It is an old lesson. A gift becomes a curse. The Greeks warned us. Kronos, the god of time, trapped to spend eternity in the pit. And later, Zeus gave Pandora a box which, when opened, released all the world’s troubles and plagues. Hope was the sole remainder. The filmmaker Errol Morris once pessimistically noted that hope wasn’t left as a blessing; the promise that life would improve was the final plague. Lately I have made the mistake of taking months of free time as a gift; a chance to seriously write that I had no chance to forfeit. But time shifts. It strays from the light of our brightest notions. For more than a week I’ve found it harder to write than at almost any other period of my life. It is impossible to focus. The world outside is sick, on fire, flat broke. It feels absurd to try to hit the keys on my laptop artful. So when I fail I read to find insight or explanations. Heraclitus said, “The only constant in life is change.” Philosophies of uncertainty are built on proverbs like that. And if you read enough of them it feels almost like choking.
I don’t know where I will be by the end of summer. I’m waiting for the final word from Texas. I’m waiting on a dozen other states. I’m waiting to hear from the publisher who wanted my full manuscript. Seneca says we exist with a, “mind that is in suspense.” I’m waiting for reason.
Bertrand Russell states, “The value of philosophy is…largely in its very uncertainty.” Kierkegaard argues, “Truth is subjectivity.” Taoism asks you to flow one moment into the next. Buddhism asks you to give up on expectations and attachments. The same lecture in a thousand voices. Fresh tragedies drop us to our knees. The box isn’t empty yet.
As an agnostic toward the power of advice I would make a bad philosopher. Still I am hardwired to wish that understanding and kindness win this turn. The Persians said, “This too shall pass.” Heisenberg and Bohr hung quantum mechanics on the uncertainty principle. There is no method to predict. There is nothing unmoved to hold. I’ve swallowed all the proverbs and principles I can find, but none satisfied. So I wait out the hunger pains; run to stay still inside. I find quiet spots to read or hit the keys, and wait for the next-in-line fated to fall. And it is so tempting to picture myself wiser when it does; to have faith that we mature into our best revisions.
“In Praise of the Telescopic Perspective” Maria Popova
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