Tag Archives: philosophy

There, but for the grace of God…

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Will-o’-the-wisp, trick of the eye,
why this, why that, why me?
So many questions—too many questions—
but the best to ponder is this:
What is it, this ‘is it’, ‘to be’?
Me, I have this nagging sense
that if you can pose an answer,
you’ve missed the question altogether.

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I am reading Why Does the World Exist? by Jim Holt. It is a fascinating book and I am enjoying it immensely. In a practical sense, the question seems as relevant as the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin, but let’s be honest: no one ever said that metaphysics had to make practical sense. (Just don’t say that to anyone who has got themselves caught up in the topic. It can get ugly and very, very boring.)

What fascinates me is the range of responses from a wide variety of disciplines and the degree of passion aroused in the answers. And throughout it all, as much as I am enjoying the journey for an answer—because let’s face it, there are no definitive answers, just definitive opinions—I do have this nagging feeling that whenever it comes to something that is really important, that there is hiding, off to the side, at 90 degrees from where we are looking, the real question and answer that we should be pondering. There are times when, while I cannot see it and I cannot say it, still I know it’s there, in the corner of my eye, and I almost have it, but not quite, not quite…

The quotation, There but for the grace of God, go I, is attributed to John Bradford, an English protestant jailed by the Catholic Mary Tudor, and  was said as he watched a group of prisoners being marched off for execution. His own turn was coming, however; he was burned at the stake on July 1st, 1555.

Thank you for reading There but for the grace of God… I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken in Pennsylvania and is the reflection of a tree in water. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2014 by John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use or reproduction in any way, unless so granted in writing by the copyright owner.

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Hamlet

And then there was Hamlet,
correct when he was wrong,
wrong when he was correct
and slipping beyond his decisions:
I surrender, therefore I am—
that’s the rub of it.

This is the third—and with a sigh of relief, you say—last of three poems in my “Keep on thinking” series inspired by contemplation of the famous, “I think, therefore I am.” philosophical postulate. The first poem in the series is Philosophy, and the second poem in the series is Overrated.

The poem refers to the most famous of William Shakespeare’s soliloquies, the opening of  Act 3 scene 1 in Hamlet, the lines of which are said by the main character as he enters the stage:

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there’s the rub…

It is, of course, sheer hubris to link to anything written by Shakespeare, let alone perhaps one of his best works, but if one is going to be utterly rude and hitch one’s wagon to a star, make it a bright star, say I!

Thank you so much for reading Hamlet. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem, either alone or with the notes that accompany it, may be printed and distributed—in part or amalgamated with other works—as long as the copyright notice and the address, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com, are also clearly printed with it and there is no fee charged.

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Thinking

Descartes said, I think, therefore I am.
It follows then, that when I am not, I will no longer.
In truth, it’s long been overrated.

This is the second of three poems in my “Keep on thinking” series, inspired by contemplation of the famous, “I think, therefore I am.” philosophical postulate. The first poem in the series is Philosophy, and the third is Hamlet.

The poem hinges on a bit of a double entendre, which, to be honest, I am a little proud of. Both, however are serious suggestions  for reasons already outlined in my first post.

In the last line, “the idea” can refer to the noun, in the sense that “these things we call ‘ideas’ have long been overrated.” And, of course, it can also mean that the idea of ‘I think, therefore I am.’ is overrated. It’s your choice on how to read the poem: the one, the other, or both.

In any case, have fun doing so!

Thank you so much for reading Thinking. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem, either alone or with the notes that accompany it, may be printed and distributed—in part or amalgamated with other works—as long as the copyright notice and the address, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com, are also clearly printed with it and there is no fee charged.

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Philosophy

René Descartes said, I think, therefore I am.
It follows then, When I cannot, I am no longer.

This, then, is good, for it is our final act, our last submission.
It is when we—at our end—learn to be what we should most be,
but seldom are, that for which we are unique.

For we are the ones who know that we know what we know
and what we do not. (Or at least we think we do.)
And yet, even in thinking this, we persist in the sweetest of our vanities…
thoughts come, thoughts go, patterns build and patterns fall
but fools we, we live on in pure free-fall,
caught in the folly of free thought,
me and mine alone.
Therefore, I.

“The story,” as Tolkien said, “grew in the telling.” This is the first of three poems inspired by contemplation of the famous, “I think, therefore I am.” philosophical postulate, my “Keep on Thinking” series, as it were. (The second is Overrated, and the third is Hamlet.)

The genesis of the poem was the realization that thinking is a biological based process; when the soul/mind linkage is severed, what then does one do in the next world? And what does that say about life beyond this one?

Frankly, I don’t know. It is hard, if not impossible, for a physically bound construct, even one which is spiritual in its most basic reality, to conceive of the conditions of the next world, one that is beyond the physical one. We just don’t have the capacity. And surely anything we can conceive is merely our imagination and again—this is an imagination tainted with only experience in the physical realm. Hardly something to be trusted in its prognostications.

Having decided that one cannot think of what it is like to not think, I started to question the whole concept of thinking at all. If it is something that we cannot take to the next world, can we not then decide that giving up our thoughts, as we approach the meaning and the existence of that final door and what is beyond it, is a good thing?

We are, in the end, sadly ever so attached and proud of our ability to think. But it has become, in the 20th century and beyond, and in our hubris, something that we are too proud of, too much in love with, too assured that it is ours, ours, ours, and ours, ours, ours alone. Little do we think, as wonderful as it is, from whence our ability to think and to reason comes from. We think that in developing it we own it, that it is ours, we can do with it what we want, when the truth is that our capacity to think is an inherent part of us and a gift of our very nature.

But then to counter this this comes the epitome of the self-centered approach: to think away the Source of our ability to think, to decide that in fact it is the random gift of a benevolent universe (or random luck, take your pick) and therefore, to decide, if there be gods in this universe at all, then it is we. No, sorry, that’s not for me.

Thank you so much for reading Philosophy. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem, either alone or with the notes that accompany it, may be printed and distributed—in part or amalgamated with other works—as long as the copyright notice and the address, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com, are also clearly printed with it and there is no fee charged.

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