Into the Peripheral

“limit of the diaphane in. why in? diaphane, adiaphane. if you
can put your five fingers through it is a gate, if not a door.
shut your
eyes and see.”
-James Joyce

 

Diaphanous, light and delicate; almost transparent. If you can perceive it, you can see it. If you do not perceive it, you can not see it. Therefore, this is a tale of what I see.

I live in an apartment building directly off of Times Square in New York. My place is on the thirteenth floor of a thirteen floor building. most people would complain because there is neither elevator, nor air conditioning but I don’t mind; I have unlimited roof access.

It’s the holiday season now, so I get to watch all of the million raving lunatics cramped together around the shops like an army of ants that just found some ice cream on the cement. This roof is black tar and introspective silence.

The giant billboards are the only things that can compete with my rooftop solace. The high maintenance people in high maintenance clothing stare me down on a daily basis. It’s a new person and a new avant garde design every month, or some shit like that. It doesn’t really bother me though. They are easy to ignore. They don’t move.

My lungs beg me for the quick fix of the nicotine lying dormant in my pocket. I light a cigarette, flicking the ashes carelessly off into the sun, I watch them float away effortlessly. That speaks volumes of the ash; speaks volumes for the wind cutting through the buildings and around all of us. Keeps us alive, keeps them fighting against it, rushing to the stores before the pokemon toys sell out. Their breaths are constant and repetitive. Mechanical.

I put the cigarette out on one of the puddles that collected on the roof’s uneven surface during the previous nights rain. I flick it over the edge and watch it sail down unwittingly into the masses below until it is lost under countless footsteps.

They are indistinguishable: made of cells, tissues, organs, and systems. Making up one person in a family of a community from a civilization living in countries across this planet earth, one of nine planets that we know about revolving around our sun.

This is only one perspective. Every view has a bigger picture and a different perspective. Even if I was able to picture it all, everything would be extremely blurry and out of focus. Almost every angle misses something. It is impossible to put everything in perspective.

This is about as urban and chaotic as it gets. They all run blindly from one store to the next. Their faces are as indistinguishable
to each other as they are to me. I wonder what would happen if they were just frozen in place for a few minutes. Would they look around and notice the full implications of the individual? Would those stores turn back into scenery and the people replay the major role in the foreground? Or would they be revving up their engines for the green light telling them they can go again?

Think back to the days of youth and summer vacations at the shore. Mom and dad would take you to the boardwalk and let you ride the
merry-go-round. You would sit on the horse as it circled round, waiting to proudly wave at your parents as they watched you from a distance. That’s all life meant to you then. You could see the whole picture on giant smiles as everything turned round. With age comes responsibility. Soon, you have a job and a family. Soon, you are old and feeble. The memories of the carousel are lost in the folds of time. Something makes it unimportant and not worth searching for. That something is elusive, sleek, and spherical.

That something is how we define our lives. It keeps us organized,systematic, and complex. It keeps our logic cyclical; defining life in minutes, days, feet, and so on. We tie up our loose ends with hard sciences, soft sciences, classics, and linguistics. The linguistic a priori. They all try to generalize.

What goes up must come down; possibly the only true law of physicsso far. On the other hand, it is not true that what comes down must go up. Why? It is not absolute. This theory takes into account only special cases like rubber balls and Jesus, but even they will come back down again. Right?

Philosophy teaches us that whatever is true is eternally true. That is logic. Emily Noether believes “the laws of physics are
invariant over the translations of time.” Still, nothing is true about the future according to Aristotle. We are in search of the objective truth and that suggests a notion of predestination. In that case, we are not free. If we are free, there is no truth. These are the thoughts of the great thinkers that we use as a foundation to build upon. You can add no two of them together without finding flaws and contradictions. Maybe everything is not absolute. Maybe philosophy indirectly teaches us what only Nietzsche has the gall to say: figure it out for yourself.

We were born a long time ago under the nurturing hand of God. He put us firmly on that carousel ride. He strapped that safety belt around us and watched us go with a tear in his eye. We are his children. He is our father.

Implanted in us is a notion of the whole. Alpha is nothing without omega. Through this, God allows us to grow. He was able to teach
us and make us evolve. We are created from dust and to dust we shall return. From dust he built us with cells, organs, and systems. We have a brain and a conscience. Ancient Greek and Roman mythology and theology depicts interactions between Gods and humans. We see it in The Illiad and The Odyssey. We see it in the bible. People could directly speak to Gods and have their prayers answered. God lived on earth. He gave us his commandments. Jesus walked the streets and preached his faithful mission. People built homes for the gods in the temples and offered sacrifices to them.

This is the first third of our existence, when God walked among us. His “strapping us safely onto that carousel ride ” is our initial evolution. Through his networking of “the whole,” he gave Adam, Eve, and the rest of mankind the consciousness of his surroundings. Adam noticed that the animals are there for his usage. The trees bared fruit for him to eat. He was given the capability to survive. God watched closely over every breath and step he took and all was fine and dandy until he ate the wrong fruit from the wrong tree. Damned women, damned men.

