Late-Night Philosophy

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Day 2 of the experiment starts with a loud sound. There’s much I want to look at on my computer and yet I sit in front of a blank page and hope for the best.

Last night was another long night. I’m reading a book that documents the philosophical journey of the writer who asks the question about Why Do We Exist? It’s been a while since I trolled philosophy. After majoring in philosophy in college, my interest waned, jumping between religion and nihilistic tendencies. Reading through the book, I remember why it waned. I enjoy the discourse but digging beneath the logical surface, I run into emptiness.

What has become apparent—and probably something I never grasped when studying in school—is that the purpose of study is to build upon the brilliance of others. Like the original bricks in a castle, what came before not only helps define the future, it is the very foundation of that future. To keep with the clichés, not studying earlier thinkers results in having to reinvent the wheel when trying to design an automobile. There are more difficult problems that are made easier with the foundation. The earlier philosophers that I studied provided that foundation. Their thoughts made it easier to talk about subjects and ask the more important questions.

Sorry for the interruption. Doolies called to ask about scheduling doctor appointments. It’s amazing how many doctors you have to see during pregnancy and post-pregnancy.

What is weird about reading the philosophy book is that I’m doing it at strange times and without adequate sleep. I find myself at four or five in the morning with my Kindle resting on my knee reading through dark thoughts about the meaning of Nothingness. It does provide an interesting counterbalance to the small life that I’m holding in my arms as he sucks on the bottle, gurgling, and groaning about too much gas or not enough holding, or perhaps the wrong positioning of his head. With small babies you never can tell what they’re thinking. The best you can hope for is to hope for a few hours of quiet sleep to catch up on your own.

Not that I’m complaining. At least trying not to complain. But getting back to the philosophy book, reading it in the night’s darkness with my head still muddled with sleep, the questions of existence, religion and the workings of the universe strike me in the forehead with a resounding thud. I’m at times scared, bored, and exasperated as the author mines the history of philosophy and discusses the Big Question with the prominent thinkers of our time.

I want to draw more horribles today. I also want to redesign my website, move my hosting to Azure, write a phone app, and do everything in the hours that babysitting and day care provide, while also catch up on work, prepare for the new year, and do the small things that keeps me living and breathing, like eating, showering, taking a moment for myself—or 30 moments, as this exercise demands.

Put a few more minutes on the clock, as I chat with a colleague from work. I can take small interruptions. I actually crave them, but don’t tell the exercise gods.

The other thought the philosophy book raised was questions around some of my Jewish questing. In working with a local rabbi, I was particularly impressed by some of the philosophical depths of the religion. He would say that the religion is incredibly and powerfully consistent (if you accept the early and relatively basic premises). What I’m realizing—and what the book pointed out—was that some of the bedrocks of this thinking was based not on ancient Jewish thought, but on early Christian philosophy. The author states this matter-of-factly, and while he’s Christian in upbringing, there’s no reason that it not be true. I’m not sure why that fact should make such a difference. I don’t know why I want my religion to be intellectually pure and true. But when it’s not, it adds additional flavoring to my internal debates about its validity and the Big Question around the purpose of life: or why is there anything here at all.

I guess I’m still in that dark place. But, to be fair, it’s a cozy dark place. There’s nothing scary or depressed about it. I feel privileged to be living my life, to have two beautiful children, and a wonderful wife, in a great house, a rewarding (at times) job, and two miserable dogs. Okay, we can probably leave our poor iggies out of it—as Doolies keeps birthing new friends for us, their lot in life keeps getting worse. It is a dog’s life, after all.

I want to finish my coffee but I’m going to resist, as my intake of caffeine has increased exponentially to my loss of sleep. I want to avoid the world where I need three cups in a morning even as I barrel toward that new reality. Two more months, I hope.

As much as I complain, it’s not that bad (with the right dosage of coffee). By midmorning I forget about the interrupt sleep and the early morning waking. And now, with energy gone and the last minutes ticking away, I call this Interval fulfilled. Here’s to bigger, clearer future thinking.