Monday, December 8, 2008

The Book Of Over-Think

Warning: This post is an inherent contradiction.

Calvin's brought the whole "caring too much about things" thing to an opposite extreme. See, it's not good to over-think a situation, but it's not good not to think at all.

The statement above might sound random to you. That's because I spent way too much time thinking about this post (it's been sitting in the drafts for about a week) and, seeing that there was no way to begin at any sort of beginning, I began in the middle. It's an age-old concept dating back to Homer (or is it Horace? Does it matter?) called in medias res, but if you walk around saying that, people might think you're an intellectual. Now, there's nothing wrong with being an intellectual, per se, but it all depends on how you'd like to come across, and I find that if one is too intellectual and goes around talking about people like Homer and Horace and not getting them all muddled up (not like anyone else'd know the difference) and speaking in Latin - asum thusum - what was I saying, again?

Oh yes. Caring too much. Over-thinking. Theorizing. Thesee-izing (that's coming up with a thesis plus a few to make it plural - or thesi - or thesii - or any neologism thou wishest).

I said something in my Literature and Philosophy class (yes, that is the name of one class, not two, despite the many confusions people have had when I've mentioned it before) which was considered "brilliant" or a "breakthrough" or, if you like, "seeing things our way now." It was this: "When the prejudices of the 'I' get in the way, you're not giving something itself proper attention, you're just giving attention to what you project onto the thing."

The reaction when these words slipped accidentally out of my mouth (although I had written them down on the side of an article beforehand) was that of a cult opening its arms wide and embracing me with an emphatic, "come join our side, soul-that-is-no-longer-wayward!"

And yet, despite my reluctance to join the dark side, I see that it is perhaps not as dark as I would have liked it to be. Because if it truly was that dark, then I'd stand with my hands on my hips in triumph, brandishing my brilliant arguments with pride and always coming out one step above (like on a staircase, which is certainly more prestigious an accomplishment than being one step ahead on a path, which takes much less energy and skill, unless 'twas a rocky path, in which case I shall consent to being one step ahead, although preferrably also above, on a rock, because the higher you are, the more you can see, and the more strategic your position, you know). But since it is not dark at all, but actually quite sensical, I find myself painfully admitting that perhaps I was ***** (for those not used to this game yet, I mean "wrong" but since I'd not like to say it, I won't). According to a philosopher we read in class, and according to the person who wrote about her, "'Something in our soul has a far more violent repugnance for true attention than the flesh has for bodily fatigue.' The repugnance Weil [pronounced 'vay,' not 'whale,' just so you won't sound as stupid saying her name out loud for the first time as I did] has in mind here is the ego's reluctance to engage in scrupulous self-criticism, since such criticism has a tendency to humiliate, to shatter the ego's pride and vanity." So, you know, we don't like to self-criticize because it makes us feel like we're being criticized (gee) and this hurts our ego. Blah blah.

Somehow I'd like to segue into this point:

That one should not approach a situation with a thesis. One should evaluate each situation as its own entity and not try to "figure things out" or "discover anything." People should not be treated as a mystery to be solved, nor should their actions be, nor should any situation one stumbles upon. As a wise person I sometimes come across says, "it is what it is 'cause it is," yeah?

Douglas Adams, in his book Mostly Harmless says, "Anything that happens, happens. Anything that, in happening, causes something else to happen, causes something else to happen. Anything that, in happening, causes itself to happen again, happens again. It doesn't necessarily do it in chronological order, though."

Now, that is odd, because how can all that not happen in chronological order? But perhaps this is not worth philosophizing over because that is not the point at all. The point is that anything that happens, happens, and it happens without being thesis-ized over.

And now, to throw on the cloak of an intellectual, I will say that there is something I cannot understand about Wiggenstien's The Blue Book. He says, "What is the meaning of a word?" Then he explains that to give a word definitions is not necessarily saying what the word means. His example is with a pencil. About a pencil one may say, "this is a pencil" or "this is round" or "this is wood" or "this is one" or "this is hard" and so on and so forth. These are all ways one might define or describe a pencil, but to know what a pencil is is to be able to differentiate it from, for instance, a pen. And to know what to do with it. Etc, etc, etc.

Yet aren't these all intuitive? Don't we understand this concept without having to put it into words and analyze it? What is the real point in this essay? To tell us what we already know?

But yes! Wiggenstien admits in his Philosophical Investigations, "the problems are solved, not by giving new information, but by arranging what we have always known."

My teacher, to quote: Philosophy is not in the business of discovering something new about the world.


But then why? Why learn philosophy? How is philosophy not synonymous with "over-thinking?"

This conversation with a friend, according to that friend, "was such a Calvin&Hobbes strip," and so we come full circle:

"Calvin": sometimes I wonder if people spend a lot of their lives wasting time mulling over things that are obvious
"Hobbes": you mean like that? :)
"Calvin": oh shut up


Ezzie said...

How silly!

Liz said...

Homer does it, Horace talks about medias res, that is. I've been told not to be nerdy in public, but I can't help it.

Err, that was not the point of my comment. Granted, I'm not sure what was the point, though I'm quite sure you brought up some interesting one (though not in chronological order)

But what is this about the dark side? I'm confused (possibly from not being in your class).

And I think you summed up philosophy pretty well - it's not about figuring out the new things, but articulating the old things that everyone intuits but, when asked to actually talk about, just stutters and says but-but-it just IS!

Erachet said...

Liz - But why is there a need to talk about it at all? What purpose does it serve to explain in words what we can all intuit?

Ari said...

now you're talking!

Erachet said...

Ari - :D I wasn't sure if this post was at all weird or not. So are you pro-philosophy or against or neither? :)

Ari said...

I'm anti philosophy. It makes my brain hurt. But I loved the post. I think you just found your voice.

Ezzie said...

So are you pro-philosophy or against or neither? :)

Ya know, some of us are *both*...! (And that, believe it or not, is NOT an inherent contradiction.)

Erachet said...

Ari - Thanks! How do you mean, though? (If you'd rather not explain here, you can feel free to e-mail me instead - I'm just curious, as a writer trying to find her voice :P)

Ezzie - And, believe it or not, I know exactly what you mean. :P

Ari said...

You went a little long, but the tone was fun, lightening a heavy topic. You engaged the reader in conversation. The prose flowed. Keep it up!

Erachet said...

Thank you!