The law of inertia states that a body at rest will stay at rest until another body of equal or greater force acts upon it. Slowly but surely, that carousel turned further around into God’s peripheral vision. Our father wiped his tears and realized that we must move on. The Gods slowly disappeared from their temples and began to reside once again, in heaven. Adam was forced to fend for himself. Prayers were no longer being answered. Times changed and we were been given only ten commandments to apply to life. We realized we were naked.

In this consciousness is born. Enter morals, enter art, enter philosophy and thought as we know it. As we first realized that we were naked, we entered a period of dark days. We were abandoned and lost without God’s eyes watching us. He did not hand us anything to clothe ourselves in. We were forced to come up with creative solutions. The brain that God gave us was stimulated for the first time.

So, we did what is inherently built into our nature: we survived. After a few years of emptiness and gothic terror, a renaissance came about. We produced new and wonderful art and thought. Math and science were born. The world came about through the words of Plato, Aristotle, Horace, Longinus, and so on. Suddenly, we have purpose. Everything seemed to be coming together. Then, we began to lose sight of why we got on the carousel ride. Slowly we began to push aside the thought of our father.

Eventually, the father disappeared. We were so caught up in the textures of our paintings and the complexities of our compositions that we didn’t notice that he was out of sight. So, like that little child, we climbed up on the counter and reached our hands into the cookie jar. We grabbed that last cookie and held it up in all of its shinning glory. There was no fear of falling of the counter because we did not notice how close we were to the edge. There was no fear of filling ourselves up before dinner because we didn’t know that dinner was half of an hour away. We lived for the present moment. There were no consequences and no tomorrow. This is the second third of the revolution.

In historical terms, the Catholic church became one of the most profitable corporations in history. Governments were nothing without the Popes. Art would have never survived without the churches’ commissions. The hierarchical structures were brought to new levels. They were downward spiraling pyramids wreaking havoc among all those below them. Who then, might you ask, sat at the top? Most critics would venture to say the pope. So, God was truly dead. We killed him. He was merely out of sight, but we left him behind to suffer without us. we, the prodigal sons of God, have left our father behind in his desolate loneliness.

“We hibernate among the bricks
and live across the window panes
with marmalade and tea at six
indifferent to what the wind does
indifferent to sudden rains
softening last year’s garden plots

and apathetic, with cigars
careless, while down the street spring goes
inspiring mouldy flowerpots,
and broken flutes at garret windows.”
-T.S. Eliot, “Interlude in London”

There is no tomorrow. There are no consequences. That’s why the people below are running around so madly. If they don’t get that
toy, there will be no tomorrow. Their children will grow up to be mass murderers and blame it all on the abuse they received as children. So, they had better run faster.

Nonsense. It’s Christmas time. Everyone must do his or her shopping within a limited amount of space and time. People are only allowed a certain amount of breaks from work. It almost becomes a social event. I see people going out to Starbucks for coffee. They call their friends and family on their cell phones. They are out buying gifts for one another. How harmful could it actually be?

Right. This is New York. Stupid question. No time to worry about that, though. I do have to Christmas shop today as well. I think I might just walk around town and see what strikes me as interesting. I have to buy something for my girlfriend. My friends suggested that I put a down payment on that diamond engagement ring. They said that the two karat one would really show her how much I love her.

That doesn’t make much sense to me. Why do I have to buy her something to show her that I love her? Am I not just showing that love
off to my friends? I feel required to buy her something, anything. It doesn’t matter. It’s Christmas. I have to give her a present.

This logic gives me a headache. The only reason it may become eternally true is if we make it that way. It is only a tradition. That’s what our lives are made up of: traditions and customs. That’s why we have jobs and expensive houses. That’s even the reason we wear clothes all year round.

As I walk down the street I notice how empty we have become. I don’t even think that people know what the word empty means anymore. They are lacking something inside of them, some sort of substance; some sort of meaning and purpose. I watch the people pick the gifts up from the shelves and buy them. Some gifts are clearly bought because of their price. Some are bought because it is practical or in fashion. The minority are bought for sentimental value, but even pure sentimentality suggests a notion of emptiness. It seems like something special happened once and rather than creating new special moments, we live in the past.

I once read in a book that the future causes stress and anxiety. How can that be true if most of these people are stressed out and they can’t see in front of their own faces. Maybe it’s because the notion of the need to accomplish something in the future, combined with the lack of ability to accomplish/accomplishment of the present, is what causes stress. Why do people feel like they need to accomplish something within a designated period in time? Will they spontaneously combust if they don’t? Don’t these people feel the need for self-exploration? The romantic experiences in nature that make you one with yourself? Maybe they fear losing their jobs. Maybe that would be the best thing that could happen to any one of them.

Let me ask you this, what makes a sagacious philosopher different from anyone else? He can understand the full implications of the individual. The individual must internalize everything in his or her own way in order to make it his or her own. This is the main point in a lot of the modernist theories I have read. Thoughts must be born, not handed down. Philosophy is nothing but guidelines. In Walden, Thoreau goes to the woods to discover who he is. On the other hand, he does not expect us to go into the woods. If everyone went into the woods, civilization would merely shift to a less urban setting. The spirit of the law is what
matters.

