An Ode To Be Real

“So long as I can dwell with these, and lose myself—to the degree allowed to humans—in celestial things, what does it matter where I set my feet?” —Seneca, Consolation to Helvia

One of the greatest exponents of Stoic Philosophy spent his evenings observing the stars and the motions of the planets. While exiled to the rocky island of Corsica he could have pursued any number of subjects and yet found great solace in studying the patterns of nature itself. If he were not pulled back into the political tides of strife, God only knows what he may have discovered and left behind in his stead.

Instead we can use our own head, and imagine what in the world could have enthralled a person night after night to gaze upon such dazzling lights. As children, my friend and I used to love watching the night sky while rolled up in a sleeping-bag on the patio. From slow moving satellites to falling stars we were ecstatic with anything that caught our eye. The barrier between our imaginations and reality remained supple as the branches of an evergreen tree. He went on to study astronomy in university but my passion extended beyond the physical stars into the metaphysical nature of things.

What existed before the big bang? Why did God create us? Have we reincarnated here through karmic actions of a past life? Are there any realistic answers to these kinds of questions? God only knows; it’s impossible to say otherwise. Nevertheless these were the sort of otherworldly values that once gave my life shape and meaning, as well as made me feel secure and fuzzy inside.

Perhaps a better line of inquiry is to ask ourselves how useful are these sorts of ideas? How much sanity do we have to entertain such beliefs without it eating away from the more essential and necessary aspects of living life on earth in the here and now? The fact that we can’t know the unknown doesn’t give us free rein to believe or makeup whatever we want and then expect others to conform to our delusion or half baked idealism.

Now it is time to shake off these dreamy scales and become something other than an automated version of me. Assuming this is even possible, where might be a good place to begin; embrace another group mentality to reconstruct another personality or lose my sense of personage altogether by becoming a hermit deep in the forest? Nah, let’s not and say we did. But that would be a lie, which has landed me in this conundrum in the first place. Here’s a better idea, me thinks: Let’s begin with the truth. If it’s true then it’s most likely real, which ought to give us some traction. Cut the crap, for a more lucid map.

So what can we learn by observing the night sky; everything and nothing. It depends on how and why we look at things and the way those things relate with one another. In some respects we see ourselves looking back at some notion of a ‘me’. This ‘will’ we experience as a self-preserving agent seems to exist in everyone and everything on some level. All those stars that appear to be out there may in truth be in here, as in being inside my-self, an inverted universe of multiplicity, like a spider that sees 9 images of me when in truth there is only one. See the ant attempting to untangle itself here? Only a few bites out of my new leaf on life and I’m already losing myself to the wonder of it all. Oh to be real again while sustaining a b flat note near the middle c on this grand piano of life.

About Philosopher Muse

An explorer of volition and soul, a song under a night sky and a dream that forever yearns to be.
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7 Responses to An Ode To Be Real

  1. “everything and nothing.” That says it all. It all depends on what we are looking for. I recall the story of the blind men trying to study an elephant. One had the tail thought it was a vine. Another had the leg and thought it was a tree trunk. One pushed the side and thought it was a wall. I am paraphrasing the story as I can’t remember specifics, but the reality is the same: we are all looking for different things at different times in our lives. I used to long for eternity. Now I look forward to tomorrow. Solid post as always, my friend.

    • Thank you, amigo, I appreciate your kindness and the relevant analogy. Looking for different things at different times pretty much sums it up. As implied, each ‘stage of life has its own constitution.’ Here’s another metaphor by Seneca should the parable of the blind men and an elephant fail to express the subtleties and/or nuances required for detecting the changes that come about through process and time:

      “For even a blade of wheat, which will eventually yield a crop, has one constitution when it is young and scarcely taller than the furrow, another when it has gained strength and stands on a stalk which, though soft, can bear its weight, and yet another when it grows golden and the grain hardens in the ear, forecasting harvest time. Whatever constitution the plant arrives at, it retains and adapts to.” —Seneca, Letter 121.15

      • I picked up a copy of Seneca’s “Letters” at a book store over the weekend. I’ve only read snippets in the past, but I plan to give it a thorough read thanks to your inspiration. I also finished reading Camus’s “The Stranger” this weekend. In the scene where the protagonist’s lawyer is trying to get him off the hook for murder, the lawyer proclaimed, “Everything is true and nothing is true.” As I read the passage, the words reminded me of this present conversation.

      • Delighted to have been a motivating factor in your decision to obtain a copy of Seneca’s letters. May you glean from each correspondence its maximum benefit: “We ought neither to read exclusively nor write exclusively… One must do both by turns, tempering one with the other, so that whatever is collected through reading may be assimilated into the body by writing.” (Seneca, Letter 84.2 ) Consider writing a summary for each letter, and gather excellent quotes.

        Let’s be careful to avoid falling into the murky depths of sophistry. Indeed, everything is true, in a relative sense, yet without a relational value and an appropriate intention to qualify its context we are treading in dubious water. “Besides, if Zeno understood the word one way but meant us to take it in another, then he made the ambiguity of a term the occasion for deceit, and one ought not to do that when truth is one’s object.” – Seneca, Letter 83.11

      • Writing a summary is a great tactic for synthesizing understanding of a reading. Dually noted on the sophistry. Context is key.

  2. The question of how useful it is to ponder the metaphysical is an interesting one. An unsettling one as well. Looking up at the stars, reading philosophy, and trying to make sense of everything can be immensely fulfilling. But there are also times when it all seems too overwhelming to be worthwhile–when it feels like it would be better just to get on with the work of living rather than think about why we’re doing it or what it all means. Since there’s so much that we’ll never know, it can be discouraging to want to ‘know’ at all. But the compulsion to learn and ponder and grow is there, and irresistible to boot. I think you summed that up nicely.

    • Thank you for relating to my prose with such idyllic strokes of observation but don’t feel hesitant to use your teeth should the occasion call for it. Barking on the other hand remains strongly discouraged.

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