quarta-feira, 20 de setembro de 2006

Who am I? Someone asked.

Trying to live nowadays according to some kind of «philosophical agenda» is no easy task. It may even be an impossible one. Philosophical systems seem to be unavailable since a long time ago. And before we can embrace the possibility of adopting one and adapting it to our daily lives – as if it were as easy as said and done (not to mention the amount of work involved in turning systematic into «spontaneous» philosophy) – we just face the void. There is none.

Everything that happens around us, either closer or further away plays an important role on what we are continuously becoming. We never are; we're always becoming. Therefore, we won't ever be able of getting to know ourselves the way we wish we should. The constant changing, the dynamic process of being alive won't ever allow it.

We count time only because it's effective that way. But the future has just arrived this very minute and will keep on arriving until our very last instant in this life. The constant adaptation to whatever happens to us and around us is the only measure we have, albeit subjective, to evaluate how well we can cope with both our lives and ourselves. The better we adapt, the better we feel, which doesn't necessarily mean, nevertheless, we are better. Maybe we are only becoming better, that's all. So this also means this process goes on and on indefinitely.

A Spanish philosopher – José Ortega y Gasset – once answered the question about who I am by saying «Yo soy yo y mi circunstancia» (I am myself and my circumstance). Staying on the ground of spontaneous philosophy – where we all come to stand everyday, even if some of us are convinced philosophy is not for them at all or they're just not into it – knowing who we are depends on two gigantic never‑ending discoveries: of myself and of my circumstance. Once again, no easy tasks at all.

As for the past, we have that natural tendency of looking back in time only to find out we could have done so many more things in such a better way if only… This is quite human, and we have to learn how to deal with it. Facing the past like this will end up bringing it to the present in a way that will only haunt us, that won't ever allow us to learn from what we have really done, good and bad. And this is the only reason why we should keep a special link to the past: to learn from it, not to be haunted by it.

I myself have lost some years in my life. I just threw them into the dustbin by not living at all, by just going through the days, one after another, with no sense of time or events. But I do know that has been a special period in my life, a less good one no doubt. There's no use in recriminating myself for not having lived. I didn't live, maybe because it was meant for me to go through that void period in order to better appreciate what «carpe diem» truly means.

In spite of what many people say, I don't believe we can shape our destiny; we certainly can influence the course of some events by the options we take, by means of our free will if you want, but we never get to see the full, static picture that would allow us to make the choice we would think of as the right one at that given moment. At any other time, even if we were allowed to watch the full picture again, which by the way wouldn't be the previous one anymore, our options would be other.

Some questions we ask ourselves on a daily basis can really be a waste of time, just depending on the moment we ask them. As far as many of those questions that can really turn into dangerous traps are concerned, I always try to keep in mind a sentence from the «Tractatus Logico-philosophicus» by Ludwig Wittgenstein, wishing it helps me go through the days in a less anguished state of spirit:

«About what we cannot speak, we must consign to silence.»
(Original: «Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber soll man schweigen.»)


24 comentários:

Fourhorsemen disse...

sounds familiar

RIC disse...

Indeed it does! Its origin is a comment of mine on Joel's blog you may have read a few days ago.

Kapitano disse...

If I read the Ortega y Gasset aphorism correctly, it unpacks to something like:

"At every moment, those parts of the world which affect a person's senses or constrain his choices, change that person.

There are the sensations of my own body (tierdness, indegestion, warmth), the sensations of the room I'm in (damp air, bright lightbulb, computer hum).

Also, the whole economic and ideological structure that forms and contains my consciousness as a person living in relation to other humans, and to such social forces as religion, peer pressure, and conventions about family and love.

All these things - immidiate and distant - are constantly changing, sometimes rapidly, sometimes with imperceptible slowness.

And at each moment, the mysterious thing that is "me" is changed ("updated") by this outside world, which constitutes my "circumstances". When the circumstances change, I change."

However, there's two problems with this analysis.

First, it views the person as the passive reciever of their circumstances, which are concieved of, not as the product of the interactions of semi-independant people, but as a mysterious collection of forces which act upon the person, but which the person is powerless to affect.

