Monday, December 16, 2013

An Aside on Purpose

Although I realize I have few if any readers, never-the-less, I think I should note that this discussion has more than academic interest to me. I try to read those things that help me find some meaning in and understanding of my existence. I do not believe that we are given meaning through some external agent, some god. I believe life has an intrinsic value, because given the cold calculus of the universe and the vagaries of evolution, every individual existence is miraculous. But, beyond the simple fact of existence, I believe it is up to each of us to give our life meaning. I read books that help me find that meaning. I am not attracted to easy answers or sentimental self affirmations. I want something that looks at the whole of life and death without glossing over the uncomfortable aspects.

That being said, I have to admit that I also like tomes. I like big books that purport to hold the whole world between their covers. I like fragments in other languages, especially Ancient Greek, that can be teased for meaning, little cryptic riddles that can yield surprising images or insights. I like the scholarly, the difficult, the obscure. On the negative side, I think it gives me a slight sense of power, like some magus possessing a secret, hard to acquire knowledge. It boosts my ego. All my life I was praised for being smart. Tomes and fragments reinforce that former praise. If I can read this stuff, I must be smart. 

But I also know, I am not that smart. I am no scholar. My main insights are more emotional than intellectual, and the primary output from my reading Parmenides is a series of poems inspired by the emotions and images evoked by the process. Ultimately, it is in my poetry that I find meaning.

Still, one of the things I have learned over my 58 odd years is that one must at least entertain one's self. Working through the Greek of Parmenides' poem and writing my poems in response entertains me. 

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