If I understand him correctly, Sigmund Freud preached a radical idea that quickly and firmly rooted itself in its mortal hearers. The idea? “If you want to be happy, blame your parents.” He didn’t want us to blame our parents for the trivial things like the shelter they provided or the food and water, but rather for the really important things or questions like, “Why do I hate myself?” and “Why can’t I keep my marriage together?” and “Why do I only like sex when it’s with strangers?”–you know, the really earth-shattering questions that must be solved if we’re to advance as a species.
Maybe it’s because I’m an honorary member (no voting rights) of MENSA, but I for one didn’t need Freud’s teaching to know that all of my problems were somebody else’s fault. But some of you might not be so smart, and so I want to start a movement. I want to be a movement initiator, the same title Marcus Borg used for Jesus of Nazareth. Unlike Jesus, my movement is to rid history of Freud’s influence. Too much of my time (and yours I’m guessing) is spent trying to figure out just how large a role my parents had in causing my life’s negative circumstances. (Oh, Dad, sorry, here’s the belated *.) Because I just don’t give a fuck anymore. I dream, I fantasize about what life must have been like before Freud. To just deal with problems as they come and quit imagining that happiness is possible if I only pinpoint exactly which spanking (all of them undeserved, as I remember it) led to me marrying my ex-wife.
Give me a break.
(The one after church on Sunday, August 30th, 1992 is my conclusion, btw).
Instead of Freud, I’d ask that we turn to Martin Heidegger, and eventually Him. Heidegger, a human, suggested that even as late as in the 20th century, philosophers were not asking the right question. The right question being, “Why do we wish to escape life?” Freud offers the idea that life can be better if we affix blame correctly; Heidegger, that life cannot be better as long as we keep trying to escape it.
Life is not in the past, it is not in the future. Life is right now.
The sound of the car door closing should have woken them. In any case, he was too excited to care. Up the stairs he went. Listening first for what he hoped to never hear, he finally knocked on their door.
“What?” his mother asked.
“I’m home.” he replied opening the door.
“Good…” she acknowledged.
“‘THE MATRIX’ IS THE BEST MOVIE EVER!!!” he burst.
“That’s great. Tell me about it in the morning.”
“No, you don’t understand, I have to go see it again. You have to see it. Dad, what are you doing tomorrow night? I mean, I could feel my jeans shaking from the bass it was so loud.”
That was me. April 1999.
In the fall of 1999 I learned that the ancient Greek’s had mused that we could all really just be brains in jars being stimulated to believe life as we know it is happening. Wow. I cannot tell you how powerful that one fact was. That begged the question, “What else did people thousands of years ago think about that is being presented as new today?”
Around the same time, this knowledge became slightly depressing. If “The Matrix” was actually thousands of years old, what hope did we have for ever thinking something new?
A decade later, I stumbled upon Heidegger. Intense. Taken together, Heidegger and a plagiarized Matrix have revealed how wrong the famous “to remain ignorant of history is to remain forever a child” saying is.
Love history, study history, worship history; just don’t believe that you’re somehow better for it. More and more it is becoming clear to me that “life” is perfectly synonymous with “now.” Simply acknowledging this gives me all the hope I need. Anxiety disappears.
For the doubtful reader, the best argument I can muster is the following personal story.
I attended college from 1999-2003. I am back in college for kicks right now. If you’ll allow my other writings to qualify me to make an observation, it seems US universities are really only interested in one thing: “How to Prevent the Holocaust.” The Stanford Prison Experiment. The Milgram Experiment. Professors and students alike stand in awe of their revelations. Somehow they miss the elephant in the room. They miss that humans are totally capable of taking part in another holocaust. This direct attempt to prevent the holocaust will not work. To accomplish the goal, universities would be better served if they backed up a step and challenged students to accept responsibility for the present. As I’ve written before, this idea of building a [fill in the blank] future is fundamentally flawed.
The only way I see to prevent another holocaust is to live for right now. I’m not talking about “immediate gratification.” I’m talking about an idea I first heard from Peter Drucker. In his book “Management,” he discusses that the Hippocratic Oath doesn’t apply only to the medical field. In his book, he makes the case that managers in any business have to live by it as well. I’d go a step further and say everyone should use it as a guide. Drucker paraphrases the oath down to, “Do no knowing harm.” Implied is you can’t “do” the future. You can only “do” the present.
By way of example, while deployed I hung on my wall some of the Samurai’s Bushido-type sayings. One was, “Courage is living when it is right to live, and dying when it is right to die.” I can tell you I have put a lot of though into it, and if the situation presents the “my life or me taking another’s life” dichotomy, I’m choosing the bullet. The German people chose poorly. They seem to have thought, “Even though this is wrong, if I do it now, at least I’ll make it to the future.” Wrong. No way am I making the same choice. Only someone avoiding “the now” could murder on command. Personal story turned rant over.
To recap, (“The Matrix” + Ancient Greek Philosophy + Martin Heidegger – Cicero + (Two x College) + Peter Drucker + Bushido) x Me^Infinity = Philosophy or interpreting existence is fascinating to me. What’s your story?
I recently took an undergraduate philosophy course for pay. (Highly recommended if you get the chance.) Martin Heidegger was the thinker we studied the most. That man knew how to philosophize. The professor had us read Heidegger’s, “Phenomenological Interpretations with Respect to Aristotle: Indication of the Hermeneutical Situation.” Quite the title, no? Apparently, this paper put him on the map.
It is extremely difficult to read. Supposedly this was purposeful. It seems Heidegger’s intent in everything he did was to get people to live in the moment. He wrote with such depth and complexity that his readers can’t be thinking about something else and understand what he was trying to communicate.
So what made this paper so important? In it, Heidegger argues that the time has come for someone (himself in this case) to remind humanity that no matter how smart we think we are, we don’t actually want to find answers to our questions. We don’t actually want the ‘seeking for truth’ to conclude. As in, we think we do, but that’s only because we have a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be human.
That might not sound radical upon first reading. Think about it this way. There are several problem-solving techniques. One in particular has six steps. 1. Recognize the problem. 2. Gather the data. 3. List the possible solutions. 4. Test the possible solutions. 5. Select a solution. 6. Implement the solution. Heidegger was given a place at the table because he convincingly argued that life is always and only about step one, or recognizing the problem. He wrote this while other great thinkers of his day (and today) made arguments regarding how to perform step six, the final step. “Implement the solution.”
There are some thinkers today who concern themselves with prescriptive philosophy. They recommend things like censoring children from religion because research shows that once people internalize the scientific method they don’t return to their childhood faith. In his paper, Heidegger questions this whole concept. He basically argues that the idea of doing everything according to a logical system which centers around adding longevity to our lives is an escape. We shouldn’t be trying to build Utopia. I take his writing to argue that this Utopia some seem to be striving to create would rob life of meaning. What is more important, more difficult, and more worthy is continually defining our existence. Why do we want to live forever? What is appealing about world peace? What does a world of well-fed people actually look like? This is because no matter what answers the past has given us, the very nature of the questions demand continual asking. For all I know, the Greek philosophers didn’t even exist. What do I care what their answers were?
Thousands of years into our existence one man was still able to gain notoriety by simply reminding us that the fun part of living, or what might be more easily understood as the ‘being’ part of human being, is step one. That is, recognizing the problem. And that’s how to philosophize.