Twenty-Four Hours: On Erotic Love and Long Haul Flights

With transit in Saigon and Paris, my flight time reaching Tel Aviv is exactly twenty-four hours.

The transition is not merely countries, but I will be leaving the peaceful safety of my home and into the occupied territories, where armed soldiers freely walk with AK47s and are at liberty to interrogate and take what they want from me, where people are killed by snipers from long distances and where one can be detained without charge. Am I afraid? From the world’s most liveable city to a refugee camp, from the freedom of my life in Australia into the restricted and immobile space where I am at a much higher risk of being killed? Of course I am scared.

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It is in moments like this where you are confronted with guilt or with regret, where you find yourself wishing you could have said something that you buried within, or even reminisce on love and all that is beautiful and sad. Who are you and what have you done with your life? Who do you love, your family, friends? We can all imagine ourselves to be as honest as St. Augustine, but the truth is that most of us are – either intentionally or unintentionally – liars, especially when things are comfortable. We sometimes knowingly deceive and try to keep up appearances despite the utter exhaustion and anxiety doing this, and other times we are genuinely unaware of what we or others are doing. The long-haul flight has me thinking about the past, present and future, sometimes the echoes of the pointlessness of my existence and the futility in everything that I do, but mostly I think about what it is that I want in life.

The Past: Erotic Love

As I meander through Ho Chi Minh airport waiting in transit, the endless supply of lollies and souvenirs compelled me to crunch down some freeze-dried durian crisps, despite the empty calories. I am an extreme minimalist although I am a great cook, eating what is necessary as Dozer from The Matrix would approve given the sludge they ate: “It’s a single-celled protein combined with synthetic aminos, vitamins, and minerals. Everything the body needs.” These delicious pieces of dried fruit are not what the body needs neither was the disgusting airline food, so I do feel guilty. I then remind myself that it is a much deserved delight given the next twelve hours will be spent flying into Paris and the anxiety of having to sit in close proximity beside a stranger is too difficult to digest, so let me digest something sweet!

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It initiates thoughts leading to this confession. I am not going to deny it, but despite all that I do – from my profession to my creative pursuits, or hiking and travelling – it seems that only one man has occupied my thoughts for a long time. I will admit that over the last three and a half years, I have thought about him everyday and I oscillate between love and anger, hope and hopelessness, the latter becoming more and more ever since he made it abundantly clear when he recently refused to even say hello despite seeing me. I think the reason he never left my thoughts was because my heart was unsettled, because he never allowed me to speak or to retrieve the answers I needed to lay things to rest.

The truth is, I did love him. There, I said it! Although it is completely insane, that is what I felt and I was embarrassed to admit that for a number of reasons, claiming it was brotherly love. It wasn’t. I was compelled by erotic love. Everything about him was wrong, reason and logic told me something completely different because he behaved like a moron and his lifestyle remains far from anything that I would admire or respect, but I still felt something. It was terribly confusing. It is like my intuition spoke to me without words and told me he was the one and that has never happened to me before, not with anyone. It was everything else that was sensible and logical telling me to run the other direction, to push him away and indeed all his wrongdoing created the silly things that occurred between us.

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I often asked myself what did he want as I hated all the games and feeling like I needed to lie just to communicate with him – which was why I was compelled to confront him physically as though saying ‘here I am’ with my presence – but then I realised the question I should be asking is what do I want? He once said to me that his girlfriend controls him and he has no idea how, which I guess is not that surprising. I cannot be with a man who doesn’t know what he wants, where I would have to manipulate and indirectly convince him to stay with me. I want a man to want me and for him to clearly articulate that, as an equal, someone who feels a strong desire to be my friend and admires me for what I do and how I think. The question what do I want? was enough to make me stop chasing a ghost and to really think about the value of my own personhood and I guess in some respects I should thank him for that.

I can write about everything wrong about him, but the reality is that I loved him and he doesn’t know neither did he reciprocate any feelings, that I have traditional standards of male/female courting and that I am someone that a man needs to earn and fight for, a challenge he refused. An unrequited love story really, nothing spectacular. It feels great admitting that I really did have feelings for him rather than trying to make excuses or attack him or deny my feelings as I have been doing for quite sometime. I felt something real and it was very powerful.

I have left the possibility of encountering him in public with the hope he may be encouraged to say something to me, I have moved far away and intentionally disconnected from the online forum where his ghost haunted me and what originally compelled me to return. I don’t mind indulging in the hope that he may one day find the courage to sit with me and talk as two adults and two friends, something I would have been deeply grateful for and perhaps the reason for my activities the last year. But sometimes you have no choice but to live with the scar. I smile at my now healthy, plump 59kg body that is no longer starved as I was several years ago, of how I am no longer sad and heartbroken as I was when flying out to Italy in 2015. I am rested,  my soul at peace today. My voluptuously athletic womanhood is a testament to the improvement of my mental health and I look forward to meeting someone else who has the courage the person I fell for lacked, to find a man that is not vain and who does not tolerate the things I find intolerable. I am eager to fall in love again as the new me.

 

The Present: Me

It was only a few hours before I landed in Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to pass the horrible time flying for almost twelve hours that I watched Tomb Raider with Alicia Vikander who was refreshing for her honest and powerful appearance and I suddenly understood what envy can feel like.

I want adventure!

 

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And here I am on my way to make a documentary. Suddenly, I am overcome by the dread that I will ruin everything because of my lack of experience, especially with audio. As said by George Lucas:

“I feel that sound is half the experience… filmmakers should focus on making sure the soundtracks are really the best they can possibly be because in terms of an investment, sound is where you get the most bang for your buck.”

My thoughts seemed to be occupied by the fear I am going to ruin the whole experience because I am not that confident in my audio skills. I have a Takstar SGC-598 Shotgun Microphone that I will use on a Panasonic GH4 and I have tested it and it works perfectly well. It is directional, however, and in the case of filming groups of people in a room, the audio will clearly need to done more adequately. I could not afford wireless lavalier mics to attach on the main people, although I do have one Rode wired lavalier with an extension cord that I can connect to the DSLR and great for any one person interview I might do. To manage the group thing, I needed a condenser microphone that I could attach to a boom, but the costs of anything good and the weight it would add to my pack made it an issue for me given that I am completely broke. I instead purchased a Tascam DR-40 that I believe works really well in concert environments and any echoes can be removed in post. I may try and attach the Tascam to a boom pole with some duct tape if I have trouble feeding the voices into the inbuilt mics. I wish there were inflatable boom operators slash audio experts I could take with me!

Take a deep breath, I think to myself, and remember this is just something small, something so many others have done before me. I am learning, experiencing, going on an adventure both morally and mentally. And I am excited.

 

The Future: My Family

I open the window to see the sunrise before we land in Tel Aviv and such is the beauty! The slithers of pastel pink and purple wave over the tidal sky like sand underwater, burnt orange shattering the horizon that blinded me from the screen in front of me that played the pianist Shoshana MichelA Prelude to A Dream, perfect for this moment between me and the stunning sunrise high above the clouds. The contrails left from the planes tear across the skyscape like a sword slicing through fog, the lid of grey mushrooms below was blinded by the glare until suddenly the light came together and awakened the view.

