The Mold of Reality

THIS IS HOW I SEE IT…

Artists, poets, musicians, philosophers, scientists – in short, anybody who creates becomes a sculptor of human reality. They all exhibit aspects of human life that are present – or possible. One life is not enough to survey all the possibilities that can be brought upon the living experience; we must share with each other the Spectrum of the Possible, because we need more than two eyes to visualize the totality of human existence.

 

In a world where most men and women are concerned primarily with “making a living”, that is, having enough money to buy stuff and have sufficient comforts for raising a family; in this world the prospects of poetry, pure science, art, philosophy become irrelevant, if not insignificant, at least, secondary.

 

But my view is contrary to this widespread carelessness. I conceive life as this:

 

We are a crowd of gazing eyes all found in the depth of a lush valley. Most eyes are focusing on the ground, ensuring that each step is safe, reasonable (and profitable!). But amongst this majority of conformists there are a few visionaries that focus on more than just the flatness of the ground. These few are studying the trees around, gazing at the stars, describing the colors of insects, monitoring the motion of the wind, and endless observations take place that are ignored by the mass of robotic somnambulists. All these irrelevant and beautiful things the minority gazes at are equally real as the beaten path most walk upon.

 

To end this metaphor I kill everyone and then ask the reader to capture what human life would have been without these few wanderers:

it would only be a muddy track of monotony.

 

 

 

No complex forms of nature (trees), no immensity of space (stars), no microscopic detail (color of insects), no invisible mystery (motion of the wind), etc.

ONLY A
MUDDY PATH…

This is the importance of the poet of human existence, of the artist of human potential, of the musician of the human imagination, of the genius of human exploration. They give depth to human life, they bestow on reality a wider dimension.

 

Some come upon this rotating planet to fill the mold,

                                                                Few others come here to fashion this mold.

 

Terror and Indifference

 

 

Formulate my desire
O’ World of Wonders!

 

The diversity and variety is astonishingly intimidating. We can choose from numberless alternatives and attempt to satisfy the most serious question mankind has ever asked: 

What should we do? 

What, amongst infinite possibilities, should we do with our life? A life uncertain and finite but nonetheless it is here – we breathe the nectar of life! And with this monumental gift who has satisfactorily guessed what we should do with it? 

Are we certain we are capable of battling with that question, the pinnacle of all morality? Aren’t we more like frightened little creatures led astray by the currents of uncertainty in the vast ocean of incomprehensibility? 

Isn’t it easier for us to admit that our lives have no definite course, no preordained commandments; that the heaven of our ideals is blank without purpose, empty of constellations that could guide us through our erratic nights? 

What is left when we stop pursuing the specter of a deceased spirituality, what do we find but a total dimension of nothingness? 

Open to multiple interpretations, Nietzsche wrote: 

“He who fights with monsters should be careful
lest he thereby become a monster.
If you gaze long into an abyss,
the abyss will also gaze into you.” 

Is he speaking of the abyss of meaninglessness or perhaps of purposelessness – or the emptiness of being that is in our constantly escaping existence?

That vast open ocean of emptiness in which we float and sink incessantly is terrifying and hideous. Once we renounce any definite course in our lives, what is left but the constant terror of the unknown…?

 But swim and swim in the treacherous waters of solitude and when you face the monstrous shadow of the universe, bleak and senseless, pray you will have not renounced everything for nothing ––

 That in that terror of being alone
religion-less and closing into death
you might stumble upon a Liberation:
that crushes your hopes and rewards you
with a dauntless indifference
to the horrors of existence

 

 

On death

 

When melancholy, sadness and despair conquer our spirit the threat of death becomes less intimidating to a point that we sometimes see death as an ally – a liberator to our suffering. On the other side of the spectrum, when we are merry, invigorated and hopeful death appears with a different mask – it is an interruption to our joy, it is a usurper to our happiness. The same event takes on two (perhaps more?) different appearances, it is relative to our disposition.

When speaking abstractly we can assume and dictate the effects that death will impress on us. But for anyone that has come close to falling into that tenebrous black hole will readily admit that there are no principles by which we can predict our reaction in such a frightful encounter. Sad or happy we can panic under the threat of death, happy or sad we can receive it gratefully. Only our last moment will tell.

