[personal profile] lhexa

I had a nice trek into the foothills today, trying to catch the sunset -- and though when I reached the top of a good hill I found that the sun was making its exit beyond another fold of earth, I did have the opportunity to marvel at the city below. I felt... well, I felt a way I like to feel. For a little while I lay prone, facing the higher hills further on, and when I got up I noticed that the city's street lights had come on behind me, overlaying the buildings and trees with an iridescent grid. In the growing dark, and with its growing light, the city which I had just climbed out of had become even more alluring. But while I had lain on the ground I had noticed another, much higher foothill, further on; and there was a road leading up to it from my position. So I climbed it next, casting glances backwards occasionally. When I got to the top of this one, I repeated the marvelling, repeated the restful laying-prone. But this hill gave me wide views not only in the direction of the city (now in the midst of night, its many bulbs still burning brightly), but also in the opposite direction, into a canyon and network of foothills lacking in humanity. Much further on I noticed a true mountain, higher (though not much higher) than my current foothill, and doubtlessly commanding another great view -- though not of the city, I bet. My eyes traced a path I could take to its top. I wondered what it would be like, upon finding myself in this position between the city and the mountains, to keep going into the rough terrain, doubtlessly to stop at some point but certainly not to return. I wondered also what would have to be ahead of me to make such a departure possible, or what I would have to bring with me. I could have made it to that mountain tonight; I think it would only have taken an hour or two to do so. But then I wouldn't have come back in time to write this entry.

While finding myself in somewhat greater isolation I found myself experiencing the morbidities of solitude (I'm taking this term from a book by Kingsley Amis). I found myself able to visualize my dismay, my feelings of faithlessness, my moribund self-manipulation, and my current emotion of cheerful survival, in a rather poignant manner; if that was what it took to sever old loyalties without the emotional panacea of forgetfulness, I was willing to entertain the morbid images (which I will not describe, sorry). I acquired a small, somewhat cell-like room of my own, in which I developed a sort of slobbish monasticism; I placed myself in devotion (as always, but this time with a greater sense of freedom) to my books, although sometimes I imposed on one of them the affectionate but hardly worshipful event of falling asleep on or beside it. What childish bibliophilia! In any case, one thing I certainly did not manage to do was to lose myself in those books. Rather, I spent a lot of time evaluating and reevaluating my past, wondering how I could ever salvage (or honor, or in certain cases remember) past relationships upon an exit from my isolation. I came to believe that being in a sustained position of not knowing where one stands with respect to any other person, of not even having any particular standing with another, but still to want to insert oneself into the social patterns that can so easily be seen around oneself, is enough to ruin any person if maintained for too long.

Now on to the good stuff.

To be able to laugh at oneself is wonderful. Perhaps it is also dangerous. Honestly, what didn't I have to laugh about? Convinced at times that my personality and my life were shallow, I had only to stop for a moment and remember to notice what a complicated, and interesting, profusion of actions had led me to be what I petulantly called... shallow. Reason for laughter, that. When I noticed that sometimes I would wonder at what an arbitrary mess my life seemed to be in, and when I simultaneously noticed how I periodically made some significant and perhaps arbitrary decision, in order to see how my life would change as a result, how could I not chuckle? I was now dismayed with what I had committed to before! Avoidance inspired one such reversal of feelings; I soon found myself wondering why I had ever resolved on it in the first place. What's more, and perhaps the best joke of all, I had believed that everything I valued, my knowledge, my more precious emotions, my ambitions, and even my abilities, all more or less depended on the web of loyalties and cultural commitments which I had spent so much time weaving. But when I angrily tore down this web (It had caught nothing! Not even myself!), I found, contrary to my expectations, that doing this, doing my best to live away from people, did not divest me of all that I had learned from those people, and did not even take away the various sentiments I held towards them. It was with a laugh or two of relief this time (I've needed other types on occasion), that the expectations of my soon-to-appear inconstancy, self-insufficiency, and chameleonic behavior were destroyed by my own recurring, past-sustaining... self.

I spent a lot of time reading over what records I had managed to keep of past conversations (though to be honest I had started to collect, and dwell on these several months before I thought of avoidance). This activity, examining the external remnants of one's past, is by turns humbling, shocking, painful, inspiring, and -- of course -- instructive. I think I did it well; in any case I managed to replace the two dramatic beliefs that I had wantonly betrayed close friendships, and that I had devoted much emotion into an ultimately valueless and unfriendly online life, with a more accurate and sane recollection of my online activity, with its various mistakes and disputes, its shared realizations and really long rambles... not to mention its slow decay.

One goal of avoidance was, I suppose, a sort of calm which I thought I could not achieve otherwise. As it happened, the first several months of avoidance were at least as... lacking in calm... as the preceding months. Eventually I did become capable of a certain calmness which, while not extraordinary, was sufficient to my purposes. I do wonder how my emotions would have evolved had I decided to continue in isolation.

I had a sort of project going, a certain something which I expected at first to build quickly. It was, in a metaphorical sense, an ornithopter. I've kept this particular goal active, even though it looks as though it'll take many years to build such a flying machine. However, during avoidance I began to wonder just what reason I could have for someday presenting it, as a finished contraption, to various people. Did I imagine myself to be a harmless tinker, fascinated by his own philosophical inventions, and satisfied that someday, when he would have a few such random inventions ready to show, there would be other people, somewhere, who would show interest in such things? Is the desire to adopt a philosophical life ever justified by the possibility that it will draw the attention and enthusiasm of some small group of people; more specifically, is such a life justified when it is certain to involve occasional periods of solitude and the partial repudiation of mere interest as a reason for adopting philosophy? To be honest, I considered not bothering to share (the most personal of) my ideas at all, and to pursue or abandon the construction of an ornithopter in secret. I also considered the aforementioned plan of simply springing a finished device (in whatever final literary and theoretical form it took) upon people who had no idea what it was and no particular reason to attend to it. Anyway, what I finally concluded was that if I were to pursue any long-term philosophical project (whether it be a flying device or not), it would have to be done with far greater responsiveness to its audience, and contain far greater potential importance to them, than could be accomplished by doing it by and for myself alone. This is an odd thought to come out of solitude, but, well, from solitude the thought did come.

It's getting late again. I have more to say, and I'll start earlier tomorrow and finish things up.

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lhexa

January 2012

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