Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Where did all this come from????

People who think all things in life are pre-ordained ought to sit down in front of a blank space and try to fill it with some meaningful words, which then by some miracle form into meaningful thoughts, every day. It casts the definition of existentialism in high relief: this space is an extension of life itself. It will be what I decide it will be.

I find great comfort in routine. It gives my life a certain framework; there are some events in my day you could set your clock by. The safety of that framework in turn makes room for life itself, both the unexpected and the highly anticipated, long planned-for milestones that give a life true meaning.

As a French major, I had a formal introduction to existentialist thinking. It was a balanced affair. For negativity there was Sartre's "No Exit," and for a positive take on things we read Camus' "The Little Prince." (Since Kirkegaard wasn't French, I never got around to Christian existentialism at the time and haven't since.) I sat in classrooms and discussed these works, but nothing, really, sank in back then. It's life itself that teaches these lessons, and it becomes our choice to see it either as an absurd trap (Sartre) or a beautiful opportunity (Camus). From one day to another, life presents itself in these two guises, often even a mix of the two simultaneously. The great, sometimes difficult, lesson that life teaches us is that it doesn't really care; it's just there, doing what it does. It's we who give it whatever meaning it may have.

In some ways, I envy those who have great religious faith or some other system of thought that automatically imbues life with what they call meaning. At least all the work, all the searching, has already been done for you and you can sit back and either enjoy or fear the ride, whatever your system tells you to do. But I couldn't possibly live that kind of life: the way my mind works wouldn't even allow it. I question most assertions I come across; certainty is the shortest route to mental atrophy. If I couldn't challenge, I might as well be a garden slug.

I cherish this daily blank page, this responsibility to give my own meaning to whatever a day may present to me. On some few, rare, days, the page may stay blank. That is the luxury of taking each day as it comes, on its own terms. I can decide that there's just nothing interesting to say. Or maybe there's too much interesting happening, and reporting it will have to wait. Either way, it's my call, it's my own definition of life, and I like it that way.

And now I will go cut the grass. Very meaningfully!


Zoey & Me said...

My wife talked me into creating a blog to share with Zoey who I rescued from a pig farm. We had a really difficult time getting her to accept us. Finally a miracle happened and one day she came out from under the bed and jumped up in my in box. She's been sleeping there every day since and become a wonderful pet. And for me, the Cat blog is a definite release from work. I have come to love it precisely because I can blog when I want anytime day or night. I like that freedom and I love making new net friends, like you and Kat. Zoey & Me.

Ralph said...

Great story, Z&M. I never knew the genesis of Zooey and Me, and I love how she decided to take to you all of a sudden. How gratifying, and how special she must be to you. Thanks for sharing.

Nan said...

great post - and funny too! You crack me up.

Jeff said...

Reminds me of a professor I had back in my college days. He was an old advertising man, British, with a dry sense of humor and an easy style. Never forgot him.
One day he gave me the most important advice I had ever been given - he said, "If you want to write, then write."
I've never forgotten those words either.
But even though I loved words, from the physical act of putting them on paper to the lyrical rhythms you can create with metaphor and rhyme, I didn't heed his words.Instead spent the past 35+ years pursuing a paycheck.
But the words never disappeared. They waited - and I can only describe them as painfully biding their time until I finally started coming out with them.
So Ralph - if you want to write, then write. That's all that there is. :)

Ralph said...

Beautiful, Jeff! I was lucky in my career in that I was able to keep my fingers busy with writing of a sort--reports, etc. At least it kept the gears oiled, and to the extent it dealt with words, I loved it. But I never had the challenge of daily filling up an empty page with stuff simply from my own head. (I did compose songs years ago and each one still feels like a child I personally gave birth to.) Blogging is a great development for folks like me who love to write but who need an audience to do it. Pure journaling never did it for me. For some reason I need to put my stuff out there.

Jeff said...

The words will out! You've got no choice! Just keep writing...