Under the sun

The sun, when at its highest, has this deeply misleading effect of having us believe that there are no shadows in the world, or even more than that, that no shadow is even possible. In a perfect world there is no shadow nor is it possible to have shadows, but our world is far from perfect and therefore is full of shadows. Some more extreme oriental philosophies would say that it consists of nothing but shadows. This is certainly not the case, because we have the sun. Nevertheless, to forget that shadows are part of our world is unfair.

But why think of shadows when the sun shines and the birds are singing? Probably the best ability human beings have is that of living exclusively in the present. Sure, now and then we dig into our memories and take short walks into our past. Equally rare as those walks into the past are our short projections into the future. But most of the time we are creatures of the present. It’s ike we don’t care about passing time, each of us living in his own eternity, like having a private island in time. Happily, in time you don’t have to be rich in order to have an island, as it is the case in space. What is even more remarkable about our ability to live in the present is that the present we live in is not a real present, but an idealized one in which the best of our past and our hopes for the future coexist.

There is, however, a class of people we usually call pessimists. After attaching this label, we discard them easily as anomalies. But pessimists are those of us who have lost the ability to live under the ever-shining sun. Their islands in time have been shattered. This may be because their lives have been hell or because they are born with a distrustful eye that sees the shining sun as the ephemeral thing that it is. The ultimate reality, for this eye, is not the shining sun, but death. The pessimist spends his life staring at death and death stares back at him every second of his life. Emil Cioran is probably the best representative of this kind of built-in pessimism which is  further qualified as nihilism.

Be that as it may, built-in or taken from life, pessimism is nevertheless the more brave and more lucid way of seeing, because it is not tricked by the shining sun into believing that there are no shadows in the world or, or even worse than that, that no shadows are possible.  For the lucid eye of the pessimist, instead of joyful rays of light, the sun radiates nothing but shadows.

Time and the meaning of life

Our life is made of time. Unfortunately for us, time is fleeting. Unlike our life, time can flow as long as there is a Universe. But even if our live would last as long as the Universe itself, it would still be short, because we are satisfied only by the infinite.

Now, leaving aside the fact that life is so short, there is something in the way we live our life that makes it even more pitiful. We spend our life in a perpetual waiting for…something else. There are, of course, islands in time in which we are fully content, moments that we would like to last forever. Moments like being in love in Paris or, for that matter, in any other place on Earth. Or having a vacation in an exotic destination. But these are

Read More but short stops in which we catch our breath and start running again. Life, as it is, is but perpetual motion towards an unknown and unknowable destination. We die as unfinished projects and this is what makes every death so tragic. In the whole history there was nobody who  got there. May it be with life also as it is with any other thing? The meaning of a thing is always outside the thing itself. The meaning of a knife is in it’s ability to cut bread or human flesh. Thus, the meaning of a knife is not in the knife, but in something outside it. Logic would have us believe that the meaning of life is not in anything in life, but can we even imagine anything outside life? The meaning of life would be life itself only if life would  be eternal, but since life is limited in time, it cannot be so. It looks like time is the enemy of the meaning of life, not time itself but fleeting time which makes life fleeting.

And most of the time it is we who are the greatest enemies of the meaning of our  lives. When we live for the next second and neglect the present one, we contribute in making our lives shorter than they already are. In doing this we take the end and bring it into our lives before is actually ending time. But we are beings who feed on hope and hope is always something pertaining to the future. To make our lives meaningful, that is, to make peace with time, we would have to give up hope. But without hope, what is life? It is now clear that we are dealing with a paradox. To live is to hope, but to hope is to jump out of life. So it is life who is pregnant with it’s own meaningless. Or is it just a signal to a meaning beyond? Beyond what? The end.

Of beautiful women and other demons

There are many things in this world that make it not such a nice place to live in. Among these one may name starving children, natural disasters, incurable diseases, wars, death that is end of us all and so on. One could write a book, and a big one too, consisting just in enumerating all the things that are wrong with this world-picture of ours. It would probably not make a bestseller, since every reader would think that he could write the same book and maybe better and bigger. And he could probably do that, in virtue of the only qualification necessary, that is to be a citizen of this world.

But no one would think of adding beauty in that list of shame, since beauty is considered one of the best things we have, a pretty good consolation for all the bad things that strike us in this ocean we call life and which, for some reason, seems to be really angry with us. For some beauty is such a big thing as to make the purpose of life itself. I think it was Nietzsche who said that existence is only justifiable as an aesthetic phenomenon. Whatever might have been his real intention in saying that, and this is only for a professional philosopher to know, it’s clear for everyone to see that beauty was ranked pretty high in his hierarchy of things.

It’s a shame that so many fail to see what beauty really is or does. In a world in which justice is just a word to be mocked in courthouses, beauty takes injustice to whole new levels. You can always hope that the world would some day be a  better place, that the kids in Africa will someday stop dying of starvation, that the Powerful of the world will finally  decide that heroin is bad no matter how much money it brings you and put an end to the worldwide slaughter it produces. But you can never hope that some day you will  be prettier than you are today, can you? Some women think they can, but they only end up with breast implants, which is the ugliest thing in the world. It’s true, we can already see the dawns of that brave new world  in which man will finally get to play the part he always wanted to play, that is, God. But genetic manipulation is not yet an option as a remedy of ugliness, and with genetic manipulation, which indeed is confident enough to promise to correct the lack of beauty, we have to pay a price that may very well cost us our humanity.

