Friday, May 18, 2007

Two thoughts in one post.


My good friend Lindsey from Lawrence (it's finally true!) has been introducing me to some interesting basic philosophical concepts. It's the kinda thing that when you hear it, it's kinda fun. Then, slowly, it invades your thoughts and you have to deal with it. The once small concept grows and grows until you can't ignore it anymore. Actually, refer to the post below about Ishmael. Same deal.

The first idea is that none of this exists. This is all in my mind. Everything from my keyboard to the people I talk to on the phone to the phone itself. They're all just constructs of my mind, like the Matrix. I'm not quite sure what true reality is in this situation, or if it exists, but all of this is fake. Kind of a fun idea, right?

Well it got to bothering me after I thought about it. What are the consequences if this is all a ruse? If I'm making this whole deal up, what is reality truly like? And worse, how do you know the difference??? After a while, I came to a solution that pretty much satisfies me.

It's a koan. The whole thing is a question that just makes you think but the results aren't as important as the question. It just makes you think. Here's why. Suppose everything is real. In that case, you're going to want to do your best to survive in the world peacefully and treat other people with respect, compassion, etc. Hear what I'm saying?

Suppose, then, that this whole thing is a construct of my mind. It isn't real. In that case, unless you're a masochist (which I've often been accused of), you're going to want to do your best to take care of yourself and not do anything detrimental to your own mind. It's all your mind, so you will still do everything in your power to treat everyone you come into contact with with loving kindness. I think you'd even have more of a reason to do it since you know that it is you you're being kind to. You'll directly feel the consequences. Kind of weird, right?

Let me know if I'm wrong here or I'm missing something.

The second thought I've been dealing with still has to deal with Ishmael. I can't get it out of my mind. There is a portion of the book where Ishmael is telling the reader a story about the origin of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The ultimate reason man should not eat of this tree, according to the bible, is that it leads to death. From Ishmael's perspective, it is a different form of death. An allegorical death of sorts which, in my mind, makes way more sense than anything I've heard before. Check this out.

Because man eats the tree, he knows the difference between right and wrong, and thus thinks he's better than the animals who don't know any better. We thus put ourselves above these creatures, subjugate them, and ultimately destroy everything around us because we think we know what is right. Problem with this is that it ultimately leads to our own extinction. We're killing ourselves by taking ourselves out of the natural world and placing ourselves above it. Death existed in the garden, but because we've taken ourselves out of the garden, we're going extinct by our own hand. It's a really eerie thought. That's about it for the day, I just didn't want to forget what I've been thinking about in that regard.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is this an existential crisis a-brewin' off the port bow?

Anonymous said...

That would be a crazy game of Follow the Leader.

I was almost worried that you had been brainwashed, because last time we talked it seemed like you placed existentialism only slightly above nihilism!

lindsey said...

I like your thoughts on this...but you're living up to your nickname by thinking that deep down inside people want goodness and justice for themselves and others.

People are addicted to their negative emotions. And I still maintain that if there were no consequences, human beings would do just about anything they wanted to, no matter how evil.

But that's just me...bitter and jaded. Let's not play follow the leader. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Soooo, if you're bored.

http://www.politicalcompass.org/questionnaire

Anonymous said...

I don't remember the exact coordinates, -2.something political and minus -5.something social. I'm perfectly okay with being like Gandhi and the Dalai Lama, you know?