Reflections On Living

How to know whether you are still alive.– Do you occasionally think something that cannot be communicated properly without discarding all stock phrases and standard “talking points” vocabulary? Better yet, do you occasionally catch yourself thinking something that, for all your sincerest efforts, cannot be communicated in any language you know? That is to say, do you sometimes feel trapped within an idea that rejects all your endeavors to reduce it to a communicable form? In that case, you are likely thinking something you have never heard expressed, at least not the way you are thinking it. Then, and perhaps only then, you may feel fully confident that you are alive — not merely existent, in the sense in which every soundwave echoing off a wall or mountain exists, but actually living.

Free will.– The will is not free in the sense of being without natural motives, but neither is it determined in the sense of being without natural motives. To claim the former is to deny the very existence of the will. To claim the latter is to deny the very existence of nature. Both positions are therefore self-refuting. And yet they seem to be the only two options, to those who overlook the intellect, and specifically the role of intellect in generating (or defining, if you will) nature. 

“There are gods even here,” said Aristotle to justify his examination of the minutiae of animal and plant life. This statement should never be mistaken for a rhetorical flourish. On the contrary, if we could plumb its depths, we might experience a revelation or two.

Happy accidents.– You will fail in most of your life’s endeavors — or at least I hope you will. For everything valuable that we ever discover in life, or dare to claim as a prized possession, is found in the residue or remains of some collapse or explosion. (Reflect on this truth by tracing your own history, reciting again all your past victory speeches or counting the most precious gems in your belt.) God save us from a world in which everyone is denied his myriad failures, or worst of all one in which failure has been outlawed. No secret doors opening off to the side; no sudden revelations of what was meant to be all along; no waking up in just the right place; no sunlight finding us through the settling dust. No “happy accidents” — and no happiness worthy of the name will ever arise without the so-called accidents of “starting over” and “taking stock of the situation.” 

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