I’ve been wrestling with this essay for weeks. Perhaps a few more and it will be decent. In the meantime, I must send him out to fare in the world and win some experience for himself. It explore the metaphor of ideas as tools.
Ideas as Objects
Experience is the hammer which smiths our memories into the conceptual tools of our assumptions: daily we pound out the ideas that we will use throughout our life. Habits are how we use ideas, but every method requires at least an implicit idea of how the method should be applied. There is no practice without theory. Even the tools taken from our culture, second hand, recognized by an engine of habit that absorbs them from our group, each must be tweaked and personalized to fit our own needs and mind. The concept of God for instance, means so many things, contradictory things, to so many people, that the common denominator (which is different than an essence) to God is the sense of importance to the idea. All of our communal ideas, though we use the same words for them, mean something particular to each of us.
Theory is the art of mirroring art; by theory art grows self-conscious, obeys the recursive principle of philosophy to “know thyself,” becomes wise, gains the recursive principle of ethics to “pride in yourself,” and becomes complex. We ought to think about our actions and the ideas behind them, and having discovered these ideas, we out to attack them, and let them be attacked, let all all our cherished thoughts feel the fire, and invite others to criticize them, for it is good for us to test our ideas and see which of them best serve us. Hold close only to your strong ideas.
If your only tool is a hammer, all problems look like a nail. Thus the philosopher who lacks a wide assortment of mental ideas tends to reduce complex problems to stereotyped solutions. If philosophy is the art of defining, some Christians have only three terms: God, Sin, and Afterlife.
Nevertheless, you must prefer one set of tools to all, those privileged ideas that come from your personal experience. What you have borne through your own life-struggles will serve you best, be it a story that has been told over so many times it stands for an idea, or a concept you came from thinking of your life-struggles.
Religiously, you can wear clothing that reminds you of your central precepts, or tattoo yourself, or create a sign language dance, if only to universalize and ever repeat the ideas that you hold to your heart as the center of your religion. As religion is a sort of systemized importance – indeed, the creation of a world religion is the greatest achievement of man so – you ought to make your personal religion alive and ever participated in. Repeat certain gestures that stand for ideas and moods so often that they become triggers for moods. The nod of a head, the touch of a brow, can summon an attitude needed for any given moment.
Below the myths are the commentary, below the commentary is the philosophy, and below the philosophy is the table of values. These values are a sort of magnetic equal sign that sets a group of ideas as equal, such as the equation of
or the Socratic
or the artists’
The ultimate source of all values must be the self, and a healthy narcissism allows that self-reflection to fertilize.
Dance, and your shadow dances with you
Kiss the mirror, and he won’t be shy.
The idea of ideas is the most integral to philosophy; the metaphor of ideas as artifacts is perhaps the best for showing both the constructed nature of idea, and their truth in their ability to equip us for life’s problems. Thus a purely theoretical problem doesn’t exist: all ideas must serve life. And just as a man can write better after talking to a friend of his ideas, and opens the channels of inspiration when he sets to compose an epistle to his loved ones, so do ideas become apparent as ideas when we try to convert them into language, and consider how they might appear and be used by another intelligence.
What clever things we say to ourselves when we are inspired to do what we dread. “Leap on your challenges” is a good maxim. “Do your work immediately, do not put off till tomorrow what you can do today, never procrastinate, do the hardest things first,” are all maxims, a sort of ultra-abridged story that stand ultimately for a habit we are to adapt. This is the quickest way to transfer ideas horizontally across friends and vertically across history. Poetry, though difficult to our friends, is the only language that the angels carry to the ends of time.
We must make our actions thick, so that our every gesture is a sort of symbolical dance, a lived poetry. Friends are an external memory, but so are our gestures, when they are deepened by secondary and tertiary meanings.
All of life is a field for growth, for exploring the poles of love and power. We each create a world within a world, a playing zone, to experiment and grow with. For most people, a set of friends is this game world, and they explore all ideas through their friends. Some explore through a diary, some through sports, some through the novels they write, some through music, some through advancing a career. Each field is instinctively chosen as the place for that man.
What makes one man’s ideas more profound is that he is working on many related projects at once, and seeking to work out his problems with continual ideas. I am forever pregnant with ten children, one ripe, the others arriving soon, and a few just beginning. A writers apparatus should be great “as big as the solar system”: for him his writing is a complete world, and the external world mere shadows and exaggerations of it.
The finely tuned tools we make of our ideas are evoked by a careful language, our father-tongue. If our mother-tongue is the language native to our childhood, the father-tongue is the precise language grown from our adult study. Each word is a branch and twig on the tree of philosophy, leaved to catch the light.