It is nice to stretch the legs after such a long flight where I was trapped in the window isle for twelve hours and I feel dystrophic. This exhaustion is aligned with my somewhat indifference to Paris and I am glad that I am leaving, despite the nationwide celebrations for winning the world cup. I am not a tourist, I like to get lost in cities walking around and visiting strange and quiet places, including gardeans and galleries. While I am happy for the country and intrigued by the politics behind sports that is reminiscent of the Roman Empire, it is not the time to feel like a mouse among millions of drunk people and the garbage they seem to produce.

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I think that my attitude is telling of how I am as a person, that while I am happy for others and what they choose to do with their life, I much prefer the quiet solitude of home. A home has always been what I wanted, for someone to actually love me where together we can provide for one another. It is funny, for most people that is normal, a given, but it is something I have never had and that safety and togetherness is what I long for. It is probably the reason why I feel a little glad that I am navigating back to my parents and have begun communication with them, building a new relationship and a new way of living. Despite the difficulties of a past of wrongdoing, my focus is only on the future and only strengthening our bond. To get to know them as they are or the people that they are and not because they are my parents.

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard

My mother has changed considerably, she is showing more affection and is responsive and happy, something that she never was before. My father has changed too, he is calm and we can have some great conversations about history and politics. He seems to have bonded well with my sister’s husband, Mark, who is American and I think he admires how he treats my sister and their daughter. He told me that I am the only person who he feared to hurt and always wanted my blessing and approval as I would always respond and fight back as a child, leaving home when I was very young because I disapproved of his behaviour toward my mothers, the violence culturally embedded and normalised.

While I admit that it is strange to have started a relationship with my parents, they still remain somewhat alien to me. I am not Turkish, I am not drawn to the culture at all and feel no connection to it. I felt more at home in Tel Aviv then I did trawling through the streets of Istanbul. I feel no emotional love for anything it offers other than the experience a tourist would have. It makes me understand them better and why we never connected or formed a bond. My siblings are a different story, there is still some work that needs to be done with them because they are not excused for their behaviour given that we were raised in the same environment and I was never as cruel as they had become. I was belittled for a considerable amount of time by most of them that I lost the opportunity to learn about my own identity.

My respect is something earned, however if I remove those expectations that I have in others and take a relativistic approach, that if I remove the emotions I feel for a negative history and instead try to understand who they are from a sociological and psychoanalytical method, I can work through the emotions that I feel and I simply love that challenge. It is navigating and creating a better future, a positive one.

 

The Desert of the Real

It was in Raymond Gaita’s book Romulus, My Father that exposed to me an intriguing thought. Romulus, living in an isolated town in Central Victoria, wrote letters to a woman, Lydia, back in his home country of Romania and she responded with the same feelings of affection that he had. His interest in her became so intense that he invited her to be his wife and she accepted. Yet, his deep and unswerving commitment to his principles put him into a state of disarray when Lydia betrayed him and married another man, developing into a madness that Raymond called, “a passion whose force and nature was mysterious and that anyone who came under its sway should be prepared to be destroyed by it.” This romantic love exposed the deeper vulnerability and loneliness he had within and the mysterious force is the powerlessness he felt for this isolation where a panic begins to manifest, so much so that insanity became the safer option than allowing the anxiety to continue and Romulus shut down, a man of resolute principles and dedication to his duty grew disillusioned before he gave up and admitted himself into an institution.

Kant explains the possibility of transcendence from learned knowledge, the ability to occupy thoughts that are independent from our experiences of them, an autonomy where we contribute to our own understanding of moral principles. Our cognition as children develops through conditioning that articulates the relationship between you and the external world through ‘good’ or ‘bad’ behaviour and we are automatically prompted to react with the same fight or flight response when confronted with a problem. It is an automaton mode of being or relation that is inherently limited and consciousness develops as our brain matures that enables one to become conscious or self-aware. Synaptic pruning occurs in all humans that sheds neural connections that are formed in the brain during childhood in order to make room for a more refined capacity for adult use. The young adult begins to experience conscious impressions of objects that enables him to experience a self.

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We become conscious of ourselves and this self-awareness lacks the solidity that we have in our orientation with the external world, a ‘nothingness’ between our mode of being and our interconnection within an object-oriented world. There are a number of barriers such as childhood trauma, lack of education or adequate guidance such as problematic parenting that disassociates this natural engagement with our own cognitive abilities. The social and religious constructs that are entrenched in our environment conditions one to respond against any deviation from the rules as ‘bad’ (fight or flight) that impoverishes our capacity to reach self-hood. The experience of independence and self-realisation becomes fragmented as we are not prepared to acknowledge the responsibility for our decisions and this is further thwarted by feelings of anxiety that deters us from proceeding down the rabbit hole of consciousness. It is like – for a moment – the plug in your brain that treated your existence as a safe, virtual reality awakens to see that reality is, well, real. The emotional response to this realisation is anxiety and it is anxiety because we simply do not know how to be ourselves. There is no language in this independence because we have never used it before and so we cannot explain and articulate our perceptions and identification to our experiences. This is referred to biblically as being born again, the path which is narrow and few are able to find it.

We naturally want to avoid anxiety and are compelled to things that give us happiness. Ignorance is devoid of these emotional responses. Like Romulus, we either retreat to insanity – a realm where one gives up entirely any cognition or responsibility that thus removes the pain of the emotions – or one completely conforms to a belief-system, society or even a person and in effect becoming what Hegel would call a slave where they lose their ability to feel because they get others to think for them. To avoid retreating, familial support can enable a gradual move toward transcendence or independent thinking however reliance on this is ambiguous particularly with the fact that in Australia 132 divorces occur every day and 1 in 4 children are exposed to domestic violence. As language is a tool that enables us to articulate and communicate our understanding, education becomes the primary necessity for building adequate knowledge that explains this ‘unknown’ self hood.

A person who has not been completely alienated, who has remained sensitive and able to feel, who has not lost the sense of dignity, who is not yet “for sale”, who can still suffer over the suffering of others, who has not acquired fully the having mode of existence – briefly, a person who has remained a person and not become a thing – cannot help feeling lonely, powerless, isolated in present-day society. He cannot help doubting himself and his own convictions, if not his sanity. He cannot help suffering, even though he can experience moments of joy and clarity that are absent in the life of his “normal” contemporaries. Not rarely will he suffer from neurosis that results from the situation of a sane man living in an insane society, rather than that of the more conventional neurosis of a sick man trying to adapt himself to a sick society. In the process of going further in his analysis, i.e. of growing to greater independence and productivity, his neurotic symptoms will cure themselves.

As it is a cognitive disposition that we each possess, we are not capable of retreating without forming an imagined meta-narrative, an abstract representation of reality that becomes an apparatus to form an identity within the margins of something imagined and that can be rationalised. Our temporal and spatial representations become linked to a faux ‘unity’ with our environment that conceptualises our identity as homogeneous and timeless, similarly like what Romulus felt when he fell in love with a picture and a letter. In romantic love, we form a symbiotic attachment as a way to possess our beloved and we imagine that this possession – which stems from that inner anxiety – is actually a real connection by framing it within a meta-narrative of true love and other imagined ideas drawn by social constructs and further fed by a false authenticity. It is a self-defence mechanism that enables us to experience the world without being overwhelmed by the emotional impact honesty and authenticity can have, which explains why people become very defensive when this fictional meta-narrative is openly discussed. Social constructs give validity to the imagined narrative and the more people do the same thing, the more real the experience becomes since there is a shared acceptance of this imagined transaction.

