things. No blame can be placed elsewhere, since you are always free to reinterpret some fact or some event or some psychological condition in your own way or to your own advantage. You are the hero, you face the absurdity of being alive, and you persevere in a god-like fashion. In other words, that boulder you must push up the mountain everyday may look like a form of hell from afar, but given the choice of falling into the chasm of absurdity or placing your energies into a world that you have suffused with personal meaning, well, suddenly that boulder starts to look pretty great. It is afterall, YOUR boulder. Your Giant Task is the vessel into which you will pour yourself without complaint or excuse, for with this task you have been given the greatest gift: a "situation" in which to freely create the world you want.

Philosophy should be demystified and applied to everyday situations. The idea that it is incompatible with daily living is ridiculous and worse, Big Brother-ish. It should be studied from childhood on, with great emphasis. Our choices should be informed by the thoughts of great minds that came before. Granted much of the primary sources are not beach reading, but the ideas are generally accessible. And a good philosophy coach or professor who can peel back the linguistic pretentions of the canon and reveal the nuggets of wisdom within, is an invaluable teacher and an advocate for a much more interesting (if not orderly) future. Good luck with your task. I've got mine cut out for me!


Blogger Jon said...

I've been reading Nietzsche's books "The Will to Power" and "Thus spoke Zarathustra", this blog entry is a spot on interpretation. Well written!

1:45 PM  

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