Every tone of voice resonates to a layer of the heart, so that listening to the widow wail, we cannot escape the sorrow, even if we harden our hearts and push the voice out, and try to hate her. Every tone speaks to our own feelings. So too does the depth of every idea resonate through those who hear it, so that a man is known to be wise or shallow merely by speaking any phrase, by noting the weather. The mere timbre of his inflection says it all. And the depth of a man’s wisdom is in the hold and glow of his eyes.
Literature is the virtual world, which paints sensual ideas and people, but is ultimately peopled by the invisible ideas they represent. Every man is representative. A boss represents his company, and comes to stand for his own bosses, and for the company goals; his anger is more than mere anger, it is company will. It is as if he were placed in a node within a computer, and his mind and spontaneous feeling serve as an outlet for the whole system.
A movie too stands for a such a node. In the theater, we not only express our feelings cathartically, but internalize the movie as a place within us to continually pour those emotions, to inspire new habits even, on how to think and feel.
We must express our ideas constantly into our game world if we are to grow creatively, we must challenge ourselves always, taking vacations only long enough to intensify our work when we return. Milk yourself daily to keep up the flow. Create endlessly and let Darwin select. And learn to read the world, read the literature that is yours, whether it is studying a certain type of people, or an aspect of your own heart, or perhaps literal writers, a few who speak ever and only for you. Emerson and Whitman are the geniis I inhale, and my lungs are the lamps where they reside.
The image of a multiverse is helpful here. It is not that there are multiple worlds that don’t touch each other, but the worlds are on top of each other, and bleed into each other. Metaphorically, we could say that heaven and hell overlap earth, they are not above it nor below it, and if a man’s self be eternal, what other place would he need to go, but into an aspect of this world. The intoxicated and the visionaries received visions of the mythic world as an overlap of this one, as if the god really pulled the sun as his chariot, and the symbolic meanings behind every action were literalized, if only in a simultaneous reality. All the imagined heavens, hells, purgatories, galaxies, and fictions were the actual afterlives of those who believed in them, and exist because they were believed in, and not before, and yet have final consequences for those who take them in. Perhaps such an attitude will finally give us a respect for the importance of ideas and beliefs, and a sense of the universal compatibility and interpenatrability of all religions and philosophies, like a thousand bodies that moving and acting, in their own universe, and sharing only one atom within their head, like a great living sphere. That one hole that threads us all together, who lacks this? It is the crack of imperfection in each of our brows, and the name of the thread who passes through all of us is Mattria, the consciousness of the motherverse. Spinoza, Hegel, Plotinus, and the East as a whole had a sense of this, and spoke of God, gods, Brahmans, and other things. It is a deep human intuition, and for this fact alone we must respect it, as we respect humanity itself, being human.
Harden your heart
Stopper your ears
On the task that is near.
Buddha might have said these lines, and I myself must repeat them to myself, when the worry worm bites my heart, and the anxiety lines grasp my brow. I must remember that intellectually, the world is happy, and if I can move into this Platonic world of pure forms, which is interpenetrating this world, and is within things, I will be happy again. Moods must be expressions, emotions must e-move, but the peace of the mind is by subduing love with will, and letting intellect balance the mad and impassioned heart.
The intellectual tools are the greatest objects mankind has created. They are preserved in our technology, they are preserved in our literature. Books are the best things mankind has created, and yet, a man who knows how to read can read anything and everything we have created, can read even nature, if he has the discipline to learn science. Reading and interpretation are essential acts of the human mind. The universe is a sort of book, and the mind is a sort of author. Struggle therefore to write the perfect ideas, the metaphors the explain the most, the trope fountains that let you create and solve life’s riddles again and again. These alone are the treasures you can take to heaven, and they are all the treasures you need.
Perhaps a useful metaphysical story is to imagine your conception as an absolute moment, when time was born in two directions: backwards in history to allow you, and forwards in future to welcome you. The arrows will run full circle eventually, when you come back as a god to preside over your own birth, and every cycle you will be in the same life, but higher, unaware even of your previous place in it, a greater being, the eternal recurrence of the same, the grand spiral of being. For history is neither a circle nor a line, but both, a spiral.
Not for nothing you were given this religion instead of that, and that you did this thing instead of that. Each instance is writ with eternal consequence.
My own inner gardens are fertilized with the corpses of American Gods. I love my own. And yet I am the world’s and speak to the world. I take my immediate as symbol of the whole. Every man is representative, and stands for facts, categories, groups and clans. As a spouse, in her right place, stands for all women, and a husband, for all men, and children, for the future, and grand parents, for posterity, so each man is more than himself, he is many layers of being. He is a nerve cell of the mind of his country, he is a nerve cell of humanity as a whole, simultaneously. Consciousness is thick. Layer upon layer of thinking abide in ever second of my life.