Love is something that we give. It is a process that is only enabled once we reach that state of transcendence because authenticity – which is a state of mind or how we interpret our perceptions and experiences – is necessary since love can only be real when we express it through this self-hood. That is, when our motivations and intent are no longer tainted by these imagined meta-narratives but expressed in synthesis or unity within ourselves. Without this, our engagement with the external world is about receiving – where people present themselves like a Hegelian slave by adhering to socially constructed archetypes – where they imagine they are connected to society – and yet there is really no inner connectedness. We are prompted or motivated by the need to be recognised by others and by adhering to social constructs we receive recognition. There is no giving. It is all about wanting. It is essentially a deep vulnerability and these superficial connections based on how well we perform socially only further alienates one from this self-awareness.

Most people are not even aware of their need to conform. They live under the illusion that they follow their own ideas and inclinations, that they are individualists, that they have arrived at their opinion as the result of their own thinking – and that it just happens that their ideas are the same as this of the majority

We each have layers of cognition similarly to the Freudian triptych between the Ego, Id and Superego, and Bandura explains these stages of cognitive development (coming of age) where consciousness, the unconscious, and our imagination structures our responses through socially learned expectations. Our motivations are filtered and controlled by probable reactions and rewards that we will receive from others. This is why people lie as though they are protecting themselves from punishment, just as much as these meta-narratives protect one from the pain of anxiety since our emotional responses can be just as unpleasant as the threat of punishment. Heidegger concludes that this anxious response is causally rooted to fear, the fear of something threatening and that compels us to lie and to be self-defensive. The cure is to overcome this fear, to have the courage to be actively engaged with your inner self and accepting the responsibility you have for this cognitive freedom and independence. Moral consciousness suddenly switches directions; it is about developing your own awareness and deciding your own moral standards where you are motivated by an authentic connectedness with your own being. One transcends the narrowness of the imagined narratives and the self-defensive responses to make decisions independently and thus become aware of our cognitive faculty and the possibilities of knowledge a priori and thus reach our epistemic capacity by overcoming all the barriers. It is a type of love for oneself, a belief or faith in your ability.

To have faith requires courage, the ability to take a risk, the readiness even to accept pain and disappointment. Whoever insists on safety and security as primary conditions of life cannot have faith; whoever shuts himself off in a system of defence, where distance and possession are his means of security, makes himself a prisoner. To be loved, and to love, need courage, the courage to judge certain values as of ultimate concern – and to take the jump and to stake everything on these values.

 

Forgiveness 

Words are physical. They can be as violent as hurting someone physically and carelessly scolding someone with hurtful words can be as violent as physically injuring them. I know this because I have experienced this and it hurts even more when these words come from people you love. They can penetrate deep as though poison that changes the way you feel, think and behave until you depart from such toxicity, where following the time needed to withdraw from both the experience and the spatial dependence you may have had, eventually recover enough to become conscious of your vulnerabilities. However, so many fear or feel trapped from departing or separating themselves from such people and to adapt to their circumstances delude themselves by normalising their experiences, conditioned to tolerate as though subconsciously believing some validity exists behind the experience. If you work with people who are terribly abusive, changing the layout of your desk is not going to alleviate the abuse. Those who prolong toxic relationships by making superficial changes are merely prolonging a bad environment and there appears to be no prompt in their mind to tell them that they are worthy or that they deserve better, their motivations filtered by socially learned expectations that react unconsciously to superficial rewards

The youngest of three sisters and one brother, I grew up in an environment where each of them mistreated me and it was not uncommon to hear you are dumb or you are ugly from them on a continuous basis, sometimes even harassing me to do things and threatening me if I did not oblige such as ostracising me from family activities. They would together justify their behaviour as though I deserved it. One attack after another they would nevertheless claim to be my fault. I was a non-person. And I tolerated the abuse – being only a child –  since all my siblings being older than me and being the people that I wanted to love and wanted to be close to, knew better than I did. I was a non-person to me too. In similar vein to a slave, I would serve them and silenced my own suffering almost to a pathological point where I was not even aware that I was even suffering. I was able to confront this self-awareness during the process of my transcendence where I came to recognise my self-worth and who I was. This reality was frightening to me because I never knew who I was or how to think for myself.

It was inspired when I first thought I loved a man and that mirrored a reflection of my own consciousness, that I actually existed, so when I thought he may have liked me in return it produced within me a severe anxiety. This anxiety exposed all the barriers that I created, those imagined ‘truths’ that I was a non-person and when this disintegrated, I was left with nothing but me. I became real. It was deeply disturbing and it exposed a vulnerability because I suddenly became aware of the abuse from my siblings and how much I had actually been injured by them. It took a long time from that point, but removing myself from the toxicity and with the right care, I recovered from the injuries and over time have healed.

The main way I know is  I have learnt that despite any antagonism towards me, I remain self-assured, that I do not believe in the antagonism. I believe in myself. I healed by having the courage to continue to learn and develop my own language or voice – despite being new to it – and I did this through continuous self-reflective practice. I found forgiveness because I found the ability to love, to give love. This forgiveness is primarily self-directed.

The Cycle of our Nature

Everything in the universe has a life cycle, where nature destroys and renews itself cyclically. For instance, stars are made from a fusion between two hot and light gases – hydrogen and helium – whereby in the core the former burns into helium and gradually begins to form heavier elements such as carbon.[2] Eventually, our sun – considered a yellow dwarf – will become an inert white dwarf but will continue to emit light as it will fall below the main sequence and it emits light as the temperature is still hot due to the presence of nuclear fuels until depleted, becoming black dwarf. Depending on the mass of the star, once hydrogen has been depleted the core will begin to contract [the helium is displaced and the outer surface begins to expand due to the thermal pressure and this contraction loses elements or materials] while the surface expands, leading them to either become supernova or a planetary nebula [the remnants of a supernova] though there are other types of nebulae such as protoplanetary that is causally a result of stars shedding or detaching from the surface.[3] Stars are also born in nebulas. The cycle eventually moves towards – as mentioned – white dwarfs, but also neutron stars where protons and electrons collide to form neutrons from the collapsed core of the star.

That is, a black hole, which is formed when matter is squeezed into a very dense space as a result of the stars’ supernova where the force of gravity is so great that it, collapses into itself. And yet, it is from a black hole that stars are born, driving the galaxy into continuity.[4] Life itself – along with a range of other factors – is only possible through the light emitted by stars, our very own sun a g-type main-sequence star with a temperature between 5,000 – 6,000K.[5] We can see stars such as Bellatrix with our naked eyes despite its distance of 244.6 light years[6] or 76.92 parsecs because it is 8.6x solar masses or the equivalent of 1.671 × 10^31 kg and is 3.16 times bigger than our sun with a radius of almost 2,200,940.06km.[7] All the stars will collapse and form into new ones and when our sun dies, our planet – which is pulled by the gravity of the sun – will ultimately float aimlessly into space until captured by the gravity of another star and be renewed once more. Perhaps intergalactic travel is the very reason why we have life on earth in the first place.

