Thursday, November 22, 2012
To have been, or to yet be
The following is a message sent to a friend whose mind I like to probe from time to time. But you can have some too.
i've always been caught up in this problem which i've realized can be compared - loosely - to reason wrestling with the theories surrounding the space and time continuum.
let me start with an example.
tonight, i decided to watch the abe lincoln, vampire hunter movie.
(totally a side note: did the word movie come from the idea that the pictures move, and so we called it a movie in the same we call something cute, a cutey? petty)
anyhow, the film was not intellectually captivating, and so my mind was left to wander while half-heartedly holding the thread for the spinner of the plot. i could feel it move through my hand, but i was only just aware and focused enough of and on the thread so as to ensure that it continued on its way to the loom, and that i would be able to realize any gaps, kinks etc in the plot.
somewhere in the unguided wanderings of the rest of my consciousness, my mind thought on lincoln, so i wiki'd him real quick for a few facts. I found this: "While preparing for the nuptials and feeling anxiety again, Lincoln, when asked where he was going, replied, 'To hell, I suppose.'"
In imagining the character of Abe as though I were actually meeting him, the thread still running through my hand showed a scene near the end where Abe was looking for his hat, and wouldn't leave the house without it. Though I seem to recall that men of the time were collectively much more attached to the idea of a hat being a fashion necessity, I conjured up in my image of Abe, the idea that he was a real man, you know, tangibly human. He has a dog, swears occasionally, enjoys sex, knows a few dirty jokes, etc, all in an effort to try and grasp and - perhaps - idolize the man. Here was a man who, though his accomplishments transcend such characteristics, was humanly passionate about having his hat.
The continuum relevance comes where I am always trying to learn from these wanderings, actually take some truth from it, you know. So of course, I should be like Lincoln, in the way that Adam Smith suggested I should be the everyman, who would be as any man should be, as an ideal man. Ben Franklin famously indicated that, in his pursuit of perfection, he found it necessary to not actually be perfect, so as to maintain a sort of symbiotic relationship with those around him. I should be real, and have those "flaws" in my character that are important to have only in principle, not in individual worth. To complete the task of learning from my sculpted image of good sir Abe, I must at some point find a place for my learnings from this past, in the present day. So a modern version would be "humanly passionate" about having a mac vs pc, or about always eating after a certain diet, wearing north face, et al.
Anyhow, this all happened in the mind in a moment, and I have forgotten some of the feel of that original thought. But the thought is this, that if I am not naturally that way, do not naturally have those humanly passionate inclinations, does forcing it do anything? In the same vein, that awareness of a different point in time may greatly change the present, but may also have no effect, as well as many other theories.
So does it do any good to be aware of the principles that could define me as a better man, or should I rely on a more natural, moral compass?