Attempts are made to pin down life – that is, the precise act of living by the individual – and what is “best”, “right”, etc. These are made by the tack of myriad philosophies, religions, ideologies, ways that tend their various principles, axioms, beliefs, purported truths, and just so many rules. These concepts are not living; they at best make some explanations, more likely describe, but nevertheless are inert; they lack action. What is the phrase I am looking for? The map is not the territory. These are worldviews. We cannot abandon worldviews. There is always a perspective. We can habituate, cultivate, and change; but never abandon. If we were to approach zero worldview then we would also approach paradox. If in each moment of living we could abandon what came before, forget all the previous moments of our life – experiences, background, idiosyncrasies, place in society, upbringing, etc. – and confront passing life without a worldview then that clean slate would itself, paradoxically, become our worldview. As long as there is intent, a will, a conscious experience, then there is a perspective, a reckoning, an attempt to make sense of the world through thought and concept. In other words, to order and categorize the world, our world – however it makes sense.
I figure this can be done, generally speaking, with two methods of abstraction: by addition or by attrition. By addition I mean expanding what we see and experience in the world; our concepts and definitions; meaning, sense, and reference. Do this until the mind is distended, gorged, and bloated – floating in a miasmic bog of Being, like a puffed up corpse frozen-faced with an expression of revelatory awe and terror from the realization that comes too late for the living but right on time for the dead. Or, by attrition: where the same is whittled down and pared to the core. What is essential is kept; what is superfluous is thrown away. To answer “What is Good?”, first discover what there is. Only what there is until all is wild and wilder and there is the wilderness.
Those to me are the pertinent questions: “What is there?”; and “What is Good?” (that is, What is the Good life?). I believe how we view these questions is largely, if not entirely, reliant upon our particular worldview. And if one thinks they can escape a worldview fully and completely then I believe part of that person’s worldview is self-deception and one of style over substance. By style over substance I mean that some things sound great but are either substantially shallow or, more simply, a mistaken belief. A universal or cosmic mind? Sounds wonderful! Communion with gods or spirits? That sounds mystically spectacular! Some sort of intuitive insight into the “deeper” mechanisms of the world? H…o…l…y shiiiit! Sign me up! But first, show me the substance. I can feel poetry but I live prose. I make poetic love but still I have to leave my bed. I have poetic daydreams but lead with a prosaic mind. The thinker should not stifle the man of feeling but the thinker not stifled himself.
And so one’s worldview is intimately entangled with one’s identity. So intimate and so entangled that it is like incestuous Siamese twins. There is the way in which we identity ourselves, or self-identity, and there is the way others identify us and tell us or tell themselves who we are. But we tend to think that we are the sole authors of who we are; that no one else could possibly write our story but us; that this is the hallmark of “individuality”, that oft-fucked whore of an ideal. There are the things I would say about myself; how I self-identify: my ethnicity, gender, race, sexuality, character traits and personality, etc. Then there are the things that others would say about me. And in many areas they will coincide, especially in more or less static categories like ethnicity or race. But what about aspects which can be confusing like personality traits or even things that are supposed to be concrete like sexuality or gender? What happens when the individual and the other do not agree? I may say that I am honest. But another says that I am dishonest. I may even believe that others would say I’m honest; thus, I may be wrong. Or I may really believe that others believe me to be dishonest but simply disagree – but do I never consider why we see things differently?
This is all very confusing. I guess my point, even if not very clear or very good, is that identity is only partly in the hands of the individual. The parts that are dynamic are largely an amalgamation composed of the insider and outsiders. And the parts that are static aren’t even necessarily a choice of the individual, but rather innate and, thus, rather trivial.
I want to know what is The Good. I need to know who I am; who we are.