The cycle of our very own seasons is continuously rounded and renews every six months due to our perfectly precise location in orbit around the sun along with our moon orbiting around earth. The celestial sphere is an imaginary radius with earth fixed at its centre (since the earth’s position or axis remains fixed) and earths equator is aligned with the celestial equator, as are both the north and south celestial poles. Since the rotational tilt of the earth that sits at precisely 23.5° and its rotational axis around the sun, the ecliptic plane – which is the path of the sun in this sphere – as it travels and rotates the northern and southern hemispheres are doused with either more or less sunlight.[8] You can see this movement or rotation when the sun rises in the morning or sets in the evening, or as the stars move when gazing at night. The earths circular orbit around the sun and distant stars is the sidereal period, a sidereal day or for a star to reach the same point is 23.56 hours and they rise earlier each night [up to four minutes] as the earth rotates around the orbit.[9] Equinoxes are the rotation when the ecliptic touches the equatorial plane, and a summer solstice contains the most amount of daylight while the winter solstice contains the least or shortest amount.

Everything in nature is a cycle. Everything is born and then dies. As people living in a world where everything dies, including us, well then in that vanity what could possibly be our purpose?

Our capacity for self-reflective practice and to reverse the temporal arrow of time as our experiences remain locked in our memories, this pattern illustrates a cyclic repetition where we are able to study ourselves objectively. When one thinks of scientific cosmology, it is the study of the large, the whole and by understanding the origin, one is able to articulate the evolution and the properties that make up the universe. If we think of cycles, is the universe itself going to infinitely expand or is it going to collapse into itself, or is our universe only one of many ‘pocket’ universes each dying and creating new ones?

Hegelian cosmology is just that, a reality that “is composed of a plurality of finite persons”[10] inclusive of ourselves; being a finite property, our lives are finite and ultimately determined, however rather than analysing the individual components or properties that make our lives, the objects and properties become the tools that enable consciousness, allowing us to transcend and become aware of our personhood as being part of a greater ‘whole’ which, to Hegel, is a supreme Being; that is a part of God.[11] God has no contingent parts and consequently “God is Spirit.”[12] Questioning the nature of reality and being a part of this whole rather than an individual component, immortality or an eternal continuum becomes possible and that our very lives are also non-temporal.[13] If we are a part of something greater than ourselves, our death becomes meaningless and in our lives our only purpose or obligation is to the well-being of that which is greater than ourselves. It being practical, a moral application. ‘I’ may die, but ‘we’ continue to exist.

While it may appear that I am endorsing an atheistic naturalism, I must clarify that I am not here attempting to identify the existence of God through this thesis, but rather attempting to explicate why the transcendence of consciousness enables us to realise the significance of being morally responsible; what becomes our ‘purpose’ and St. Thomas Aquinas also developed a similar thesis that argued a continued existence is dependent on beings.[14] McTaggart who critiqued Hegel’ cosmology, believed that the “passing of time is an illusion, and that nothing ever changes.”[15] His interpretation of time involved a series of contrasts and incompatible determinations between past, present and future through two notions entitled A series and B series and that the world is composed of nothing but souls.[16] But questions of time are impossible to empirically verify and therefore should only be viewed symbolically as representative of our subjective place in an external world.

While we may be a product of a whole, where exactly do ‘we’ or our personhood – free will – come into being? It is sufficient to say that freedom is an extension of determinism, that we possess the faculty through rational knowledge and will that enables us the capacity to become self-aware. That is, consciousness is a product of this deterministic social whole, which is why those that attain this transcendence become aware of their moral obligations and the value of virtue. There is a temporal anomaly here: we get caught or stuck repeating the same mistakes and fail to transcend to this freedom or autonomous consciousness. When I think about individual experiences broken into a shattered narrative that I attempt to dissect and understand, who I am is intricate and complex but when I view myself as part of a sum of all my experiences, there is no longer a temporal domain, but I exist as I am in present and thus view the product of my being as part of the whole. Upon doing so, what I am becomes clear.

[1] Ecclesiastes 1:2
[2] John R. Gribbin, The death of the Sun, Delacorte Press (1980) 180
[3] John Bally, Bo Reipurth, The Birth of Stars and Planets, Cambridge University Press (2006) 181
[4] http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2009/12/new-discovery-supermassive-black-holes-create-their-own-galaxies.html
[5] Gunter Faure, Teresa M. Mensing, Introduction to Planetary Science: The Geological Perspective, Springer Science & Business Media (2007) 461
[6] http://www.astronomyenthusiasts.com/constellations/
[7] http://astropixels.com/stars/brightstars.html
[8] William Millar, The Amateur Astronomer’s Introduction to the Celestial Sphere, Cambridge University Press (2006)
[9] Ibid.
[10] Jacob Gould Schurman, James Edwin Creighton, Frank Thilly, Gustavus Watts Cunningham, The Philosophical Review, Cornell University Press, Volume 12 (1903) p 189
[11] M.J. Inwood, Hegel: Arguments Philosophers, Routledge (2013) 202
[12] John 4:24
[13] G. E. Moore, “Mr. McTaggart’s “Studies in Hegelian Cosmology”” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, New Series, Vol. 2 (1901 – 1902), pp. 177-214
[14] http://www.aquinasonline.com/Topics/essencex.html
[15] Brian Garrett, What is this Thing Called Metaphysics?, Routledge (2007) 76
[16] http://www.iep.utm.edu/mctaggar/

Can Anybody Hear Me?

“Can anybody hear me?”
I turn and peer into the darkness,
My mind a little weary.
The altitude kaleidoscope the chorus
Of a formless song. Sing,
“I’m here. I’m here.”

The volcanic light beneath my feet,
Erupting smoke pirouettes over me.
A gentle hand, a stroke across the cheek.
“Mother? Is that you?” Succumbed to ennui.
I choke, the fumes sting as I sing,
“I’m here. Can you see me?”

“Stay outside,” she left. I waited,
The sun a yellow frog for hours
Licked my skin, how I hated
This freckled disease. My fingers
Make shapes in the dust. Sing,
“I’m waiting. I’m waiting.”

A painting of colours, a golden heart
Beating blood of gemstones. Love,
So much love. So much love. Discard.
Suffocate the turtledove.
In the darkness I cry,
“Can anyone see me? Can anyone see?”

“I’m here. I’m here. Can anybody hear me?”
“I can hear you,” he said. Blue eyes
That whispered in the silent debris.
A heartless man in disguise.
“Where are you?” I cried. Please sing,
“I’m here. I’m here.”

Black laughter echo into the shadows,
The devil eats the flesh of love, and the
Drumming feet of the gestapo
Tap slowly towards my frightened heart.
Beat. Beat. Beat. I curl my lips. “Shhh.
Stay silent. Stay silent.”

“I should be happy with what I have.”
Following, copying, tricking the truth.
An ornament of love put on display.
A decoration on the mantel, a ruse.
“Where are you?” I whisper, with a tear.
“I’m here. I’m here.”

 

Dante: Love That Moves The Sun And Other Stars

What is love when no one understands you, when no one can see you for who you are? Esse Est Percipi, ‘To be is to be perceived’ as said by G. Berkeley.