Death is inevitable and whether we have given it any consideration we must eventually face it – unfailingly. Some consider, like Plato’s Socrates, that philosophy is a preparation for death and with its aid one might regulate the attacks of fear and panic that are commonly associated with death. To be honest I don’t think philosophy is enough to vanquish the instincts of our physical organism – something greater and stronger than rationality is needed to subjugate our most ingrained fears.

Death will sweep us all with equal force,

“…it is too late to be wise, that in any case it would serve no purpose,

for the same abyss will engulf us all, wise and foolish alike, sane and mad…”

E.M. CIORAN

 

The thought and speculation of death cannot dominate us otherwise we would never leave our beds in dismay of the unpredictable and unknown external world. But we must become accustomed to the fact that we must one day leave this inexplicable world, our possessions will cease to belong to us, our life only a faint memory in those that were near us. This is the most difficult task in our lives: to surrender our life – submit it to the unknown.

Paradoxically death has more hold of us when we live than when we have perished. There is so much tension and energy spent in conserving our possessions, our opinions and ideals, our friends and lovers; securing them from the forces that will take them away from us that we are beaten and exhausted in the battle to retain what is dear to us. All this expenditure of energy, all this effort is our refusal to acknowledge the possibility that things are not in our control and that these things will perish as certainly as we will. This struggle makes us live defensively, always on the guard against what we don’t expect, against the threat of what will dissolve the forms of life we’ve become attached to.

Has any remedy been suggested to counterattack this tendency of being attached to things? Let each one of us find his/her own answer. I’m only tempted to share a thought that has come of late:

 

We will find LIFE when we can let go of life.

 

When we stop resisting the impetus of Nature towards change and re-form, admitting that ever-flowing stream of variations, and in abandoning our frenetic attempt to seize the flux – we might be able to make that leap into the chaotic Unknown and discover that death is not reserved only for the end of this journey. We experience death each day – every second as the present trickles away from our grasp and a new and infant reality is presented to us perpetually – we continually enter a terra incognita insofar as we leave the carcass of the Known that is buried buried in the graveyard of the past.

In pursuit of something…

The day began like all others. With a loud quack coming from my mouth– the refusal to leave the ecstasy of profound sleep. The clock ticked with its usual indefatigable persistence as I stole the last dreams from the reservoir of Morpheus’ cave.

 My laziness was sensational. I remained in bed worrying about how little I had to worry about. I had no plans, no obligations. Blinking my eyes was my sole responsibility. Had inertia won the battle today my relaxed body would have remained in bed all day – my mind contemplating empty thoughts.

 But my body broke wind so violently and repulsively, I could have fainted from its deadly smell!

I stood up resolutely and began roaming about. What could I say, what could I do? Everything has already been said, everything has been done. What is left in a world that had exhausted all its possibilities?

 There was one and only one unobjectionable conclusion. Trash. I was utterly convinced that I could find something new in the rubbish people left behind.

 I thought, ‘Everything has been documented but trash’

 And so I began,

 

What a pity! Dozens of humans walking up and down the street and this poor half-eaten pear laid in agony while a battalion of bacteria was slowly devouring its entrails. I watched it as if it were a bird that had been shot and there is nothing to do but wait for its inevitable death. The tender white sweet flesh tempted no one to have another bite, its seductiveness had been mutilated by the carelessness of… who?

 11.00am/a Tuesday/1933 – Niels Bohr approached slowly the door of his old beloved. He had struggled to make each step, as he knew it was the last time he would see his long-time lover. Had he become a devil? Sacrificing the love of a woman for the pleasure of knowledge? It didn’t really matter. He was a scientist– isn’t science immeasurably more important than love?

 Such thoughts were crossing his mind as he passed by Grundtvigs Kirke. He gazed up at the monstrous church,

 

And these were his thoughts:

‘They should have made the arrows point downward. The electron emits light when it goes to a lower atomic orbit, not to a higher one. If they are looking for the light of God they should find it here on earth – not in the ethereal space of their imagination…’

 Mr. Bohr had always a propensity to mix his scientific genius with philosophical and theological issues. For thirty five seconds he was distracted from his frightful destination. Once he reached it he told Helle he would never see her again.