“Cool enough to almost be it.
Cool enough to not quite see it doomed.”
-Smashing Pumpkins, “Mayonaise”

In keeping with logic, there would be three stages to this carousel ride theory of existence. The first of which we were under God’s guidance. We were directly in his vision as he watched us grow and carried us in his arms. He molded us into what he hoped we would become. From there, the carousel turned further around. We got further away from god and he could not see us as well. He no longer had as much control over us.

This is the second stage, where free will enters. Here, we are supposed to make our own choices. Unfortunately, our consciousness is not fully developed. It takes centuries before we realize what state we are in. Once we are aware of it, we have reactionaries like the existentialists. For example, Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” or Nietzsche’s outrageous claim that “God is dead” which is an underlying theme in much of his writing.

We must free ourselves from public opinion and make decisions for ourselves. There have been great strides for independence, especially in the past two centuries. Even nietzsche believed that just because God was dead, it didn’t mean that his teachings were wrong. As a matter of fact, he preaches a lot of the same things that Catholics do. He merely says that god is dead. Therefore, we must figure out things for ourselves.

According to the transcendentalists every person is equal and has that innate sense of right inside of them. They must be given the opportunity to figure it out. Channing and Reed fought for that chance for the slaves. Fuller and Alcott fought for the chance for women. As a group, they believed that nature was the key to this self-discovery. (In writing this, I presume that Melville fits more into the “reactions to” category.) Plotinus says, “Nature is but an image or imitation of wisdom, the last thing of the soul; nature being a thing which doth only do, but not know.” Emerson opens his essay “Nature” with this quote. There must be that harmony between nature and man in order to discover truth. We must understand that third and highest level of beauty, as an object of the intellect. Hence Thoreau’s stay at Walden. Understanding virtue in practice.

Kierkegaard believed this process was more internal. His levels of understanding paralleled Emerson’s. The first is the aesthetic (beauty is subjective to self-perception/to see). The second is the ethical (natural, moral actions/to do beautiful actions). The third is the religious (object of the intellect/understanding virtue in practice). The highest level depends a lot on reasons and disregards affections a bit. The religious as object of the intellect: it requires a devout relationship to the self. They are two different means to the same end: truth.

Truth is the goal of everything. For that we strive. The problem at hand is making people aware of this. There must be a way to raise the human level of consciousness from the aesthetic to the religious.

Tn order to do that, we must break apart that notion of the “whole.” We must think of things on an individual level. We must break down those barriers and determine what exactly defines us. The notion of the “whole” is something that needs to be sat down and thought about. It is not something that can just be read about. The “whole” is what keeps us in place. It is the link between all of us that keeps us evolved. We define it in terms of biology and chemistry. It’s known as evolution. As a result, we think along basic lines and view the world in aesthetic and ethical perspectives. If an individual knows him or her self, then a progression can be made upwards to understand virtues in practice.

“The mirrors lie those aren’t my eyes
destroy them raise my hand
reflected in savage shards
a new face, a soul reborn.”
-Sunny Day Real Estate, “Seven”

 

The last third of the revolution is setting itself in place. Once again, we have become over-conscious of our state of evolution. Fear is opening itself up from people’s hearts. For centuries, we have had the choice to choose. We have had free will. We have had the free will to exercise free will anyway we so desired.

Some people feel burdened by the option of choice. (Most comedians like to call these people Catholics.) It makes them feel like they have no options to choose from. Like Ishmael, they feel condemned to aimlessly wander the earth. Most people exist in alternate forms of reality. For instance, these are the addicts and co-dependents. Also, a large part of artists exist in this state. Actors, poets, and painters alike create their own worlds through their physical expressions. Some, such as Andy Kaufmann, refuse to come out of these roles. They live them out in their everyday lives. The largest (and most dangerous) sect of this type of person exists in the business world. These people have created quite the complex and intricate world where they worship money.
They spend all of their lives climbing some invisible ladder in vain. They never quite reach the top before they die. The struggle for the top rung leads many people to suicide.

I remember when I lived with my parents, my mother would always run around the house trying to find her glasses. My sister and I would let her run around for a little while before we pointed out that she was already wearing them. She can already see. Doesn’t that register to her?

Finally, the least visible sect of people are the people of nature. These people realize we live in a world. Not many people seem to understand that. While everyone else is struggling to create some sort of meaning in their lives, these people, the transcendentalists for example, have found it in nature. God gave it to us. There is no need to tear it down and build up office buildings.

The carousel is still turning round. We are entering back into God’s peripheral vision once again. As a result, we are losing our free will. We made our choices on what to respect and worship. Now, it is God’s turn to evaluate our choices. The judgment day is coming. This has been some sort of noble failed experiment. We are losing the game. Now the time is nearing to deal with the consequences of our actions.

At the rate I am going with this essay, Thoreau may be the only person to make it into heaven. Did I just damn our entire species in eleven pages? Sorry. On the other hand, there still is time to change. The revolution is constant and it took centuries to pass the first two stages. We recently reached the pinnacle of the second stage when we came to full consciousness that “God is dead.” the third stage is just coming into effect now. I feel like I should be carrying a sign around that says, “the end is nigh.”