My Daily Doing

Most days of mine are full as cup to brim. They are containers holding many things, near to spillage with addition of more. I can’t say precisely why this is, though I believe I can give an account of the reasons which have accrued towards its constitution. There is, first, my unquenchable thirst for knowledge. It has, ever since my childhood, been something of a double-edged sword. At that time, it was placed on pedestal by my family as something of a character trait to be praised, a symptom of a mind wanting of truth. And in this my ego took a good degree of solace, for I felt as though I was something oriented rightly, something which recognized its own deficits and demanded therefrom their resolution. In this I would often read, but only so much as was desired by me. I could pin down on me a feeling paper posted, read as a consequence of its being before me. This feeling was a tastelessness, a sort of begrudging recoiling against that which I was reading, as when one eats too much of a certain food and begins to feel sick to his stomach being surfeited with its contents. And so in this I’d think I’d need to do some other thing — to watch tv, to go out and about, to talk to my grandmother or my sister, to go to dinner with them, to converse, to LIVE. I almost feel a tear come to my eye as I consider these things, the freedom of movement and person accorded to me merely as a consequence of being alive. That sublime substance of selfhood constituted in me for no other reason, with no other attachment than that I AM. O me!

But this is one of, on further consideration, three reasons which might be proposed for my current feeling full. The second is my sociality or, perhaps, my lack thereof. In addition to my always feeling as though I needed to know, I have, for most of my life, felt an internal pull towards a this or that to be done, often when there was little to no urgency for the thing. It was best, I typically reasoned, that I do what I need to as soon as is possible and that, consequently, all time would be best filled under reasonable economy. That is, I would not need to calculate some such schedule. No, I could simply look at what was to be done and proceed to do it, either in its entirety or such that no more was done today than necessary. When I was younger such a method of time management worked rather well for me, as I never needed to do much more than 3 or 4 hours’ work a night, being fully aware and assured at the end of the work that I had, in fact, resolved and finalized all that was demanded of me. Here again a break could be taken, of necessity, as the intervals between work were ones whose actuality I knew of potentially as I performed the work. I KNEW in the middle of this or that assignment that, once finished, I would have nothing more to do — the rest was left to me.

Now when I’d left myself to me, it was so that I could see all things before me, all feelings, all existence, all THISNESS in myself and all of life. I could stand of my own accord, being in myself and yet before myself, self-reflective and self-ordinative. In this I was always less than social — sociality always seemed like something over and above my reflections. Indeed then, as now, I saw in social communication a need for a prima facie mode of talking. That is, if I were to discuss with others, I could not say what first came to my mind. Such things would be, if not self-oriented per se, other-exclusionary and thus self-oriented as incidental to their being exclusive of others. I might think of this or that relationship to this or that thing I’d read, or I would have this or that bitter invective in my mind counter to what was before me. Or it might have been the case that those around me talked of a certain set of experiences which I did not share, being far away from them, and so I would have nothing to them which I felt was worth saying.

Now my life is not so, and I cannot design my time so simply. It is not enough that I do my work and quit of it. Now, it seems as though one other thing might always be done, if not as assigned de jure, then as proposed de facto according to what I might need to do in some future time. I was able to partake of a learned ignorance in the past, a kind of thought which said “I need not do this or that, I need not be other than I am precisely assigned,” putting all other consideration away and beyond my consciousness. This is, I believe, for several reasons. First, on quotation of St. Paul —

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (1 Cor. 13:11)

In childish times I acted childishly, doing as necessary without further concern. I would, at times, consciously offset future matters as those precisely understood as such — things I need not now know for their lack of pertinence to me. But now the future is come, and their pertinence has been assayed as all the more weighty. Such questions were as these — what do I do with my life? Towards what am I working? How do I do this “what” and this “towards”? What criteria might answer it? What can I do now to ensure that my life is lived for its sake? I had, in younger times, prided myself on my memory and my having much read. I gradually came to the thought that, before I die, I would read all that I might, bring to my mind all decreed as most important those things men had discovered about our condition. I had plans to make the world in my image, to propose my thoughts to all men in some way so that I might be broadcast out for all to see. For in this I sought an overcoming of all things, of the prima facie talking I always saw. I hoped for a time when my glassy essence might be seen through totally transparent, made apparent for all men as the divine being-towards which it is. It is such an essence which I believe is evident in all men. But, my having only this essence as my own, I for many years saw it as my life’s purpose to manifest this towards others. Why else, I thought, would I have so much in my mind? How and why would I see many things and think them in ways transversal? I began to see before me models whose thinking seemed akin to my own — Cicero, Augustine, Plato in times antique, Husserl, Emmerson, and Peirce in times more modern. In these I saw the semblances of my own thoughts, my own feelings, my own desires, the precise corollaries of which are subjects for some other time.