But leaving aside genetic intervention as a way to assure beauty to our offspring, we live in world in which beauty is distributed to human beings through the blind mechanism of the genes. Some are lucky and get out into the world in athletic bodies, with perfect teeth and perfect symmetry of the face and with hair that falls only when you are sixty nine. Of course, beauty is a mystery that resides in something beyond everything that we could ever hope to put into words. Because beauty is not in athletic bodies or in perfect teeth or perfect symmetry of the face or in hair that falls only when you are sixty nine. One can have all these and still be ugly, and I mean physically ugly, if someone was thinking that I had in mind inner beauty. But the rest of the beings that come to populate this world are less lucky. Just as most people in the world are not bright, to use a beautiful word in a negative form for expressing an ugly situation, in the same way most of the people are not beautiful, using the same round-about way for stating the ugly truth. We come in all sizes and shapes  but most of these would in no way make it to a beauty contest. Perhaps entropy has something to do with this. Perhaps there are more ways of being ugly than there are of being beautiful so that the world we see is just a fair display of materialized probabilities. I have no idea, but I do know that one’s sense of justice should be offended by this state of affairs. I know mine is.

But this is not the worst thing. I am just getting to that one. It is not so bad to be ugly, especially when you have a pretty good chance to find somebody as ugly as you are and for whom you will be a good match. Some may call that love and everyone, no matter how ugly, has a shot at this. Part of the problem is that you, as an ugly person, get to be the unwilling witness of a  permanent parade of beautiful persons proudly displaying their bodies. Now, as never before in history, we have TV and magazines to make a religion out of beauty. It is like someone has made it a personal duty out of daily transmitting this message to most of the world population: in your face, losers!

And this is not all. The lowest affair that beauty gets to be involved in, in its blind journey through our world, is when it meets women. Of course, the woman is the very paradigm of beauty. Everything that is beautiful in the Universe could disappear tomorrow, but if there would be one beautiful woman left, we would still know what beauty is. In woman beauty finds its perfect embodiment so as to make a woman’s skin, a woman’s breasts, a woman’s eyes and lips the very materialization of the essence of beauty. There was a Romanian philosopher, Constantin Noica, who said that women cannot practice metaphysics because they are metaphysics. I don’t know if he was right about that one, had he put it differently, saying that women are not beautiful, they are beauty itself, he would have been fully right. But what seems to be the problem, a  beautiful woman might ask, and one that was actually kind enough to read this far too. The problem is that for a woman beauty is like a demon that possess her and takes her to unconceivable heights or lows, transcending with her in its jaws the walls of what we call human condition. This was- I hope- poetical way to put it, but, presuming that poetry was far from any ability I may have, it was at least metaphorical. And I am afraid I cannot go much farther beyond this metaphor. It would take me way too many pages and knowledge I do not quite posses if I am to put in a discursive and non-metaphorical manner what beauty does to a woman.

Even though this is surely to be the case, let me take just one one step beyond the metaphor. Beauty would not be such a bad thing for a woman if she were to live in the wilderness, in perfect solitude. But the evil takes place when you put a beautiful woman with other people that soon enough will come to have nothing else to do but contemplate her. And who could blame them, because there is no greater and more mysterious force in the physical universe than beauty.

So the beauty is not in itself a bad thing, but only when it becomes reflexive, that is when the woman becomes conscious of her beauty as such. Her beauty, which initially is the most beautiful thing in the world, travels into the people around her which in the process are reduced to the simple function of mirrors and back to her amplified a thousand times and thus becoming the ugliest thing in the world. For the woman now knows that her strength is in her beauty and that it is the most powerful weapon in the world and that there is nothing she can do to improve it or herself. Of course, there are very beautiful women  who refuse to be subdued by their own beauty and wish to rise above it. But there are few who make it. For most of the most beautiful women in the world beauty is all that is takes to be human, and going this way soon deprives them of humanity. Actually this way away from humanity goes in two opposite directions. One  downwards, in the object world, as one can see in pornography where a woman is reduced to her body as a mere object. The other one goes up, in a sort of deification, but equally away from the human condition, with the woman becoming a goddess, way above the conventions, limitations and usual ways of doing that rule over ordinary mortals.

Because this is nobody’s fault, since no one can help being beautiful or admiring beauty as a slave, this is just another tragedy that befalls our world, as if there were not enough tragedies already. I realize that all this rage against beauty may be seen as coming out of the writer’s own frustration with his own ugliness. But, in fact, there are two possibilities that perhaps overlap. First is this already mentioned: a frustrated ugly  person who throws venom at beauty hoping to get rid of it. But it may also be the case that the author is one who has suffered the indifference of a very beautiful woman and now seeks revenge.  In regard to the first one, I will admit in all honesty that I have no idea if I am ugly or not. People, in their function of mirrors, send me mixed up messages about this. I can’t make something very clear out of these messages, but I would dare say that I have reason to believe that I am not very ugly. When it comes to the second option, the reader will have to take my word that no extremely beautiful woman has ever broke my heart. I wish I were so lucky! In fact I was never involved in any way with any woman of extreme beauty, but this may actually  be what will make some say “eureka!”. Perhaps they would be right to say so, I can’t have the last word on this one.

No particles in time

They haven’t  yet discovered the particle of this river we call time. It is flowing, no doubt about it, but it itself is invisible. It is visible only through the movements we make, in our white hair and wrinkled skin and eventually in our death. Death may be deaf and blind, but it is the very climax of the visibility of time. So far the only fair assumption we can make is that  time doesn’t have a particle of its own, like gravity has the graviton, but it is the invisible substance of all the particles out there. The river in which they bathe and where they take their being.