Is the sadness you feel real when no one is there to comfort you, when you are alone and lying in bed thinking about how those that have hurt you are completely oblivious to such an experience, perhaps on the contrary where they believe that no wrongdoing exists at all? What happens when you speak of the wrongdoing and they deny you, perhaps reverse this and claim that you are the one with the problem, competing with you to prove they were right and settle the anxiety they feel for their own falsehoods? Playing games to make themselves believe that they are somehow better than you. Is this why when faced with facts they are suddenly stirred with an emotive viciousness that increases as though the louder and more assertive they are, the more right they become and the more people they gather to agree with them, the more likely you will be silenced? And is it the reason why we appreciate the truth with greater clarity when it is uttered through lies, fictitious stories and parables that explain moral symbols that become the hermeneutic source for our subjective capacity to interpret facts without confronting the harsh and abrupt reality of our own failures?

I spent my childhood wishing for a friend that never arrived and my tenderness and love remained protected by the isolation I endured as I hid away from those contemptible enough to enjoy tricking and humiliating me, laughing at my vulnerability and frightening me. The pain even greater when I hoped for kindness that I never received, as though I were manoeuvring through a hellish purgatory, wandering and wondering if there is anyone out there that can genuinely love. For Dante, this is symbolic of what we experience when we become conscious of love and his Divine Comedy is a poetic allegory that divides such an existential reality into what becomes the three stages of our soul’s journey towards God. The Inferno is that moment of consciousness, where one awakens to a reality where our actions and failures or sins become transparent as well as our aloneness on this dark journey towards hell. As we uncover our own self-deception, we see the treachery in others and the lies and games of those within our environment who pretend to goodness when they only seek the indulgences of this false reality. It is only when one admits to this fraudulence and seeks repentance, to apologise for our own misconduct and become morally conscious that enables an escape from hell and ascend toward Purgatorio, the mountain on which we begin to climb toward heaven in order to see the difference between what is genuine or pure and what is false. The desire to reach the summit is the motivation that compels us to become honest with ourselves and though lengthy the process and arduous the climb, we purge the soul of sin by attempting to embody true love. Dante means to show that if one would ever find this heavenly peace, it is only possible through love. To put it succinctly, one begins this divine experience when they genuinely fall in love.

My will and my desire were both revolved,
As is a wheel in even motion driven
By Love,
Which moves the sun and other stars.

Dante’ lifelong love was Beatrice and highlighted in his publications including La Vita Nuova that attempts to exemplify the provincial methods of courtly love in medieval Italy. Her presence in the Divine Comedy indicate her position in the symbolic experience of Dante as he traverses through these realms, initially falling into limbo as she prayed for Dante to be saved by Virgil – who embodies a person that is wise with virtuous attributes – during his decent into the Inferno. It is almost like she desired genuine love that Dante was not yet capable of giving and prayed that he would one day come to her as one wise and authentic. His experience in Purgatorio is a necessary step that he needs to make as he reaches out to Paradiso where Beatrice is then able to guide him toward the attainment of virtuous attributes that could make a man wise and constant. Dante believes that this love is divine and one must love another through God where she becomes the symbol that enables him to reach Paradiso as she embodies the desire for him to become a better man. Thus his admiration is not aroused by the physical beauty that she possessed, where such considerations merely compel a man to turn away from God, but for who she is and that led to the awakening and the transparency of his own soul and improved the clarity of his purpose.

She – as the sun who first in love shone warm
Into my heart – had now, by proof and counter proof,
disclosed to me the lovely face of truth.

Dante Alighieri was born in Florence in 1265 during the late Middle Ages and wrote the epic masterpiece The Divine Comedy in 1321. Love that moves the sun and other stars is reference to a number of cantos (III – XXXIII) in Paradisio. Dante epitomises the work itself, his biography is found within the cantos as it provides us with the magnificence of his imaginative scope and allusions to his own thoughts and experiences. Highlighting the influence of Beatrice in particular, it also includes figures such as Jesus and St. John along with philosophers such as St. Thomas Aquinas that helped solidify his faith in God. His family was embroiled in the politics of the time; clashes between rival factions the Ghibellines who were defeated by the Guelphs for which he was a member, soon thereafter found those loyalties broken when Dante was exiled following a division between the Guelphs (Black and White) that led him to be banished for supposed corruption. The treachery he experienced became a part of the Inferno hell that left him disillusioned for the deception and violence he witnessed, his exile the many years that it took through Purgatorio to learn the wisdom to ascertain the difference between right and wrong, all the while Beatrice stood as a beacon or “holy lamp” that helped light his way to the good life. Her death in 1290 was met with pangs of anguish that it almost appears that her place in Paradiso is his lifelong yearning to be with her in what would become his own paradise. Beatrice Portinari is said to have been a woman of virtue and grace, though he briefly met her in advance of his marriage to Gemma di Manetto Donati, his later encounter with her clearly indicated that he fell in love and she became the muse for his love ballads, none of which mention his wife.

Dante finds himself travelling through a number of spheres in heaven, represented by astronomical or planetary symbols that allude to a series of virtues. Cantos III, for instance, embarks on a lunar journey to the moon when he confesses of his failures and is born again through the love for Beatrice. She became his saviour, a child that she could help gain steady ground about how to live in God’s love or be attuned to what correctly wills or motivates man to reflect with accuracy. A man can find salvation through a virtuous woman; when being pulled by men set on greater harm then good, she struck him with the splendours of the decency that she attached to her heart. Canto X or the Sphere of the Sun alludes to the light of God, to witness the universe and the power therewith in creation and the universe itself can eclipse the worldly attributes for a moment as Dante gives thanks to the monumental reality of the world above.

And there, entranced, begin to view the skill
The Master demonstrates. Within Himself,
He loves it so, His looking never leaves.
Look! Where those orbits meet, there branches off
The slanting circles that the planets ride
To feed and fill the world that calls on them.

A number of figures enter into the celebration of this epiphany, including King Solomon, St. Thomas Aquinas and Boethius that allude to their place in assisting one to reach this venerable awakening. They are rejoicing for Dante finally becoming aware of the fallaciousness of the world below him and where his soul deep within him begin to burn from the joy of abandoning all the lies that tied him to that false reality. It is followed in Cantos XI with, “Those idiotic strivings of the human mind!” The toil of worldly affairs including politics and law, where Dante finally finds peace in his should within the arms of Beatrice and being up high in the heavenly spheres where his soul rests in the light of truth. Here, Dante speaks of St. Francis who takes a wife and loves her despite the objections of his father and others, that his dedication to love a loyal and courageous woman though many feared her that represents the potential poverty of a life lived in the love for God and that one may be at risk of losing family and friends in the commitment to what is good. But Beatrice remains the defining guide, whereby in Cantos XIV she shows Dante that there is yet more truth that he is required to find within him, the eternal nature of this experience and whether one will remain committed in their love for God. Beatrice grows and becomes more beautiful to Dante when she chooses to join the light, perhaps representative of the longevity and growth of the beauty of love in a virtuous woman that renders the clarity of the experience eternal.

And so my eyes, regaining their strength,
Lifted once more. I saw myself alone,
Borne with my lady to a higher good.
Seeing the flares of laughter in that star,
Which seemed now far more fiery than before,
I knew full well that I’d been lifted higher.

We begin to see through the light of God all that is wonderful and so what we ‘see’ or understand continuously increases as we rise higher through the celestial planes. In Cantos XVII, Dante is still troubled and Beatrice continues to help him shed light on his feelings by prompting a discussion with Cacciaguida about the future and the difficulties he may face as was forewarned by Virgil. Contingency is met with the potential uncertainty for the future and that while one may experience hardships, in faith one will also experience events that are wonderful. It is to be courageous to face the contingency. When they reach Cantos XXIII or the Sphere of the Fixed Stars (Eighth Heaven), Beatrice is compared to a mother bird waiting for the sun, the light of Christ and enraptures all who experience this power to expand their thoughts beyond the horizon. The garden, for which Beatrice instructs Dante to look upon, contains a rose that is the Word of God and he can see Mary in the rose, the “Queen of Heaven” (Regina Coeli). By Cantos XXVII, Dante – despite being further from the earth – can now see the details within it with greater clarity, his mind now free from the false burdens that blinded him from seeing such details, the sins for which Beatrice speaks of when a man misuses his free will. He returns to earth in Cantos XXX, the light of dawn slowly drowning the light of the stars until he turns to see the beauty of Beatrice once more and both reached the Paradiso in one another, transcending the material world through love and wisdom.

As she then was – a guide in word and deed,
Her work all done – she spoke again: ‘We’ve left
The greatest of material spheres, rising
To light, pure light of intellect, all love,
The love of good in truth, all happiness,
A happiness transcending every rapture.

The final Cantos XXXIII, Bernard of Clairvaux praises the love of Mary as the foundation for the rose or the Word of God who helped illuminate Dante with the truth and the happiness that followed. Indeed, as Beatrice returns to her place in the rose, which is symbolic of the Queen and Virgin Mother, epitomises that she has satisfied her love for Dante as he gazes into the light of the Empyrean. He now understands God and what is right and good on earth.

As one who has now ascended to Paradiso, the bliss and happiness of finding the Divine love and waiting to meet someone genuine on this journey of mine, I believe as Dante does that love can only be real when two people experience this transcendence from the material realm, from the hellish Inferno where one becomes aware of the reality where there exists corruption, lies, and all things vicious. By seeking the divine love of God, one can redeem themselves and when guided by love, mirror our moral position to become virtuous and wise. Only then can one return to ‘earth’ and see the world for what it genuinely is. The Divine Comedy remains a powerful poetic bildungsroman, an epic of gigantic proportions that remains the heart of medieval Italy and the Italian language itself.

The Poetic Landscape of Rumi

Inside this new love, die.
Your way begins on the other side.
Become the sky.
Take an axe to the prison wall.
Escape.
Walk out like someone suddenly born into colour.
Do it now!
You’re covered with thick cloud.
Slide out the side. Die,
And be quiet. Quietness is the surest sign
That you’ve died.
Your old life was a frantic running
From silence.

I died several years ago now. I gave up on struggling to impress an insatiable world that is never satisfied, devoting hours of my attention to futile hopes or participating in trivial social games that deceived others and myself alike all for the sake of a fleeting, transient applaud or pat on the back. I decided to become myself and for a time I hid away, closed the door as I despairingly heard the loud screams echo within that silence, the pangs of conscience merely an anxious symptom of the withdrawal from a false reality that I feverishly believed to be real. It took time, slowly but surely the sounds softened and a quietness brought within me a sense of calm that I began to actually hear myself, the still waters glistened as the sun rose over the horizon and bred warmth into my bones. A real peace came over me and with it a real happiness where I could see as things were, that I could feel as I should and no longer sensed tension against my own nature. I found the balance from within and my happiness was no longer dependent on others. I found the love for me through my love for God. The silence became music.

I have long had some trouble with poetry. When Plutarch published Quomodo Adolescens Poetas Audire Debeat where he cautioned that “[m]any the lies the poets tell” the idea that poetry used as a tool to corrupt the truth certainly resonated. Indeed, there are many from personal experience who have attained the skills of rhyme, verse and form and speak of love and wisdom, but they themselves are far from being wise or loving people as they borrow and adorn themselves with fake poetic trinkets. Language is weak from protecting itself from such corruption. However, as we filter through and separate the greats, we do find ourselves holding the works of Robert Frost, Alexander Pushkin and Rumi who use parables within their poetry, where the fictitious prose exposes a moral truth and enables one to makes sense of and reason their own subjectivity. They provide access through ones own imagination en-route toward this repository of emotions and feelings that previously never had a language.

There is no doubt that poetry is embedded in Persian culture and indeed the tradition dates back centuries, remaining a powerful influence both socially and politically that provides insight into how such symbolic allusions and mystical allegories express a unique interpretation of meaning and identity. While the influence of poetry in the region dates back to the pre-Islamic era, a cultural revival during the Seljuq Empire – while short-lived – managed to revive Persian poetry that flourished in the region for centuries to come. Works by philosopher and theologian Al-Ghazali and vizier Nizam al-Mulk set the stage for this revivification that continued into the Ottoman Empire. Nasir ibn Khusraw as well as early mystics of the Sufi order Abdullah Ansari of Herat and Baba Taher of Hamadan introduced what later became a prominent method to interpret the mystical experience and unity with God that simple language could not correctly allude to. Indeed, the great poet and writer Nizami Ganjavi wrote epic love tales including Khosrow and Shirin about the love of King Khosrow with the Princess Shirin of Armenia, but also Layla and Majnun or what has become famously known as Romeo and Juliet in the west. Such epic tales of love and tragedy was already entrenched in Persian culture at the time but became further popularised and exercised considerable influence on later poets. While I could easily add a very long list of famed poets from the region, there is no doubt that Jalaluddin Rumi stands at the forefront in popularity.

When I remember your love,
I weep, and when I hear people
Talking of you,
Something in my chest,
Where nothing much happens now,
Moves as in sleep.

All our lives we’ve looked
Into each other’s faces.
That was the case today too.

How do we keep our love-secret?
We speak from brow to brow
And hear with our eyes.

In the early thirteenth century, Rumi was born to a well-respected and privileged family of theologians and became a student to one of his own father’ disciples Sayyed Termazi that gave him learned access to the Qur’anic traditions and spiritual landscape of Sufism. While he became a scholar and teacher of Islamic jurisprudence at a very young age, it was not until his meeting with the wandering dervish Shamsuddin of Tabriz (known as Shams) that he experienced the spiritual epiphany that awoken the deeper repository of aesthetic expression in the forms of poetry. Their friendship was very unique and indeed the brotherly love, the difficulties, and even the tragedy between them inspired Rumi to write a great deal dedicated to Shams, including his masterpiece Diwan-e Shams-e Tabrizi. It is clear that this deep, spiritual awakening led Rumi to understand the universality of love, a grace given by God and this ecstasy and wonderment of the experience made him express his deep appreciation for Shams by providing with the wisdom and insight to enable access. There are layers that describe various expressions of love in objective forms that explore the ultimate union with the external world, that brotherly love, erotic love, and familial love merely deliver this euphoric power as fragments of the love of God, the very Form of Love itself, as within the first Kalima of Islam that writes ‘there is no reality but God.’