Second, if a person is viewed as a recepticle of their experiences, we might ask "what is the recepticle itself made of?" It seems to contain all the experiences that make a person what they are, but there is no description of the thing that does the containing.

The scottish philosopher David Hume concluded that each person is the sum of their past and present circumstances, and that there is no need for the container. The container is the same thing as the things contained.

Minge disse...

Just wanted と差yひ!

RIC disse...

Hello Kapitano! Great piece of reading you offered me. Thank you!
As far as the problems you've pointed out are concerned, the more I think about these questions, the easier I get to convince myself that the «inner world», or receptacle, depends on the «outer world» to develop itself. This is to admit we're shaped by the environment where we develop ourselves.
If we're affected by the circumstances and therefore changed, in our interaction with those circumstances we're not the same as we'd be if that interaction didn't took place at all. I see them more as erratic facts than as mysterious forces (a phrase much too close to religion and theology; I prefer not to use it).
As I say in my post, it's not my intention to get into systematic philosophy, even if it (at least some of my readings) underlies what I call spontaneous philosophy. If we accept the receptacle as a non necessity, we «escape» all problems and difficulties that the soul, for instance, brings about. Much better the path Hume shows us than the one Berkeley (a sombre character) has presented us…

RIC disse...

I hardly believe you managed to come to Lisbon just by means of all those katakana and hiragana...
Man, you're really fantabulous!
Yeah, yeah, I wish I could read those exquisite characters you've drawn so beautifully! But I do thank you for it anyway: my blog is now more babylonic than ever!
Live it up, Minge-san! Enjoy it all lavishly!
Harigato for remembering my humble person.
Sayonara, Minge-san! (And here I bow low, of course!)

Knottyboy disse...

If you truly believe what you say, you should stop living now. But I don't agree that you believe that, something has kicked you squarely in your chin and you're smarting from the pain and unsure of the next move. Don't wish do. I have to be a optimist, I see the other side of the equation and that just looks like hell on earth. Yes there is shit to contend with, always will. But when you see that you're holding the strings to your life, that's empowering. Scary [sometimes] but damn empowering.

RIC disse...

Sorry, Knottyboy, but I don't think I understood you correctly. Why do you say I should stop living now if I believe what I've written?
I posted this text as a kind of personal meditation I had started on Sunday and of which I thought I could share with other blogger friends. Nothing much, I'd say, with no high intellectual pretentions (hence the spontaneous philosophy).
Allow me the question, Kb: should I somehow commit suicide (= stop living?) because I don't believe we can shape our destinies?! Am I a pessimist for that reason? Do we really shape our destinies? How?
Then, «power» and «empowering»: I don't know how to use these words in the context of my post. I believe I'd have to be reasoning in a political context to use them. And in this context I'd have to say each and every one of us has less power as each day goes by.
Challenges may make you feel empowered, but you don't actually have more power because of those challenges, I think. It's a feeling, not a fact.
I wish you would enlighten me. :-)

castor disse...

Looking retrospectively at our life it may seem like a great and varicolored mosaic, no tessera should be absent, and if you miss one of them, you will try to create s substitute, however this belongs to the outwardnesses of our personal history ...

But if you become older you will discover that there is also an inner cosmos in ourselves, indipendent from our outward experiences and adventures ... and if you listen very well to this inner area you will discover that you have made a great journey since your childhood from one of your inner galaxies to another until you'll arrive to this one which should be full of bright and white light ... as those people tell about who have been already clinically dead

Shadow disse...

"Somos um sonho divino que não se condensou, por completo, dentro dos nossos limites materiais. Existe, em nós, um limbo interior; um vago sentimental e original que nos dá a faculdade mitológica de idealizar todas as coisas.
(...) Se fôssemos um ser definido, seríamos então um ser perfeito, mas
limitado, materializado como as pedras. Seríamos uma estátua divina, mas não poderíamos atingir a Divindade. Seríamos uma obra de arte e não vivente criatura, pois a vida é um excesso, um ímpeto para além, uma força imaterial, indefinida, a alma, a imperfeição".
Teixeira de Pascoaes.

[Vês?...Também provei do próprio 'veneno'. Claro que queria dizer as melhores melhoras e não, as melhores das melhoras. «Bem fêta!».
Aguardo (ansiosamente) a tradução de «The Merry Fool»]


Joel disse...

