Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What Do You Want?

When I teach, I attempt to teach simple things.

Give a look at the word, "want."

I like Saul Bellow. I like "Henderson, the Rain King."

It isn't hard to figure out why. Saul Bellow is a great writer, and "Henderson, Rain King" is a great book. At the time when I was studying the book, I had the great fortune of being in a writer's group that included a Nigerian prince. Or, Prince. A real Prince. (You know, they do exist.)

Henderson had a sense. And this sense was not among the listed senses, of taste, touch, smell, hearing and sight. Henderson had a sense that something was missing. He kept repeating, "I want."

What are the synonyms of want?

This word game is important, I think, because we tend to define our feelings in terms of what we either have, or lack. Words have greater meaning than we first suppose; words are chosen in order to define and to choose perfect or imperfect; present, future or past tenses. Speech is one of those curatives; when we speak, we commit to a thought. There are innumerable times when I've found myself speaking words that made no sense. Speaking, or writing, is a good thing.

To find oneself with an ineffable sense, what to do?

Taste, touch, smell, hearing, sight and ineffable. WTF?

Fortunately, Rene was there already. Thinking. "I think, therefore, I am." Is existence a sense? The little grey cells, do they observe, or impute? Let us think for a moment; what is the difference, gift, selectivity, perversity, blasphemy, heterodoxy of independent thought, or worse, outcomes that differ from other, accepted thoughts? Do we, as a race (Man) accept and defend diversity of opinion, or do we closer (more closely) adopt herd instincts? Is thought a herd instinct? Am I better off accepting the opinions of the herd, or better off discarding the views of popular opinion and instead, chart my own course?

You and I know, that for years the idea of a Sixth Sense has purported to be something akin to an Extra Sensory Perception. That always struck me as funny, since nothing about us is able to sense anything above and beyond our primary senses. Freud thought it this, and Jung thought it that. Sartre had a name for it, Kant called it Intellect. The point is, there is something there, there, that we choose to label as something else. Conscience, guilt, self-awareness, reason, internalization, doubt, no doubt there are other words that would work as synonyms. As we push forward, we are all trying to find ourselves within a formula, or focus, of whatever word we choose, to help us find a lens for viewing the people, friends, family, lovers, those we hate, who we know and don't know. We attempt to find a way of our dealing with certainty and uncertainty. We attempt to create bias and prejudices that can protect us, just as medicine men of years past assured us of their wisdom and protection, if only we adopted them as our medicine men. The Sixth Sense is, basically, outsourced to those who claim, and to those to whom we defer, as having a certain elegance in dealing with the holes in our perception and our understanding of what is going on around us. These holes, these wants, what we lack, what we want.

Sartre, for me, did express best the hidden sense. I don't share the nihilist impulse of a Sartre. But Sartre was fundamentally right in his expression of the Other. Just as Freud and Jung were stumbling around trying to find rational solutions to human psychology, Sartre, on the other hand, simply dismissed the errant metaphysics of a Kant, and simply created his own. To understand Sartre isn't an abdication of Western Thought. Sartre was, after all, a product of the West, just like you and me. Freud and Jung attempted to work within a framework of the senses and the intellect. How the brain functions. Sartre attempted, as I'm attempting here, to find where the Other was indicated, and how the Other works on our fundamental approaches to self-actualization. And, I will repeat again, metaphysics isn't a form of intellectual inquiry that will, or would have, gained us much of a needed perspective on human thought and action. Metaphysics apologizes for error. Epistemology explains error. Empiricism explores that which is knowable. The problem for Sartre lies in empiricism. We can, a priori, describe hypotheticals that question relationships between people, clouds, tire traction and hummingbirds to wheat. A priori knowledge is that which we can know before experiencing. A lot of what we know a priori has been discussed in the works and criticisms of Plato. This is epistemology. Empiricism is a posteriori. Sartre was involved in a discussion of that which we could observe. An empiricism that was forced by priors. Sartre's defect was, he attempted to discover relationships in advance of observations, and ended up becoming a metaphysicist. And of how understanding that simple explanation of the five senses didn't take us to an understanding of what we observe and how we act. The easy answers of Freud and Jung were generally accepted as explanations of an epistemology that didn't take into account the role intellect plays in determining what we derive as understanding. And Sartre, more importantly, attempted to define intellect as devoid of the religious. To Sartre, God was as much the Other as was Oneself. It was as alien to Sartre was his reason. (My contempt for Sartre.)

Who are you? ("Alice in Wonderland.")

Who are you?

Are you the product of your parents, your teachers, your community? Are you the product of any semblance of inquiry? Are you well-read, or do you watch someone called Snookie on television? When you ask others for those things that you want, are you asking for X-Boxes, or clean sheets, or food? Are you asking for books?

What do you want?

Do you want to know about yourself? Do you want to know what your expectations for yourself are? Let me ask, what do you expect of yourself? Are you able to take care of yourself? And, if you don't know how to take care of yourself, what are you doing to ingratiate yourself with someone who does know how to take care of himself? Are you getting closer to someone with merit, success, competence, or are you distancing yourself from these fellows?

Want, lack, need. What do you want? What do you lack? What do you need? You cannot simply rely upon your senses for the answer. And this is doubly true if you have a family. It's good enough to attempt to survive on your own sense of survivability. But added the weight of family, children, the Road Warrior intellect is unfavourable.

Miss. Without. Too rare. Absent. Determined insufficient.

What do you lack?

Do you lack a framework for decision? Then, pick one. Will you be an empiricist, a metaphysician, or an ontologist? Knowing you can be wrong on any and all questions, what system of thought will give you the chance of greatest benefit?

1 comment:

ZZMike said...

I just want free stuff, now.