Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"atmospheric pressure of a system of theory" a section of an essay

This next section is a nexus of various threads of thought, all feeding together into one fetus: the inner divine personality. Here, this penultimate section on pragmatism, or practicality, I argue for the practicality of philosophy and theory, and knit it all back to that central idea.



5. Atmospheric Pressure of a System of Theory


            A lifetime of theory presses down into the moment of action. And so, each of us simplifies and streamlines his life. Like the movie Memento, where the protagonist persists by adapting the simplest method for the greatest results – he overcomes his lack of memory with the use of tattoos, Polaroids, and simple notes – or the movie Killbill with a plot structured like a hit list, let us simplify our lives, make our gestures grand and elementary, for the fewer parts a machine has, the fewer break downs, and the easier it is to repair when it does breakdown. Family, Work, and Passion, the basic trilogy, this system balances like the branches of a government. Three is ever the number of the dynamic, being unstable without the perfecting fourth. There is the man, his dilemma, and the perfection of the artwork. Lacking that fourth, the three is passionate and painful.

            Make your personality such a dynamo. Personalities are strategies. The personality, as the sum of all communicating habits, is a unified style, a way of negotiating with other minds, a way of expressing the self, a mode of beauty. Every day we use our character of action, our personality of words, as tools to succeed at life, as means to cultivate the self and present it to the world. Let us therefore simplify and distill a few basic methods from all the experiments we have made. Forms generate forms, they make creations. Let us purify our forms, let us better our heaven, let us fashion perfect ideas and integrate them into the best habits. Plug away at it, work your best, and do not wish for instant results. Tricks are for masters, they cripple beginners.

            We tend to keep the eyes focused at a certain distance, to put ourselves at a certain distance from what we see. Learn to get in the face of your problems, see it eye to eye, don’t be ashamed to stare, look into the heart of the matter, fix your eyes with intent, cock your head, raise your eyebrow. The more you look at a shape, the more your mind takes that shape into the other things you look upon. Reflect therefore on the regular shapes of your mind.

            Every practice requires an incumbent theory. What is your theory of yourself? Being unique, you could not read it from a book, but perhaps only capture glimpses of it in everything you read. Perhaps a whole heaven of theory must spin above to bear upon the little nib of a pen: write a Summa and you can then write an Inferno. Write enough philosophy and perhaps a perfect poem will roll out of the batch.

            Methods grow within us, imbed in our muscles, knit into our nerves. We seek growth and we seek stability. Maturity is the ability to postpone gratification. A child matures by being told she is too immature. This falsehood is an unfair expectation, yet an apt prod. Chides and ideals are deceits that can move reality. One method of growth in this world is to lie to yourself, to expect more of yourself then you have to give, to blame yourself for what you are not in fact accountable for. The accursed ideal is yet a springboard for many, though a weight of guilt on most. Fantasy will yet help us. Pleasure can only be delayed through imagining future pleasure. We always seek the greatest pleasure, and sometimes my greatest pleasure now isn’t to gratify myself now, but to imagine myself more gratified later.

            Theory is beautiful. The philosophical type can hardly move a muscle without seeking incumbent theories about how. We surf upon books, and perhaps have a bit more know that, than know how. Yet with our continual study as our basic method, sometimes a rude nail of reality bursts the feedback we carry, and seeds pour all over the ground. We are overfull, so thick with ideas and forms that we are akin to the lusty sun who impregnates all worlds.

            Our method is not to deny these bits of peculiarity, but to accept them in the spirit of congruence, that our thinking, feeling, acting, and talking all flow into each other. We accept all that we are, and we accept all that we are not. Each of my previous experiences feeds into this given moment – indeed all of history existed only to give me a stage and place – the ever blessed now, that is the gift of the present, to be the highest being of all that is, to be the infant god who strives and tries.

            “I want to be happy!” to accomplish what? If happiness were the end of life, life wouldn’t be so stingy with the substance. Theologians interpret suffering as an objection to life, yet it is difficult to imagine anything like a life without it. Growth and stability would be impossible without joy and suffering, and yet those exist only for growth and stability. Discipline too is a means, not an end. Some cannot discipline themselves, so they join the military, take a job, find some external compulsion to draw the gifts from them as a furnace draws gold from an ore. They acquire an external model for discipline, internalize it, and ever after have that power. And this is good. The artist temperament is recalcitrant, resents external impositions, looks at its own nature as the true authority, and wishes if anything to impose this over the external world. It is either self-discipline or obedience in this world, intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. Know what you need and get it. Effort itself is an image of muscle strain. Self discipline is possible for a mind which own its body. Lacking this, you must sell your body. My effort is turned into wages, for “I am my career,” but some of us use a career to support our passion, yet do not make our passion into a career, lest we lose our autonomy and creative right to do as we wish.

            Whatever your course, learn the strategy of full engagement. Know how to press your full care into one object, and segment your day into one obsession at a time, like a centipede is segmented into feet. Know how to look intently at whatever is before you, figure out its logic, its limits, its weaknesses and strengths. Learn how to study it.

            Learn therefore how to draw conceptual maps. By studying any body of work—an instrument, a book, a period of history—look for essentials and turn these into conceptual terms. Perhaps you are reading a philosopher. Pencil a box around each of his terms and underline its definition. Then pluck these terms from their source and learn how to diagram them into a dynamic and logical map, a metaphorical shape that understands and comprehends them.

            You will learn by and by a few metamethods for reading all situations, for reducing them to your basic terms, for mapping them. Language is the universal solvent. Learn to transmute all things into language, into your own language, and it will be yours. Lux Sophia is the goddess of light, who turns all ignorance into radiance. Master language, craft a few metaphors to handle all objects, and you will become competent.

            Competency means holding the metamethod. The generally competent man or woman can do anything, having self knowledge of his other native abilities, having the power to observe the object in question, and having the wits to connect these two, no matter how far apart they may initially seem.












No comments: