MONDAY, 11 JULY 2005
We all have opinions of each other. Some people might be slightly shocked if they knew what I really thought of them, and equally so I might be shocked and perhaps indignant if I knew the low opinion some people have of me.
Before I tell people how seriously I regard their opinion though I would like to ask them to explain the scales they use to weigh other people. My suspicion is that the scales many people use are primitive thrown-together instruments that could just as well have come straight from the middle-ages.
If you can present your case and convince me that your standards are reasonable, I will thank you for your honest and constructive opinion. But if I am not impressed by how you formulate your opinions, I will be clear in mine. Thank you for taking the trouble to form an opinion about me, I would say, but your opinion is ridiculous, and therefore need not be taken seriously.
(Unless … the person’s opinion of you threatens to turn into action that will undermine your chances of survival or your optimal functioning. In such a case, the person’s opinion does not necessarily need to be treated more seriously but the person must indeed be treated as an unsophisticated savage or a wild animal that can do serious harm to you.)
I now know this: you do not walk away from ten days of almost continual pain and discomfort in your face without at least a crack in your moral.
Notes from the last few days make it clear that a thought has been brewing. I am angry at myself, and it has to do with one thing: my life – and by life I mean the hours I am awake every day – is filled with tasks and objectives and projects that must be completed so that I can come up with more tasks and start with more projects, and pursue more goals. And then a bus hits me, and what will I regret most? Happiness. There is so fucking little happiness in my life that it makes me nauseous. And the opportunities I have for happiness are almost endless.
The past two weeks have been conducive for this insight – my dental discomfort, [N.]’s absence, all the tasks I have completed, my new computer, the editing of “Personal Agenda”, and yet … there are always more tasks, more projects, more objectives! There is no end to it! I work my fucking ass off! I worry myself to death about money and my next trip to South Africa and about how I appear! Get up, work, think, write, eat (worry about not getting fatter!), watch some TV (not too much because there are tasks waiting to get done), and then back to sleep. And then I get up again and shower and work and eat and pursue goals and then a bus hits me. And it’s all over. And the woman at the tea stall still makes tea every day, and children still go to English classes, and new TV shows are still made, and this Sunday there is a new feature movie on HBO.
And there I stand on the other side of the Great River, and I realize: tasks are important; goals are important; projects deliver results of a meaningful life. But if it did not bring you happiness, not just in your so-called life but in your hours every day, was it then truly a life worth the hardships, the humiliations, the embarrassments, and the toothache?
The time has come to cultivate a new voice: the Voice from the Other Side.
The Voice of Reason might say: X = 2. The Voice from the Other Side will say how much it matters – from the other side.
Anything that exists or has ever existed outside of what you can experience at the present moment or that you can perceive with your senses is faith – or perhaps rather, it can be placed on a scale of probability. All historical “facts” are compiled versions of past events that we believe happened, and as it is told to us. We can only believe that this is true (or was true) because our consciousness and any firsthand experiences that we may be storing as memories do not stretch beyond our own lives and the place or places where we have lived this life.
It is therefore not so much about faith but where we draw the boundaries of believability, and specifically what we believe in.
The fact is we cannot function without faith – that tomorrow would for example be similar to last Tuesday in terms of work schedule and other activities, is faith. We can only believe that Napoleon or Julius Caesar or Aristotle ever existed; they cannot convince our senses of their past existence. We believe they existed, because we read about them or we read what they have written.
Finally, a useful intellectual exercise may be answering the following question: What is the difference between belief in the existence of any god, and belief that Julius Caesar really existed?
[Probability that a person such as Julius Caesar could actually have existed versus probability that any particular deity could exist is probably a good start.]