Well you're welcome!?


I think you ar right on some points, but kapitano and KB are also right.

What I was refering too on my post, was, what would life have been if I had been more in "control" of my self back then.

But it's useless to think about now. What I will do is try my best to live here and now.

I'll take it day by day and to hell with looking to far into the futur!?

Today, I live for me!?

Jacky disse...

Hi Ric,

Appreciate your comments.

You can always E-mail me at


RIC disse...

Hallo Hans! I do agree with you, no doubt about it. What is at stake here is the various ways people find to link past, present and future, and how they relate - differently as well - to those three dimensions of life.
I feel more oe less okay about my past, I make the best I can of the present, but I have reasons to fear the future, I mean, my future.
And I'm not used at all to observe my life through «metaphorical glasses»... I'm far too rationalist to be able of doing it... Pech...

RIC disse...

Olá Carla! Excelente citação de T.P.! Muito obrigado! Vou lê-la depois com muita atenção. Parece-me que me pode ajudar a esclarecer-me a mim próprio.
Hoje estou mais ou menos... Algum sonho idiota de que não me lembro deve ter-me ensombrado o dia... Mas já estou mais ou menos habituado...
Cuidado com o próprio veneno...
Um abraço!

RIC disse...

Hello Joel! Very nice to have you back again indeed!
I think I've never been able to look into the future. And I believe I know why: the few times I did it, the world just fell down on me. However, I can't help thinking about it, and I admit it does scare me. For many reasons...
You're a good friend! :-)

RIC disse...

Hello Jacky! Thank you very much!
I did email you twice at that address, but there was always an error message. Maybe it was my mistake. I believe I must have typed something wrong!

Minge disse...

I'm on my knees in your presence - but not saying if I'm bowing or not!


RIC disse...

Your divine humour, Minge! I miss it so much!
Okay, I'm the one who's on his knees in the presence of the blessed one with magic glow of the Golden Temple...
As to bending over, I've got no problems in doing it... My back is quite fine these days... :-)

Shadow disse...

Aprecio demasiado esta citação de Teixeira de Pascoaes. Daí, atrevi-me em partilhá-la. Sim, por vezes ajuda-me a caminhar, embora hoje...
Enfim! Estou «off»!
Espero que te sintas melhor hoje. Sempre melhor que ontem e pior que amanhã, ok? :-)
Quanto ao veneno... nada de preocupações. Luto pelos antídotos...

Até logo :-)

RIC disse...

Have a wonderful afternoon, and some tea, by the way...
Sabe sempre bem, agora que o Outono está aí. Deuses, que temporal!...
Até logo!

Knottyboy disse...

I felt that you were giving up in your writing. NO I did not mean for you to stop living. You seemed defeated with how fate seems cruel with "counting time" and "won't ever be able" to get "know ourselves".
I then said that I didn't believe you were going to give up. That no matter what happens; the trials, the b.s., the heartache...we all still hope for something better.
I never meant to insult you or confuse you with my words. I do appologise for any misunderstanding. Creative minds don't always think clearly. Sometimes I forget that people can't see the way I have thing pictured in my head.
Once again...I am sorry for sounding harsh and unsympathetic.
Ashes on my head,

RIC disse...

Now everything is quite clear, no doubt about it. You never insulyed me in any way whatsoever. I was only confused by your reaction, that's all.
Next time I'll be so much more careful about this kind of posts... Maybe this is why I was never that good at systematic philosophy... (lol)
All's well that ends well!
Thank you very much for your concern, Kb! I do appreciate that! :-)

Gray disse...

"In spite of what many people say, I don't believe we can shape our destiny."

We can in *some* ways change our destinies! When we take "The Road Less Travelled" I believe that we find out *where* we could have changed our destinies; but: *not before*!!

I wish we knew how to do so before we made/make our decisions in life.

RIC disse...

Indeed, Gray, that's the whole issue of existence, I guess. Around here we say: «I wish I were x years a lot younger and knew what I know today»... But would that improve our quest for happiness?... So many questions, so little time...
Thanks, Gray! :-)