gravity and grace

"Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself." -Walt Whitman

Kat Uytiepo. 20.

When one considers how great and how close to us the problem of existence is — this equivocal, tormented, fleeting, dream-like existence — so great and so close that as soon as one perceives it, it overshadows and conceals all other problems and aims; — and when one sees how all men — with a few and rare exceptions — are not clearly conscious of the problem, nay, do not even seem to see it, but trouble themselves about everything else rather than this, and live on taking thought only for the present day and the scarcely longer span of their own personal future, while they either expressly give the problem up or are ready to agree with it, by the aid of some system of popular metaphysics, and are satisfied with this; —when one, I say, reflects upon this, so may one be of the opinion that man is a thinking being only in a very remote sense, and not feel any special surprise at any trait of thoughtlessness or folly; but know, rather, that the intellectual outlook of the normal man indeed surpasses that of the brute — whose whole existence resembles a continual present without any consciousness of the future or the past — but, however, not to such an extent as one is wont to suppose.

Arthur Schopenhauer

A man can only think over what he knows, therefore he should learn something; but a man only knows what he has pondered.

Arthur Schopenhauer

Justice. To be ever ready to admit that another person is something quite different from what we read when he is there (or when we think about him). Or rather, to read in him that he is certainly something different, perhaps something completely different from what we read in him.

Every being cries out silently to be read differently.

Simone Weil

Do not allow yourself to be imprisoned by any affection. Keep your solitude. The day, if it ever comes, when you are given true affection, there will be no opposition between interior solitude and friendship, quite the reverse. It is even by this infallible sigh that you will recognize it.

Simone Weil

Human existence is so fragile a thing and exposed to such dangers that I cannot love without trembling.

Simone Weil

On Death

“Life is something that should not have been.” For Schopenhauer, the world, with all the suffering it contains, should not have existed. But life is only one part of the duality. Existence is finite; it must end. For Heidegger, being is time, and time is finite. Every step we make is a step towards death. He called it “being towards death.” Now, for Heidegger, being-towards-death has four criteria: it is non-relational, certain, indefinite and not to be outstripped. Death is non-relational because your own death cannot be experienced by anyone but yourself. Secondly, each being will certainly die. (Life is uncertain, death is certain. –English Proverb) Thirdly, although we know our time is limited, the hour of death is not known. Lastly, death is also not to be outstripped; it must not be taken away from a person, for death is the standard by which each life’s worth or meaning is measured.

Death, as a plunge into nothingness (or hell or another life, whichever you prefer), can be confronted with a straight face once you abstract it away from its physical implications. That is why to philosophize is to learn how to die. To “philosophize” something is to face it serenely and rationally, without irrational anxieties. However, “philosophizing” death is not the same as rejecting its significance. It simply means that death is accepted as it really is, as a part of the reality of existence. 

After drinking the hemlock and shortly before drawing his last breath, Socrates speaks his last words to Crito: “Crito, we owe a rooster to Asclepius. Please, don’t forget to pay the debt.” Now, Asclepius is the god of medicine and healing, and what Socrates meant by paying his debt to the god of healing is that death is the cure, and life is the malady. So, for Socrates, death is not something to be feared. (To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure. -J.K. Rowling)

However, it does not follow that when one accepts death, one negates life. On the contrary, acceptance of death is the ultimate affirmation of life. The realization that we must one day perish should not make us fearful. It should not make us seize any offer of life after death. It should not make us commit neither physical nor philosophical suicide. No, the realization of death should make us feel how terrifyingly alive we are at the moment.

Death is the final confrontation between our desire for meaning and the indifferent “silence of the universe”, and we must wait for it in revolt… (We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.- Charles Bukowski) 

Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace.

Oscar Wilde

I, for my part, am very little subject to these violent passions; I am naturally of a stubborn apprehension, which also, by reasoning, I every day harden and fortify.

Michel de Montaigne