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THE FRIDAY SEMINARS — No. 10

 

  . . . Yes, of course! You know, it would be like reading one line from the middle of a detective novel and being expected to know from that little bit of information how the story will end, being expected to solve the mystery.
The meaning of that earlier line, its relevance to the larger story, becomes apparent only after you’ve had time to go back and make all the necessary connections and associations with all the other lines in the book.
   Well, life’s the same, isn’t it? It’s a story and you’re the author. So the meaning of any particular event, any single bit of information in a life, in that story, and how it has or will affect the rest of the mystery, can only become understandable when it’s finally considered in an historical context.
   I mean, history is everything. It defines us — you and me, everyone. And not history just as in reading books about WWII, or the Renaissance, or the reign of Pericles. I mean history in the larger sense of the word, the defining sense. Because meaning is something we construct after, sometimes long after the fact. And that meaning, because it is after the fact, by definition is historical. What something has meant to us is a function of the intellect. And the intellect needs time, history, to create connections and associations, and it’s only through those connections and associations that we begin to understand, for instance, what a particular moment meant relative to all the other moments in our lives, or relative to what we hope future moments will hold. And without that time for contemplation, for introspection, those moments are nothing more than simple events, little more than the proverbial lonely tree falling in the forest. They have no meaning necessarily, no larger particular import.
   And history begins the instant after the last. It doesn’t necessarily imply long stretches of time. And this may seem contradictory, but it isn’t, so don’t misunderstand, but history is not time. History is intellectual rather than physical, rather than simply a mode of measurement, it’s a means of understanding. But, nonetheless, in order to draw those parallels, in order to construct history, you must have time, time to think, to slow down and reflect. I mean, wisdom is not the simple accumulation of information, it’s understanding. And understanding, to understand requires time, time for consideration.
   Therefore, it’s only through reflection that we really, not just understand what our lives mean, but understand what we are, who we are, who we wish to be or become. And yet reflection, that particular sort of physical inactivity, that kind of quiet contemplativeness is something that’s not — first of all, it’s not encouraged in our deeply anti-intellectual, work-ethic culture. And, secondly, it’s actually vilified and considered a sign of weakness and laziness.    Yet, if you never really understand who you are or what your life means, it seems to me that you’re always grasping at things, trinkets and unconsidered events that you hope will provide meaning, which they can’t. You’re always grasping at identity. It makes you a good and desperate consumer, but little else. Right?
   Which means, without the necessary thought and reflection, without comprehension, we live our lives in a perpetual state of desire without the possibility of fulfillment. So, ultimately, it’s only through the necessary luxury of considered history that we are able to really appreciate the beauty or even the misfortune of our existence.
   Hell — I guess my whole point is to simply slow the fuck down. . . .

 

 

 

 

 
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