Being and Time

August 5, 2017

 

Existence is both beautiful and horrendous. It glides on the razor edge between what is known and safe, and the excitement of the unknown --may we even say dangerous? An entire lifetime is not enough to soak it all in, though; the immensity of what is out there and even in each one of us is far too much to grasp. its true reach still incomprehensible. Necessarily, this reality leads to frustration. Have you ever driven a car in a dark, foggy night, while the car lights are faulty or outright off? That is quite an apt metaphor for life. There you are, in your car, moving forward through the unknown, inside the safe confines of the vehicle yet surrounded by a profound darkness which eats it all up. It is tragic if you crash against a tree or fall off a cliff, but tragedy is what happens to you throughout the journey. Evil, on the other hand, is what someone else, intentionally, does to make your journey more unpleasant than it is. And it is disheartening. Most importantly, though, it triggers the discovery that you, too, can boycott others through their own personal journeys. At the end of the day, we're all driving the same crowded yet dark path into nothingness.

 

How we perceive and name the world outside the car we are driving (continuing with the same metaphor) is determined by what is inside the car. As we cannot see it all beyond a few meters around it, we understand that little chunk of reality by making references grounded on what we see. If there is a pole outside we will call it a gear shift-like object, because that is the only thing we have at hand to compare it with. If there is another human, we understand that human in terms of yourself, because that is the human you know. If there is something soft, then you refer to it in terms of the softness of your own car seats. And so on. You don't know what you don't know, right? You only know what you know and, whatever beyond that, when you suspect it or encounter it, is defined by the knowns. That is the frontier where the tension between one's finitude and the enormity of everything around us comes to a climax. And as one becomes aware of the vastness of what lies beyond, life is already in decay. The car will run out of gas sooner or later. Darkness is creeping towards you whether you like it or not.

 

Depressed? Don't be. As gloomy as this may sound, there is meaning in driving through the darkness. For starters, you're driving a complex machine. The fact that it will perish one day only adds to its mystique --and if you don't believe me try to eat a diamond when you are really hungry and all you have in front of you is a ripe banana and the said diamond. Listen to the wind while standing next to a cliff, walk barefoot on freshly cut grass, or make love to someone you deeply care about. Fugacious equals inimitable. Do you know what is the poison of those who have, in the eyes of the world, everything? Boredom. You are truly human when, despite of the imminent demise of existence, you get to feel the fullness of brevity, of being. I have used examples which are directly and physically pleasant, but in reality there are plenty more which people do not immediately associate with joy, e.g. helping a random person in a pickle at the cost of one's resources, the release experienced after a breakup, figuring it out the use of a tool, or sacrificing present pleasure for something which one believes is greater and nobler in the future. It is not a coincidence that, on their deathbed, what people regret is not to live more time.

 

Perhaps that's where my beef comes from, at least in the Heidegger vis-à-vis Husserl context. There is no sufficient theoretical knowledge of the car we're driving, from the get go, other than the one embedded in the genetics of physical existence. The realization of the objects around us, inside and around the car, necessarily come from a "ready-to-hand" understanding of things. The experiencing of oneself arises from the intersection of so many things, e.g. other beings/cars, their drivers' apprehension of their surroundings (in which we are), the readiness to hand, and the historicity of the length by which one has been driving. However, there is a very important caveat to be made at this precise point: when taken to the extreme, this metaphor can produce intellectually aborted foetuses like Foucault, Derrida, Marcuse or Badiou. What they all missed (and postmodernists miss today) is the fact that the car has to move. There aren't infinite beings within a being over an infinite timeline, with each one as a valid viewpoint of the existence and self-reference of it against the others. The car HAS to move. And for the car to be driven (to exist) there is a minimum physical and mental range of actions, with their underlying motivations, which when combined produce movement. There is only so much the gas pedal can be stepped on, so much the wheel can be turned, and that minimum range of options for the car to actually move and encounter other cars in many different forms, some of which will result in the spawning of other cars, is an undeniable fact. Stating otherwise is not only nihilistic but utterly masturbatory. Useless.

 

So, Being is the interplay of all these things. But there needs to be action for Being to occur, for "being there". Phenomenology is fine, just like masturbation, but at some point you always want to go for the real thing. Unless, of course, you are committed to onanism --in which case, hey, more power to you. Just don't shake my paw. Right?

 

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