Hail Love, hail Love, because Love is divine
It is tender, it is beautiful and benign
What passion, what passion, we are burning like the sun
It is hidden and obscure, it is an obvious sign.
We’ve fallen, we’ve fallen, it is hard to rise up
We know not, we know not, this complex chaotic design.

Thus everything comes from this reality or Zikr where we remember the love of God by the variety of forms that we express one to another. While the love that is formed in friendship initiates the removal of the infantile ego and commences the conscious experience of caring for and loving someone external to oneself and to thus start experiencing reality, this capacity is clearly fortified when one experiences the longing founded in erotic love. This feverishly impassioned experience between two people solidified by the admiration for one another and a longing to unite with them inspires a state of real happiness that brings us closer to this ultimate reality where everything is God. This genuine engagement between two lovers can be seen in Rumi’ fascination for the love between Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, of how the virgin Queen changed the heart of a man who had many lovers and to finally see what genuine love meant. King Solomon represented a man of wisdom and of high intelligence, but his life had slipped as he fell victim to a world of beautiful yet intellectually lacking women that he soon gave up on his own mental gifts. Queen of Sheba’s dedication to wisdom was clear when she came to test him and they both glimpsed within one another a mirror of themselves that awoken the inspiration for this euphoric feeling in love. If a person is a book, locked away and hidden, it is clear that the genuine union between the love of two people supplants a wholeness and a euphoric happiness as though one is finally seen, unlocked and read by another.

I’ve come to take you
With me
Even if I must drag you along
But first must steal your heart
Then settle you in my soul

I’ve come as a spring
To lay beside your blossoms
To feel the glory of happiness
And spread your flowers around

I’ve come to show you off
As the adornment of my house
And elevate you to the heavens
As the prayers of those in love

I’ve come to take
A kiss you stole away from me
Either return it with grace
Or I must take it by force

You’re my life
You’re my soul
Please be my last prayer
My heart must hold you forever

For Rumi, the ultimate panegyric is reaching this honesty and awareness, to break free from the encapsulated smallness of a mind that follows convention. If I were to eliminate such environmental and epistemic influences over my thoughts and emotions, what would ‘I’ have left but a brain, which is merely a tool that vehicle my rather fleeting existence. His work Masnavi narrates powerful rhyming couplets of a spiritual and religious nature that attempts to illustrate the attainment of the love of God or the Divine, to feel the existence of God by embracing the didactic that we are inherently evil. We must overcome this immorality by welcoming the theistic wisdom founded with in the scriptures through the denial of the carnal and material in praise of moral reflection that enables one to reveal our very nature and the ecstasy that one can attain when reaching this state of wholeness with God. Whether this experience is entirely mystical is challenging as this inspiration could merely be an innate awareness that recognises our own state of nature, to transcend externally influenced perceptions and become conscious of our own capacity to think independent of material considerations.

If you want what visible reality
Can give, you’re an employee.
 
If you want the unseen world,
You’re not living your truth.

Both wishes are foolish,
But you’ll be forgiven for forgetting
That what you really want is
Love’s confusing joy.

Gamble everything for love,
If you’re a true human being.
If not, leave
This gathering.

Half-heartedness doesn’t reach
Into majesty. You set out
To find God, but then you keep
Stopping for long periods
At mean-spirited roadhouses.

While there are a number of verse forms used including Masnavi, Ruba’i, Qazal and Qasideh, it would be unreasonable to categorise Rumi as a poet of forms, indeed he transcends such distinctive rules and uses poetry as a way to express the subject or content of his feelings rather than making any calculable effort. For instance, Ruba’i are quatrains or stanzas using a particular meter that nevertheless can alternate rhythmically, the Ruba’iyyat by famed Persian poet Omar Khayyam resonates with his philosophical and mathematical background. Khayyam, rather conversely to Rumi, had a very logical approach to reality perhaps owing to his mathematical and philosophical nature where the content of his poetry takes a more material and existential approach to reality and the disillusionment wrought by the futility of existence, parallel to Epicurean thought and the poetry of Lucretius. Rumi, on the other hand, could be clearly seen as a deist and describes the importance of removing oneself from the material world. Indeed, for Rumi, freedom requires the courage to let go of all worldly attachments and become one not only with reality – reality being Nature – but by becoming one with yourself, to lose all the mental and emotional dictates that one believes is reality and to become absorbed in the nature of our very being.

Birds make great sky-circles
Of their freedom.
How do they learn it?

They fall, and falling,
They’re given wings.

Thus the use of the aesthetic is coming from an embedded song that sings the movement of his emotions, the words and meters merely the rhythm and the harmony that enables a voice and language for such feelings. It is why there is much debate and controversy relating to the translations of his poetry by Coleman Banks – author of numerous books on Rumi including The Essential Rumi – and that while having popularised Rumi to the western world, he appears to take his own subjective interpretation of this content and form it into a translation. It is difficult to ascertain whether this is merely a form of Orientalism as expressed by Edward Said where the West culturally misrepresents the Middle East. For instance, Bernard Lewis who – having the title of scholar and historian of the Middle East whereby historians require a strong understanding of culture and beliefs – has never, in fact, stepped foot into the Middle East; he has even gone so far as to advise the Bush Administration related to foreign policy in the region. It is highly unusual to read the translations by Banks for this reason as it cannot interpret the peculiarities of both the Persian language and the special use of imagery specific to the culture. Visiting a tomb in Konya or watching the Whirling Dervishes would not enable one to embrace the allusions and references to the Qu’ran, Sufism and other imagery embedded into the Persian language that provokes an emotional effect that other languages are unqualified to translate. Whatever the case, Rumi remains a poetic giant in the landscape of theistic devotion and the subject of love.

Love Is The Only Way To Experience The External World

How can we be sure that we are experiencing the external world? While we may have conceptualised an external world within our own minds and interact with friends and family and a plethora of external stimulation, but just like how my dog hears that I have come home and becomes excitable, experience is not merely forming concepts as a passive observer. One may experience fragments of the external world where ideas causally evolve merely by a complex yet functional process of cognition within the parameters of the quality of our mental faculties, but that would mean that perceptions and experience are synthesized solely on an objective order of our physical activities. So how can we have an awareness of an external world without the experience, the very subjective quality that enables us to intuit representations, to capture a conceptual framework that transcends the mere cognitive ability to order complex physical events into an effective information system?