 Why am I telling you about this? Because Helle almost commited suicide that night. She called on Jens, a boyfriend of hers before Niels, and he came over and they made love all night. Helle became pregnant and bore a child, Morten. By 1963, when Morten was nearly thirty he opened a fancy vegetable shop in the neighborhood. In 2007, at the age of seventy-three, he was still behind the counter selling fruits and vegetables. He was a kind old man and would give out free fruits to the kids that came to the shop. A young immigrant boy from Iraq had purchased three kilos of onions today and Morten gave the boy a complimentary pear as a treat. The boy took the gift without excitement, had three or four bites of the pear and then threw it to the ground thirty seven minutes before I walked up this street in search of neglected things.

By one o’clock in the warm afternoon of May 21, 2007, I entered upon the gardens of the museum of art. What did I find there. Two things:

 

 A plastic straw with a red stripe. I know how it got here, but I won’t bore you with such details. I will only say it involves a bicycle, a hooker from Ethiopia and the pearls of Margrethe II (current queen of Denmark). But more importantly I began to notice something as I made my second insignificant encounter of the day. The small neglected garbage of the streets had something peculiar. It was charming—how sad and beautiful a straw under the open skies could be. It was sad and beautiful because it was unnoticed. It remained undisturbed in the nothingness of the ground. The world around it had some value, some purpose, but this straw now useless under the blades of grass had nowhere to go, nothing to do…

A 250ml empty carton of light milk.
 
 
Again there is an indefinable amount of events that caused this milk carton to be here, out of which we could name six or seven to satisfy the curiosity of the reader. But instead of writing a fiction of the past, I could narrate a fiction of the future. What will happen to this milk carton? If I return tomorrow to this exact same location will I find it intact? Chances are that the wind, the garbage collectors or the impetuosity of a child will make it disappear. Its rectangular shape will be lost, it’s bright blue colors faded, its expiration date indecipherable. In a few days it will be in some obscure corner of this earth, completely forgotten by you and me…

I could not bear the weight of my thoughts any longer. I was at the verge of weeping senselessly for wastes. What sort of foolishness had taken hold of me?I walked up to the tracks. Ways, paths, journeys and returns.

Immediately my vanity came parading into the scene and twisted the meaning of my words. Foolishness? Senseless tears? Of course not, it is sensibility, aesthetic appreciation for the small realities of life. Out of pride or vanity my mind conjured up justifications and arguments to validate my behavior. Yes, indubitably, doesn’t it happen to all of us? But I was tired of flattering myself. Was it of any consequence to think all these things, to become aware of all this emptiness?

 

 

                                                 Everything’s said, Everything’s done

They go and they come.

Do they know what for?

Out the window they stare

Out of boredom they glare

What is this mirage,

They call life –ignored.

Certainly much comes from nothing. If it hadn’t been for a visceral explosion this morning I would have remained in bed. I got up decidedly to invent the purpose of a new day. To reveal something new that might have been irrevocably lost in the dark domains of oblivion.

At last I made it to the beach. In company of flying birds I stared at the calm waters as the fading light of the sun wrestled in the small crests and troughs of the seawater.

 

I often think that I think too much. My kindred float passively in the mellow currents of the water whereas I spend my days in search of something more profound than the shallow depths of the shore. My relatives reproached me for coming too near to humans, ‘that beastly parasitic race’ they call them. But I’ve found much that is agreeable in the human world, and although I don’t belong to it I hope I can visit it without impertinence. I see much more of their world down here at one foot from the ground. I hope my words will be received as something more than mere quackery. A duck has much more to say than just QUACK.

I will retire now. Those that will like to visit me can do so every afternoon at six o’clock at the small beach in Hellerup. I am a Mallard duck, with a metallic green head and neck separated from my purplish-brown breast by a white ring. Do not fear to wake me from my deep trances when I stare out into the open sea. I do often for I am in pursuit of something, something I cannot yet come to define.

