Tuesday, June 10, 2014

One hundred

Blogger tells me this is my one-hundredth-post published. There are six drafts of concepts either abandoned or stalled, and a poem I'm embarrassed to share.

I think today is the day I begin the rest of my life. I think I'll look back much later and smile at remembering that teaching is what I want most to do, and sometimes, sometimes, I have to learn the lesson better in order to teach it well.

My life to this point has been, ..., fraught. Through this, life has taught me submission. Through submission, she has taught me love, discipline, joy, peace, rest, glory.

Now I have turned to face down my shadow, tired of running and self-abandoning away from friends. None of you, the few of you, recognize who I am beneath all this fear, but you remember, better than I, what greatness you felt.

I am shipwrecked, foundered. I am found. I now see, with cunning and craft, shameless virginity. My heart is healed, but beneath, an entire well of words and storm of ideas, rage the entire system now come alive and clear, finally, after all, on the one account too late, to be of their service, but now to our account, at the appropriate time.

No project was worthless. No goal went unfulfilled that I didn't want to satisfy, but I took too many easy paths to cheap vanity. Even in my monstrous failures, I learned the lesson. There is only one lesson, though all the words and all the context are different.

I am in every position in every way justified to feel fear, anxiety, terror, and shame. But here is where I say Yes. I do not feel those things. I feel uncertainty. I feel risk.

I feel submission. Here, submission means work. Submission means fighting for what I want. But the fight is never against any other, not even the other other in me. The fight is with myself, to teach myself better, so that I will teach well.

Pascal is right: infinite happiness is worth putting aside the choices in your life so far. Pascal performs the Monty Hall problem. The Many Gods is not an objection for his argument, any more than multiplying the doors presents a problem for Pascal.  Go ahead, add some doors. Add as many you like. Make it infinite doors. Pascal already does in his Wager, and nobody much talks about it except those philosophers who also do history and primary texts (Google satisfies the Phaedrus's warning against writing: everyone can look 'facts' and 'truths' up in the books stored away always in those phones of infinite holding, but fewer and fewer of them know what to think and how to think through the truths and the facts, the words and the ideas, the arguments themselves. Knowing all sciences, they became fools, though once they were wise, for learning was their memory). What Pascal does is emphasize so powerfully that this universe, for all our loudness, is very quite quiet. It is silent. It is empty. It says nothing to us, when we try and listen with our accustomed ears and our trained habits of hearing. Except... sometimes there is an act of grace before grace.

All the doors are thrown open but one and the door you had chosen for life. All the rest of the doors, they're empty. They are silent. There is nothing behind those open doors. None of those doors gives a prize, because behind each one of those doors is the same darkness, the darkness that's the same on every planet, in every cave, in every cavity in your body in vacuum. The void is in all things, behind all things, beyond all things, and it is the exact same void wherever there is not. So, out of an infinite number of doors, against all odds the gamesmaster, the PascHall, says to you, "I have opened all the doors. See how they stand empty. Now remain: just this one and the one you have been choosing your whole life."

You know this problem already. This is the Monty Hall problem, but it's also Pascal's setup. And Pascal's question: will you not choose infinite life of infinite happiness and lose nothing, or choose nothing and lose nothing? So, knowing now the two patterns are connected into the same puzzle about our existence, isn't it *better* to switch?

He is right: not having yet chosen is already a choice to remain distracted rather than start seeking and listening to the fear for once, when all the doors are thrown open to reveal the *utter silence* behind them, when he shows you there are no things behind any of the doors, he leaves you with just two doors. You have always already been choosing the door you have when you come into this arrangement. Your whole life to this point is you choosing that door. "Yes, but nothing better has come along, and I think it's prudent to hold onto what I have. After all, as Tversky and Kahneman have shown, humans are motivated by loss aversion more than they are by the motivation for better-to-come."

But this just proves how right Pascal is: you will not choose even though you know mathematically that it is always better to change your choice. And this is your bondage to your choice, to your will in its gravest error, despite all the odds. (Notice this, though: it is the same resolute spirit who chooses to remain in bondage as the one who chooses to switch. We must all own our choice, but first we must own the owning of choices.

We know mathematically it is always better to let it go and switch to the other option, when all the doors are empty behind them.

Of course, we know what happened with Pascal. Behind the door he switched to, he found the Christ Messiah Lord, body of Christians, Lord of Extremes-United-in-Him, the one who crossed over the abyss without fear, Jesus the Mystery.

Some people, though, find other things. I argue, Heidegger reached a very similar point: see B&T.II.2. The call to attestation nearly maps onto the Wager all the way, right up to when Heidegger declares the call is from Dasein. He is right and wrong: he is right, it is from within Dasein and outside and over Dasein, and all the rest &c, but he is wrong to think in the next breaths it is solely Dasein alone who calls to Dasein calling Dasein forth and up to its ownmost potentiality-for-Being. Pascal's approach is still correct: remove any attempt to filter from whom the call comes and submit to ever it is. He only allows himself "etant sans etendue, ni bornes" (add accents later) I think Van Kelly is right on this point: we need to pay attention and notice here that Pascal has so far removed what this Being is or can be from our prejudices about the divine, the god, that he suspends at this moment of temptation in talking about it as any named, titled thing. And he does this by having stated that he had submitted before and after his writing, and he submitted before and unto that Being without parts or limits. By still using the limit of Dasein and holding Dasein responsible for its own calling, Heidegger naturally sets up the consequences of that act of hubris in not properly submitting to the Being without parts or limits: he must fill in that call's silent content with the attestation within Dasein of it's own Being-guilty for its nullity of Being in others. Well, yes. Heidegger has to make up for his own choice in his own disclosing of this moment in the life of the soul, and he can only see his way out by holding his Self, the Self he creates in the narratival disclosure that is practically Cartesian in its ahistoricality, inventiveness, autopoesis, responsible. He cannot blame his own Being-as-writing-his-thoughts for the choice Heidegger the philosopher-didact made; he must blame the character Dasein in the story.

Heidegger comes so very close to Pascal, and he throws it all away. So when Heidegger switches doors and finds authenticity, it's the gas chambers he finds on the other side, one of the more gruesome ways we can nullify Being. He learned a dangerous lesson in this, a Rozier maxim and principle of all life: you always fail the first time. He opened that door, and it was empty. And like with any door you chose, you can always let it go and switch doors.)

But you already know what's behind the door you chose. You know how the Monty Hall problem works.

You know what's behind the door in your current life. See all those other doors people have chosen are empty and nothing. Learn from this.

Do not fear the silence. Choose another path.

1 comment:

  1. Over a year ago you helped me find the courage to switch, for which I am eternally grateful. I wish for you all happiness.


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