But the more I read, the more my self dissolved in the great stage of fools! In Shakespeare I began to appreciate the daily sphere of human life. In Marvel, Stevens, and Dickinson I felt the pangs of mathy verse measured, dictating this and that in the language of life itself! My god! In Homer, Virgil, and Dante I heard peoples scream! In Aristotle I tracked logical law! In Tolstoy, Cervantes, and Austen I saw hope for love in life! The infinite depths of human experience put before me a universe more infinite than all I had ever seen — experiences I had never had, thoughts thereof I could not grab, for their being gripped depended on things whose callous calking could not come, my life too smooth for their cavernous cracks. And so to myself I saw me say — “How can I ever hope to be like such men?” For in my youth I felt problematics in those models I wanted to imitate, problems, pieces of empty iteration and reiteration. But the more I read, the more I saw that all problems were solved in some man or another, and that all things I thought had been almost already said. In this I reflected further, feeling that there was no place for me among such amazing minds. These the greatest products of the human race! These men and women whose minds had made meanings so deep that, hundreds and thousands of years their senior, I still find their motions of mind material worth whipping me towards them.

I within the past month read King Lear for the first time and oh, my god, how many essays could I write about it! How much prescience can I see in its exposition of human life! How much more would be yet unsaid! O me! How could I ever do this much? Why would I? Indeed, I would not want to. Scholarship based in the words of others wants me not. I want to be my own man, I want to labor on my own land, I want to feel myself alive, I want reflection circumcised, to off-cut empty rotten lies! As overblown as this is, I cannot help but feel stomach sick to this day when I read too much. I need breaks, I need to reflect, and I need to be aware of myself. In short, I need to LIVE. That is, I need to live as me, for me, in my way, as will fulfill all the things I am.

But how do I do this? I still as yet have much to read, much to know, much to find in this world of hosts. All things coherent before me mean according to their power, and I am no different. What is my power? What is the potency of my being? This is the deepest question I ask myself and it is, so far as I can tell, the most obscure. For when I lose myself in question of comparison, in activity with respect to another, I cease to feel me. I cease to BE me. I am in that moment an automaton, a robotic rocker rhyme rotating, spouting back all muck I’m raking. I am nothing but a human doing nothing, being nothing except as I do it. What a sham life! This much I cannot be forever more — I need make space for me to be.

But how do I do this? A question to be answered another time.

The Cognition of Death

It is an ontological certainty that all existents will perish. Us being existents, we too will perish. The syllogism evident herein consists, so far as I can tell, in the deepest soil within which all other roots are planted and fertilized. One cannot deny (1) that existents perish and that (2) we are existent things. These 2 being undeniable, irrefutable premises, the conclusion that (3) we must perish is itself irrefutable. Here we have the most firm, solid ground of all human thought and reasoning. Here, in some sense, we also have the first possible a priori set of propositions whose existential worth informs all other propositions. Indeed, we need not come to the belief that existents perish empirically — witness the baby lacking object permanence. He or she lands by default on the fact of perishing, of empty non-existence, by means of the mere disappearance of an object from his or her line of sense-reception. This is an empirical proof.

This question thus must be asked: how might I prove that this statement is a priori on purely a priori grounds? It is taken as common fact that the identity of anything with itself is an a priori fact — that x = x. Similarly, it is taken as fact that ~(x & ~x) is also a fact. Namely, that if x exists, ~x in the most rigorous sense of the ~ symbol, the NOT operator, cannot also exist. Beginning from such widely accepted a priori rules, the relevant task is to prove the statement that nothing lasts. In formal terms, we might pose this as:

∀x x → ~x

This much is read: “for all x, ~x if x.” And this much is true, though not in the strict binary truth-semantics required by contemporary logic. The relevant truth-table will yield the above as True only when x itself represents a falsity. Thus if x represents the statement “a exists,” where “a” is referable to some entity, the above will be true when it is the case that a does not exist, that is, when “a exists” is false. Thus, when “a exists” is false, it will be true that “a does not exist” is necessitated. Similarly, when “‘a’ does not exist” is true, it will be false that “it is not the case that ‘a’ does not exist” is necessitated. This simultaneity of the existent and the non-existent as related here, however, is insufficient for nomological as opposed to merely logical causality. Here, we are discussing statements. What is desired, however, is a discussion of abstract objects, not merely statements. For, ontologically, whether an object actually exists or fails to is irrelevant to the logical form at hand — one witnesses objects appear and disappear and the manifest effects resulting from this assumption. Again, however, this is an empirical and not an a priori proof.

Proving this a priori thus requires necessity and sufficiency. Let it be said that some “a” existing is the necessary condition for “a” to no longer exist. The word choice here is crucial, as “no longer” is not the same as “not.” Unicorns don’t exist. It is not true that they “no longer” exist, as such phrasing would dictate that they did at one time exist. Thus, more simply: “‘a’ cannot cease without first existing.” The consequent here is already certain a priori, as it is Descartes’ famous cogito. Thus, knowing that we exist, does it follow a priori that we know we will cease to exist? For this we must have a notion of time and, following Kant, we can say that this too is evident a priori. (His proof is essentially this: no thought can be conceived outside of time, except those considered hypothetically. This being so, no empirical conditioning can necessitate time cognitively, or else we would conceive of some case wherein “time” failed us, giving us strict limits as to its bounds. But, no such case being available to us, no bounds are conceivable. No bounds being conceivable, no alternative can be given. No alternative being possible, time is necessary. Time being necessary, it exists a priori, as all necessary things exist a priori.)

Thus, the cogito is necessary and time is necessary. That I do not exist at some future time might, perhaps, be put in following terms — I-will-not-be. This much expresses a discrete idea, rather than a sentential idea. The criteria for this expression being a priori is thus best expressed as the notion that “I-will-not-be” exists necessarily. For this to be so we must ask — are we our “cogito”? No, plainly we are not. We are an embodied thing, but this is empirical, so away with it. Is the cogito the a priori as such? No, clearly it isn’t, or else “time” would merely be an expression of the cogito. Thus, the a priori being given anterior to the cogito (which might, itself, be understood as the a priori’s proposing of itself) it is evident that the cogito COMES INTO BEING A PRIORI. Thus, even though the cogito is a necessary fact, its “existing-now” is not necessarily given, or else the cogito would consist in the a priori given in its entirety. Thus, time follows from the emergence of the cogito out of the a priori given as such, formless and void. But recognizing its own temporal givenness, its own emergence, the negation of the cogito must thus also be necessary, despite its “existing-now” not being necessary. The negation herein is thus necessarily temporal negation, a “will-not-be,” as the a priori merely given is the ONLY existent given anterior to the cogito, and time is the ONLY existent given directly posterior to it.

The order of a priori development is thus, of necessity:
(1) mere a prioricity, formlessness
(2) cogito ergo sum
(3) the difference between (1) and (2), namely, time
(4) cogito qua time

(4) thus represents an absolutely necessary and undeniable FACT that the cogito considered with respect to time is precisely that consideration of it in comparison to (1), namely, when it was-not. The consideration of (1) with respect to the cogito is precisely the same, us witnessing in (2) that (1) is-no-longer. Thus it is that death is not only empirically given and undeniable as a consequence of the initial syllogism, it is an a priori, necessary fact that that birth and death are cognitively evident prior to all empirical appearance. The “cogito qua time” is an indispensable “first step” that consciousness takes prior to all other, here is the relevant upshot, a priori and a posteriori reasoning.

In plain terms, it is absolutely certain that consciousness can consider nothing except as coming after the realization that the cogito, despite its necessity, is not given necessarily. That is, no thought is not permeated totally with the anterior knowledge that we will at some point DIE, as this much is the very origin of the a priori notion of time itself. This is “insecurity a priori.” It is and must be understood as the most firm fact of our being following only that of our actually being now. Any man who considers any thought of his ought this remember this — how much has this been influenced influenced by the perspicuity of death? Herefrom will follow some further thoughts on life and necessity, to be discussed at another time.