 

You, me & Montaigne

 

It bugged me. I was looking for a vague unformed idea with the same persistency as you would recall a forgotten dream, a dream you had vividly experienced and now all trace of it is lost except for a blurry intuition that claims it existed and was real. So in the same way, I am looking for an idea I’m not quite sure what it is; but I know that it exists and it is real. The idea has something to do with History. History has been on my mind recently. It is impossible to dismiss history when its presence is unmistakably obvious in the prints of books. There have been many before us. So many that the vast majority have perished within the confines of thier solitude and few or no traces are left of their struggles and dreams. I’m interested in how humans see themselves. It may be called their Interpretation of Life. The fact that we live is obvious and granted. But what we think about life changes dramatically from one skull to the next. With so many distinct opinions I do not worry of finding the correct one. All seem to have a likely possibility of truth. But what is truth anyway? A forgotten quest of ancient philosophers… Our age does not worry about truth. It has lost its relevance; we pay attention to other things. So I’m not looking for truth, I’m sure of that. It has to do more with an understanding of how the human interpretation of life changes throughout history. I’m gathering opinions rather the same way that an entomologist would collect beetles. No beetle is more precious than the others, each one of them exist and are as real as the entomologist that collects them. How to make sense of the numberless interpretations of life?

 

I think I’m getting closer to my forgotten dream: my unformulated idea.

 

There are many kinds of beetles in the world. There are more beetle species than there are fish, amphibian, reptile, bird and mammal species put together. How did so different types of beetles arise? Our age explains the varieties of species with the theory of evolution. The theory of evolution has been so popular and successful in explaining many aspects of our natural world that it has propagated over many other fields. Technology, ideas and the development of human societies can all be explained quite clearly from an evolutionary perspective.

The evolutionary perspective
 

 

Time is a bitch. We cannot define it, yet our whole lives are tyrannized by the ticking of the clock. Elusive in definition but very real and concrete in practice. Time is a fact. We live in time. Calendars and alarm clocks bind us:

 

“I need to wake up early tomorrow”

 

“I’m late for work”

 

“Let’s meet at five near the fountain”

 

“Next week is my birthday”

 

“If I don’t finish this in time, I’m in deep trouble”

 

And so on…

 

Time is very real. Listen to your own voices. We mention it every single day.

But we forget about time.

 

 

 

We forget that time is not only seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years. It is also decades, centuries, millennia, mega-annums, and giga-annums. The universe is a very old place. It’s been here long before any human ever stood erect. It will probably be here long after every human life has been exhausted.

 

Awareness of the long extension of time is important to understand the various Interpretations of Life.

 

 

That’s how I can begin to make sense of history. Through Evolution in the broadest sense of the word. There has been enough time for everything to evolve. Every atom on this planet evolved from the interior of dead stars, life arose for the evolution of simpler forms to more complex ones, and societies, language, ideas and technology evolve from rudimentary human communities spending enough time together to develop these attributes. Given enough time a lot can happen. This is the Evolutionary Perspective. An interpretation of life common among those living today.

 

We are bound by time. This interpretation of life helps me interpret the interpretation of life of others before me.

 

Thales surveyed the world around him and declared that it originated from water

Berkeley surveyed the world around him and declared that everything you perceived is not the real world but only your own mind.

 

Freud surveyed the world around him and declared that a blind unconscious force called the libido directs human life.

 

And so on…

 

Every opinion in your head has a history. Every hair in your body has a history. Every word you say originated somewhere sometime, and if you create something new the long chain of causes behind it supports it. If you adopt the evolutionary perspective, your every move is united to the most distant past.

 

Now I’m getting closer to what I really wanted to express. Not a theory but a melancholic reflection.

