Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Such a Silly Man

Did I tell you that after my recent trip to Dallas I decided what I should put on my tombstone (assuming I have one)?

"He was a silly man."

I don't think that would be at all pretentious.  I mean, it really says it like it is.  I spent my whole life being silly - sometimes intentionally, other times not so much.  I had a silly career, a silly marriage and hopefully God willing - a silly child. 

I just never figured out what mattered.  I know this sounds like even more childishness, but it's true.  Life is so short.  That's a phrase you can fit into almost any social situation.  You can say it after someone says something sad.  You can say it after someone says something happy.  You can say it as they run after you with a cleaver.  It's one of those catch all phrases that you can any time because the bottom line is that it's true. 

We're all on this earth with just one thing set with absolute certainty - our lives are going to pass by before we know it and nothing going to matter.  Bill Gates doesn't matter.  Mother Theresa doesn't matter.  People come, people go.  It's all the same. 

Yes while you are alive you have to play that bullshit game that things matter and sometimes certainly you believe it.  How many times have we been unnerved by 'worldly things'?  Paying a bill, what someone thinks of us, getting laid, not getting laid - it just doesn't matter.  There are just so many ways to say it, and people have said it so many different ways but even being clever doesn't matter.  Life is just silly. 

I don't get thinking anything matters.  Of course as I said I care about winning, I care about losing.  But even when I am winning or losing I am not far away from the Meatballs refrain - it just doesn't matter. 

All of which makes my recent foray into scholarship all the more perplexing.  There is no money in academia and its filled with people that are convinced that things matter.  So why the sustained interest?  I really don't know.  I have to admit that I really have a soft spot for the 'total scholar.'  You know the kind of person who can read ancient languages and actually think critically about what he is reading.  I find the life of the dutiful scribe languishing in impoverishment as having some sort of noble quality to it. 

It has also always struck me that thinking about history is so different than living the history which is being contemplated.  Caesar may have been aware of what it was like to be Caesar and what being Caesar must have seemed like for his subjects - but the idea of 'being Caesar' in history is impossible to fathom for him or anyone else.  There is no real frame of reference.  We don't know what the future will bring.  We don't know who will be judging us.

I find the whole industry of scholarship so bizarre.  There really are some wonderful things being written in academic journals.  Necessary things, intelligent things, controversial things.  But who is tackling the issue of what it all means?   This goes back to my idea of the meaning of 'being Caesar'in the context of 'world history.'  We live in such a corrupt and barren age that we aren't even concerned with the topics that used to obsess Hitler. 

Life has become so small.  It's now just a collection of a billion little micro-universes.  We don't watch the same shows any more.  We share no common language or culture other than commerce.  We've given up looking for that glue that used to hold civilizations together thinking that we somehow 'evolved' passed the need for meaning and order.  It's just work, work.  Everyone's working.  Everyone's living what Napoleon once scowled was the typically English 'shopkeeper's existence.'

It's wonderful to have a wife.  It's truly blessed to have children.  But who in history ever held these things up as ideals?  I can't think of a single culture.  These were duties for a Roman.  They were obligations for Jews.  But the idea that these were things which could embody the fulfillment of the meaning of existence would have been simply laughable in antiquity.  How did our culture become so small that banality became mistaken for something worthy of glorify and praise? 

The scientific mind can see and understand history but he is powerless to reestablish truth.  He is just another microcosm in our post-modern cultural collective.  He barbeques alongside the fireman and the butcher and all the other mini realms.  He files his reports, he functions as part of the greater whole.  He might even justify what he does as if it has vital cultural significance.  But its all fucking stupid in the end.  It really has no cultural value - at least in a degenerate culture like our own. 

Scholarship really only had a place in the type of society that they had in the Victorian era where the sense of greater purpose came from without.  Science cannot posit values in and of itself.  And so it, like the culture around it, just degenerates into a series of miniverses spinning their wheels, no one aware of what the other is doing. 

It's utterly pointless which is how I ended up so damn silly.  I have to dance above all this futility.

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Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
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