The mind-body dualism is a conceptual division between our mental states and the physical properties of the external world and the problem therein is whether one is capable of being able to distinguish themselves as separate to this external world. The experience of the external world can never adequately be explained, according to solipsism, beyond the limits of an individual mind and thus we become fundamentally incapable of moving beyond our own mental state and that therefore concludes that only our mental state exists. Indeed, the greatest flaw in metaphysics even until today is the inability to clearly and distinctly demonstrate the existence of an external reality. The problem, however, is that the notion sets in an entirely subjective experience that becomes devoid of an objective world, where – like the movie Matrix – our bodies are sitting warmly in a vat with plugs attached to the back of our brain that stimulates virtual experiences that we assume to be reality. Descartes’ cogito ergo sum is an epistemological inference that if one is capable of thinking, the latter being what he defines as the, “first and most certain of all to occur to anyone who philosophises in an orderly way”[1] then there is no doubt that the person exists, but the nature of this Cartesian aptitude is very specific, that one is required to have embedded in their nature an exclusivity that would enable the conditions necessary for ideal cognizance. Similarly, the psychological theory of introspection vis-à-vis the problem relating to the structure of our experiences with the external world suggest that we have the reflective capacity to examine our own mental state, but the practice relies exclusively on the quality of this self-examination that cannot guarantee an absence of error. A key to this is the authenticity that enables a reflective practice which can overcome the preventative thresholds that envelope the honesty necessary to facilitate a genuine narrative, what John Locke refers to as “the perception of what passes in a man’s own mind.”[2]

A phenomenology of this introspection, however, differs from an empirical view of the mind. While the mind as a functional tool necessarily requires the complex ability to maintain an order of the continuous inflow of experiences, empiricists such as Locke would say that all knowledge is formed by sensory experience of the external world alone and that we place experience within a framework based solely on this causal evolution. The first-order level of the mind or the rules that govern the cognitive resources and the sensibility that enable the objective conditions for understanding and perception exist that any phenomenal consciousness would need to move beyond empiricism. While phenomenology is the study of being and experience within an external world, introspection is fundamentally the epistemological relation that studies the inner experience of this being with the external world; consciousness is fundamental. That is, the introspective experience of phenomenal character or the subjective and intrinsic quality of qualia is accessible and is central to the nature of consciousness.

‘A sociopath may mimic A Streetcar Named Desire by telling himself that the woman he raped is crazy and that she wanted to have sex with him, but this clearly lacks the interpretative accuracy of the external world. Human beings, according to Kant, are innately evil that subordinates morality to self-conceit and the only solution to this is by overcoming our propensity to evil through the cultivation of moral agency.’

The phenomenal character of mental life is a feeling of this sensory experience, that is, perceptions have a distinct phenomenal framework that differentiates between a mere perception with consciousness of the perception, an actual awareness of the activity where each experience has a distinct, conscious character so to speak. It is lived action. Unlike the empiricist who believes the contents of our being are made up of a series of perceptions, Kant takes it one step further and claims that the transcendental conditions enable us to have the experience rather than being a result of this experience. His interpretation of the transcendental differs entirely to transcendence, which purports something that exists beyond perceptual experience or non-sensory modes of understanding, which is a realm that one cannot verify and thus ultimately irrelevant to our epistemological system since if it transcends knowledge, it is beyond knowledge and falls into the dimension of faith. The transcendental conditions that extend beyond the grounds of reason is defined by Kant as what enables knowledge to not just be occupied solely with objects, but the very mode of our a priori knowledge of these objects.[3]

Our experience of the external world is spatiotemporal, separated causally through an arrow of time that evolves over the period of our cognitive existence and thus while there exists an external world, time is entirely a subjective experience. The transcendental aesthetic is an a priori mode of engagement with space and time, where patterns of sensations and experiences ascribed spatiotemporally to cognition a priori that enables the coherence of the external world, rather than space and time being actual, external entities.[4] Yet, we are capable of non-empirical representations of space, where we can see a human in front of us without that person actually being there spatially that leads Kant to label this mode as Intuition and hence why he famously stated that, “[t]houghts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind.”[5] Time enables the intuitions to make sense of the spatial experiences in an orderly fashion and this succession organises the mental states where knowledge of thus formed. The difference is that that intuitions are the representations themselves given in sensibility: “In whatever way and through whatever means a cognition may be related to objects, that through which it relates immediately to them, and at which all thought as a means is directed as an end, is intuition. This, however, takes place only insofar as the object is given to us; but this in turn, is possible only if it affects the mind in a certain way. This capacity [to acquire representations] is called sensibility. Objects are therefore given to us by means of sensibility, and it alone affords us intuitions.”[6]

‘It is not simply a disposition that one emulates and there needs to be an authenticity that one feels autonomously that evokes a strong sense of duty to moral principles themselves independent of the required obligations set by others.’

If we are capable of non-empirical representations of space, what exactly are the conditions that enable our sensibility to authentically be receptive to the external world? A sociopath may watch A Streetcar Named Desire and mimic the plot by telling himself that the woman he raped is crazy and that she wanted to have sex with him, but clearly the conditions therein lack the accuracy that interpret the external world correctly. Human beings, according to Kant, are innately evil that subordinates morality to self-conceit and the only solution to this is by overcoming our propensity to evil through the cultivation of moral agency. This is via a ‘revolution’ so to speak, an acquisition of a way of thinking that personifies moral goodness. But it is not simply a disposition that one emulates and there needs to be an authenticity that one feels autonomously that evokes a strong sense of duty to moral principles themselves independent of the required obligations set by others. If we look at this from a geometrically different angle (namely through the lens of Husserl), intentionality is the property of mental states themselves, the very internal experience that functions independent of the external world.[7] The mental states are thus empowered with the function to take an experience of an object and transcend beyond that experience, the nature of this property enabling a moral transaction. When one considers existential feelings of angst, for instance, the isolation and emptiness of feeling estranged from the company of the external world embodies an intentional state where one is conscious of this separation via possibilities that enable a non-empirical narrative and reconfigure consciousness to interpret ones place in the external world beyond space and time. It leads one on a path to ascertain the possible phenomenal connections that echo this potential merger between ‘I’ or my subjective experience with the external world.

It is thus through empathy that one is enabled with the sense experience of the external world, where ones ‘conscience’ becomes the key to consciousness of an external world beyond this self-conceit. It transforms that intuitive ‘possibility’ into an experience that enables a channel to the external world and objectifies a narrative of shared experiences, thus becoming the very foundation that builds an ethical mindset, but it nevertheless requires reason as a basis for being able to interpret and identify moral consequences. Conscience, the very sense of right from wrong and the will that propels one to act morally, is sensually the very experience of giving love, but universally even though this ‘revolution’ may have been initiated by love for one object or person. Moral agency embodies the ability to conceptualise abstract principles and for Kant is derived from pure reason; the duty that motivates the will to conform with these principles by sensually experiencing the suffering of others establishes a sense of sympathy and emotional angst that moves the will to act ethically. This very act of expressing moral standards sensed by a subjective pain irrelevant to our own experiences in the physical world is an act of moral consciousness – love – the very desire to want the pain or suffering of others to be removed, to want their lives to be improved, the very desire to care for another person and thus authentically explore the external world.  While this ‘revolution’ may be stimulated by a specific object or experience, this intuit becomes a principle that one conceptualises into an abstract form that becomes universal, hence the categorical imperative.

The question here is, is this shared experience merely a simulation or is it a genuine exploration of sensing beyond the subjective mind? Further discussion of this continuum cannot be furthered today as alas, the limitations of this poor blog post prevents me in doing so, particularly since a variety of complexities vis-à-vis developmental epistemology and other relevant features would be required to be discussed. I will touch more on the latter part of this subject in a later post.

[1]Rene Descartes, Key Philosophical Writings, Wordsworth Editions (1997) 279
[2] John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, P. H. Nidditch (ed.). Oxford: The Clarendon Press J. (1975) 115
[3] E. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (A11, B25)
[4] Ibid., (A23/B37-8)
[5] Norman Kemp Smith, A Commentary to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, Springer (2003) 80
[6] Op. cit., Kant (A19/B33).
[7] Susi Ferrarello, Husserl’s Ethics and Practical Intentionality, Bloomsbury Publishing, (2015) 101