Every now and then I write little ditties for my classes. This is from very late in an Early Analytic Philosophy class.
The long-sounding final paragraph of MP’s The Craft of the Lead Pencil:
What does it matter how long or slow you are in the traffic of lead and paper? The advance from virtual blindness to that state of perception–half rumination, half scrutiny–is all that matters. The end is hypothetical. It is the journey that counts.
We could say this of writing too, and philosophy, and of thoughtful living generally.
There are more values available for response in human life than anyone can possibly be responsible to.
I think of this as the Not World Enough and Time Problem: we are all missing out on things that are objectively such as not to be missed. That is the human predicament.
I am strongly tempted to think that a lure to relativism, and to psychologizing the values of others, is our desire to deny the Problem: we are never missing out; we just made different decisions, believed or desired different things, than so-and-so did. We aren’t missing out and neither is he, neither is she. But we know–and we do know–that in many cases we are missing out and that we will have to miss out. It may not be our fault, but it is always our loss.
Reading Annie Dillard on a picnic table. Tiny ants trudge around in myopic busyness. One ambitious climber clambers up and onto the open pages of the book. I fail to observe him and so crush him with my hand. He dies slowly over minutes, seconds, aeons. I watch him die: it is the only gift I can give him. His filament legs stop moving and he goes still. Goes. Gone. A universe of death packed into his inarticulate articulated body. Goes. Gone. I look up at the patchy blue sky. It seems to ripple above the water of the lake. It envies the lake’s shores, the lake’s shapeliness. A form of meaning. The horizon is an obstruction, not a limit. Gone. I begin again to read, now careful where I put my hands.
A daughter is a treasure
That keeps her father wakeful
Gather the Bud Lite bottles
Dump the undrunk champagne
Lavender table cloths shake and refold
Abandoned bouquets water and take home
The tent lights the night
Fans blow back the August heat
Revelry done, collect unopened gifts
Stray flowers decorate the ground
As if they would re-root
But life goes on
And life goes on
Done is done
Drink what wine you may
With the rest honor the mysteries
Put the trash in the dumpster
On Debardeleben St.
Treasureless, go home to sleep
As I suppose most philosophers do, I get fairly common requests from folks who are fascinated by philosophy asking for reading lists and advice. I thought I would share my latest response to such a request.