 

On March 1st 1580, Montaigne completed his ‘Note to the Reader’ for his long and voluminous essays. He set his pen (or feather) down and submitted himself to the currents of history. On May 11th 2007 I opened his essays and began reading in English his ‘Au Lecteur’ translated from the French. Something about that date shook me. 1580. Long time ago. A long time ago this man set to write down his ideas and experiences in countless pages. Four hundred twenty-seven years later I pick up his book and read in the thick darkness of midnight till my eyes dropped with exhaustion. Today I woke up with an idea on the tip of my tongue. Trying to shape it and give it a name. Montaigne, a man dead for four hundred fifteen years, influenced my Monday and if you are reading this, he managed to sneak into your life too; changing the course of your life ever so slightly, making you sit before your computer ten minutes extra than you had planned for.

If you adopt the evolutionary perspective, your every move is united to the most distant past.

Montaigne is an example of a life that has been recorded and has been able to influence people in the future. But the number of people that achieve this is negligible when compared to all those that leave no trace and return silently to the dark abyss from where they came. We like to think that life is Great. That it is worth living and that so much of it is special and worthy of commenting. That is why we meet up with our friends and tell them what we did, how we feel, what we hope for. It is sad and discouraging to think that our most troublesome struggles and our most dazzling joys will be lost completely and in five hundred years they will be of no use to anyone.

We are an island of consciousness engulfed in the ambiguous ocean of time.

I find something else discouraging. Of those millions and millions of lives, the lives of the masses that died in plagues, wars, and famines and remain in the history books only as a number:

8,000,000 dead in the Thirty Years War

 

75,000,000 dead after the Black Plague

 

100,000,000 dead during the Atlantic Slave Trade

 

and so on…

 

What about their Interpretation of Life. They had an equally valid opportunity of experiencing life, perhaps in the most atrocious circumstances. Their thoughts and yearnings are now lost under the memory of a number.

 

I’d like to compare all those opinions. The lush forest of conceptions that each skull harbors. There are as many as beetles in the world.

 

Is there a God?

 

Is there a soul?

 

Is there an afterlife?

 

Is there a purpose in life?

 

What is matter?

 

What are the stars?

 

What is happiness?

 

Every one has something to say. Every one has a right to that opinion. And every opinion is part of the legacy they inherited. The evolution of all forms and shapes; from the hair in your head to your thinking in verbs, nouns and adjectives. We are bound to the most distant past, perhaps too to the more distant future.

 

Whatever you do today, think what role it will play in the great course of things. When you pay for a pack of cigarettes, think of the journey the coin is about to embark upon. Perhaps a thousand years from now, that same coin is going to be dug up by a future archeologist and speculate about life at the beginning of the 21st century. Gaze up to the sky and imagine all those that have done the same, some seeing the wonderful creation of God, others the grand excitement of space, and others still, the unbelievable profundity of the human mind. Kiss your lover and wonder when the first human kiss was invented. Eat an apple and speculate from what distant tree it came from. Spit out its seeds and consider that in fifty years a child might be swinging from its tree branches.

 

Now go, and explore. Be part of the unrecorded history that unwinds daily…

A child’s wonder

The poet must rise and, in all opposition to the mediocrity of those living with eyes closed, must claim with a child’s wonder: I AM.

And to be is never dull and unworthy of our attention.

Every passing second grants us the deepest mysteries that can never be too highly esteemed.

From the rustling of blades of grass in the wind to the farthest kindling galaxies; from the ordinary to the extraordinary; existence in its entirety marvels the beholder.

A poet’s awareness is nothing more than a child’s wonder.

A requirement: the capacity to remain silent and observe passionately at what IS.

In that womb of silence we are all bound to become children, poets and philosophers;

Quietly revering the performance of an universe that will forever astonish us-

The humble spectators of the Great Unknown.

He came to know…

 

Brave, defiant Contristo walked under the sharp but harmless leaves of the gloomy jungle. The ceiling of the forest was completely covered with thick branches of trees and the dense population of their leaves. The tenebrous darkness made the journey the more frightening, the unknown waiting for him at every corner. A beam or two of light would pierce the great darkness with its blaze as the wind opened a tiny slit in the heights. These arrows of translucent light reminded Contristo of the world he left seven years ago. At the age of twelve he was forced to enter this labyrinth, to follow an aimless course, to hunt after an unrevealed destiny. But the world he had left so many years ago was still bright in his memory, those endless hours of play and spontaneous happiness. The intense winds of adolescence had thrust him into this dark adventure. The old world had come apart, his new life was nothing other than wandering through the inextricable dangers of the forest. It was a difficult journey as strange gruesome animals threatened his survival, challenged his sanity.  

