Archive | January, 2014


19 Jan

IMG_0579For the last few months I have been thinking a good deal about this, my next post.  As I confided to a few of you, I was hoping to entitle it, “Living Life as if it Matters.”  One of the interesting things about being an expat with limited avenues for intellectual discourse is that I’m forced to rely on my own thoughts — raw as they may be, thoughts circling with no where to go, like a bee in a jar — as opposed to the luxury of hearing opposing points of view, of being able to refine one’s thinking by bouncing ideas off of others, of letting the bee out of the jar.  At first blush, this seems like an amazing opportunity; maybe now  I can find my own “voice.”  One of my dearest friends in California opined that perhaps I could now say what I wanted to say, without “quoting or referring to anyone else.”  That remark caused me to think about an entirely different question, i.e., have I ever had an “original” thought?  Probably not — well, maybe once, 30 years ago, driving home from a philosophy class on conceptual analysis — but I have long forgotten the thought.  The truth is this:  I am derivative.  I suppose one’s “originality” is in the manner in which one puts things together, taking this idea, responding to that quotation, finding resonance with this or that philosophy.  As the days have turned into weeks since I first conjured up the idea of “Living Life as if it Matters,” I have been humbled by its inherent complexity.  For example, how does existentialism inform what I would like to say, not to mention other influences, i.e., Buddhism, et al.   And is it all derivative?  It is a topic I might attempt to tackle in the future, but not now; it needs to percolate, maybe indefinitely.  In the meantime, I feel obliged to assure you that my silence does not mean that I have died or been kidnapped.  I say this jokingly because kidnappings of Americans are extremely rare; it is the more affluent Mexican who is more at risk.

I grew up in a family largely interested in philosophical matters.  Indeed, I remember exactly where I was standing waiting for a red light to change (the corner of Lake Avenue and Washington Street in Pasadena) when I was about 13, and my brother was 16, and we had a conversation that made me realize the world was much bigger than I had imagined (it was about the nature of selfishness).  And then, in my early adulthood, I was fortunate for many years to be in the proximity of an academic environment, as a student or otherwise, in which  ideas were formulated and refined — and then re-examined and re-defined.  The answers we gave to our questions then were inevitably corrected over time.

Someone once said that the definition of genius is the ability to hold two conflicting thoughts in one’s mind simultaneously.  As a renowned single processor, even the thought of such an ability baffles me — and yet I strive for it.   For example, if one could know, on the one hand, that the human lifespan is but a speck of time in the vast universe — and yet, on the other hand, know and believe that one’s life matters — wouldn’t that be the best moment?  To know both things at the same time?  To be aware of the vastness of the universe at the same time one is aware of where one is standing in its midst?  To know that it matters — and also doesn’t matter — all at the same time?    The International Space Station passes over San Miguel from time to time and is visible in the night sky for nearly five minutes.  I am always in awe — and it reminds me that I am nothing — and everything — for I am the viewer.  Doesn’t the extraordinary hide in the midst of the ordinary?  Today I wrestle with the challenge of finding a new place to live (the house we have been renting for two years has been sold) while at the same time, as my brother would say, I strive to “fold laundry as art.”  There are weeds in my garden that dared attempt a coup while I was otherwise engaged.   It matters to me; it matters not at all.  These are my musings on this January day.