How can the heart be hidden! Where there is love, who can hide it? Where there is no love, who can fake it? Ideas are fine tools, but they are made out of mood. When I am happy, all men are my friend, but when I am depressed, even my friends wish they were elsewhere. A master debater may win arguing either side, when he is judged by technicalities, but he cannot win our hearts. The atheist cannot fake a sermon, the pastor cannot fake a critique. We pass for what we are. This deed, that deed, might be forgotten or hidden, but the character that results from those deeds stay with us and are exposed to daylight in every word and wink.
Society passes forth great wisdom in its clichés and sayings, though most people do not get the full import of a time-tested adage. Men pass forward sayings like unopened letters. Presently, a few wise men open them up. The greatest books of the ages are toyed with by the disciplined professors, but again they are so many postal workers, bringing the worthy godling into our hands, to open up his mind for the select few who can add divinity to divinity.
A man can worry his brow wrinkled on whether he has been cheated or lied to, and when he is so deceived, he wonders if he can avoid it again. Repair the breach this way: trust and be trustworthy. Trust sooner than you distrust, and sooner be duped than be suspicious. For the great things of our heart, the utter certainties and glories, come from within; in such a subject you would accept no man’s opinion, criticism, or advice. For the work you are here to do, perhaps the whole world will deride you, and you must shrug. We are hated more for our virtues than our vices. The fool has the strongest opinions, and the least useful. The wise man has the subtlest opinions, opinions spot on. The most annoying fool is the educated fool. Accept no advice from others, not on the central issues.
It is good to be a little stupid. Every genius is a bit stupid. The simple people prefer to worship, the educated prefer to criticize, but the wise people worship and criticize in such a way that either is welcome, and both improve.
The innermost shine is worth the world: God within, to hell without. Beauty is love’s form, beauty the language love speaks when witnessing the very she. Love is necessary to judge correctly, but it is not sufficient; a proper fear allows a balanced truth.
Only art born of necessity will last. Only beauty born of a deep need is eternal. My mind is a thousand Hindu arms moving countless ideas but only a few fall into the blue two of consciousness, which cup over my world like the sky’s bowl. What pains and joys my soul the deepest, that is worthy of being.
Compliment those who insult you, and praise those who gossip about you: be subtle and intelligent about it. Only then will you purify your heart and return to a solid focus on the real importance: your own work. Add metaphors and nicknames to all you see: milk yourself daily to keep up the flow. For all it takes is a conviction of your own infinite worth, to ever create more out of your own self. Where there is yet courage, there is always hope.
Bearing suffering is easy enough, what else can you do? But to bear success, who can do it? All men are equally arrogant, only some wear more clever masks. Nothing exposes you like success.
Every mood has a language and mannerisms, and what can be thought with a smile cannot be thought with a frown. You cannot fake love, unless your lover wants to be deceived, either to share a hypocrisy or to punish herself. Who has the full courage for his conscience? Only he whose virtues can exist in the real world. Love reality, and not ideals, and you will love a true love, something you can hold and touch. Ideals punish the world, whip and warp it. Truth does less good than supposed truths do bad. Love must balance truth. Love will forgive anything, hate can be impressed by nothing. It is shameful to realize that our friends enjoy our faults more than our successes, and yet a true friend will take pride in our glory as if it were also his own. The kindest word a reader said of my writing is “I am proud of it.”
Read only to write, listen only to talk better: all the world must be fuel for your flame.
Focus as you must on the day to day. The immediate focus is not the real focus. The real focus is a locus of gravity, below the surface, perhaps forgotten, but always draining energy into itself. The immediate focus, the work, the chore, is a surface matter. Perhaps for the moment you are more aware of it, but that will quickly change.
Therefore, focus on the trope-fountains, those few ideas so finely tuned, as to be a smooth pipe, where the oceanic light of the needs flows without resistance. Let it feed your soul with the godspore with the allsperm, with the creative fountain of metaphorical unification. Metaphors are the greatest intellectual tools, they do the most, they are the strongest ideas. When I hear a metaphorical purity, in music, in the smile of a friend, in the perfect moment, when the very syntax of the situation is an allegory of higher meaning, then is my blood squeezed from my core into my skin.
I play with my ideas like an empty slot puzzle, where the moving question mark is the empty space. I do not bother to answer all my questions I merely see where the chain will take me.
The finger moving the puzzle pieces is the pent sexual energy, the love for Ama, the philosophical muse. She takes hold of me and I am up into the air like a spinning rocket, I break into the night sky and kick stars down like sparks from a burning log.
Great ideas are not enough, a great heart must inspire them. Life is so muddled. Conventions combat confusions. Life, work, love, and death are realities too wide for the mind. We must net them down with countless metaphors, rituals, and types. The ideas we build over these profound realities are the strongest.