Contristo’s world is not an ordinary world. A human could never recognize this world, not even in his dreams. The creatures that constitute this world are beyond the imagination of the wildest fantasies of fiction. The corruption of their forms would be the most painful sight, a holocaust for our eyes. Their voices would enter our ears like molten rock down the auditory canal, their shrieks worst than a thousand cries of despair coming from Dante’s Inferno. The sting of their fangs more deadly than any earthly creature. Poor and lost Contristo had to face numberless dangers on his way, when forced to leave the joy of childhood to meet the dangers of advancing youth.

Towards the end of the seventh year Contristo started to notice a change in his environment. Patches of sky would appear more often and the nightmarish insects were fewer and fewer. Until finally, exactly on the last full moon of his seventh traveling year, he came upon a valley. The jungle was left behind and he could observe at the distance a huge ominous castle, majestically sitting at the center of the valley. Certainly, he thought, this is my unforeseen destination.

Contristo approached the monumental structure and at the foot of the tall gates there stood two gigantic trolls, weapon in hand, guarding the entrance from any intruder. As Contristo came closer to these beastly creatures, he became sick and repelled by the dripping pus of their bodies, the green drool from their mouths and their stink of decaying meat.  “HALT, you shall not pass!” thundered the voice of both guards. Stupefied and trembling, Contristo spoke:

For seven years the winds of youth have blown
In maze and confusion I have not known
What distant goal was set for my life
Woe, my journey’s been nothing but strife.
In your castle some great good I must gain
Open your gates so all won’t be in vain!

The giant monsters gazed thoughtfully at this wretched creature. Then, in obedience to their duty, replied:

The gates of Veritas are out of reach
For those that cannot breach
The ancient riddle we now recite

‘This thing all things devours;
From the farthest suns to the nearest flowers;
The powerful king too must one day know
Defeat and loss against this invincible foe’

Answer correctly or retreat in fright.

Swiftly Contristo retorted:

Experience, mother of knowledge
To you I now pledge
If my answer be in the right
I will forever trust in your light
Guards, the riddle is sublime
My answer is: TIME.

The gates opened for Contristo, who was too well acquainted with the expanse of time. In the echoing solitude, his steps marked the ticking of the seconds as he gazed the high towers inside. At the heart of the castle a lofty dome shone with precious gold and crimson gems. Contristo gathered that under that huge vault his secret fate must lie.

He stepped into the glorious building and surveyed the ornamental complexity of the walls, patterns of exquisite beauty. Then, at last, his long journey reached its summit when he saw under the colossal dome a sight he will never forget. From the ceiling hanged an object he had never seen before, faintly glowing with a sort of musical flow. He approached it, but he was not alone. From the other end of the room he could now see another creature too was approaching the sacred object. He slowed his pace but continued to come nearer until he was face to face with his silent companion. Contristo then spoke to him but the other would only mimic his own speech. Then he moved to one side and the stranger did exactly like him. In an initiative to be kind he extended his arm to salute his companion. His partner was too quick and the tip of their hands would always collide, never allowing him to take the other’s hand. Contristo was paralyzed by a sort of fear and just gazed at the stranger. He looked into his eyes and he could see nothing but an abysmal sadness, a look of despair, a cry for help. He saw a fragile and feeble creature, lost and confused, joyless, utterly joyless…

It was then that he realized he was looking at a reflection of himself. And his thoughts began to weave the path of his future, treading the first steps in the unending journey of self-discovery.

‘Tis this sadness I saw reflected
And merciless was my despair
This brittle body so dejected
Home of the burden I will bear

In these eyes of crystal sorrow
Lies the grand secret of tomorrow
To understand the elusive mystery
The whole of my wretched history

Let today mark the beginning
The essential for all the living
To glimpse and savor the question
How to find one’s true expression

Finding myself always in travel
Among the marvels of existence
As the smoke of time will unravel
What is at an approaching distance.