A Philosophical Question I Swear I’ll Find a Way to Relate to Writing

Posted by on Feb 11, 2014 in Creative Writing | 0 comments

A Philosophical Question I Swear I’ll Find a Way to Relate to Writing

A thought surfaced in my brain today. It hit me somewhere in the mile between my house and the gym as I slowly shuffled down the frozen, ice-caked sidewalks of Pittsburgh. It was one of those semi-life altering mind quakes that make you lose all sense of the reality around you – one of those questions that you know you don’t have the answer to but knew that if you did, it would have world-shaking implications. You’re also vaguely aware that you’re probably not the first person it’s ever occurred to but it doesn’t matter because it’s new to you.

What if the concepts of “beginning” and “end” don’t actually exist in the universe outside of the human perception of reality? What if they have no meaning anywhere else? And what then?

It hit me because of a discussion I’d been having with my cousin about religion. (And I won’t go into my thoughts on this subject because they’re off topic and don’t matter here.) But what hit me is the realization that most major religions seem to have originated to resolve two fundamental questions.

“How did we get here?”
“What happens after we die?”

Think about it. Even the flat out dumbest person you know comes equipped with a unique awareness of their own mortality. And that person, as dumb as they may be, has probably also spent a moment or two wondering what “began” everything. We ask these questions all the time. From religion to self-help books to extreme sports, most of our society is built around these great unknowns. “Live life to the fullest because you’re only here for a little while!” But what if the concepts themselves were totally irrelevant? What if in the context of how the universe actually operates, those questions don’t actually make any sense? What if it’s like asking how much happiness weighs or what color the wind is?

I mean, take the last idea you had, whether it’s something life changing or simply, “Ooh, I should really go get some Pringles.” Where does the idea begin? Where does it end? Is there a set time for said idea? Is it even possible to pinpoint when that idea started and stopped? And I’m not talking about the neuron action going on that’s (probably) producing it. I’m talking about the idea itself. Does it have a set point when it came into and went out of existence? Or does it just sort of exist in a perpetual state of always?

I mean even birth is interesting because it’s supposed to mark the beginning point of life. But if you’re reading this, you were technically around back in 1914 and 1814, and 1714 and so on. You just happened to exist here in 2014 and none of those people alive at the time knew about you yet. All the actions that those previous people took that subsequently led to your birth were part of your existence, it all just happened before you were consciously aware of it. And there are people in 2114 that will be dramatically affected by the choices you made today and the choices you’ll make tomorrow. They’re out there somewhere in the future and barring a major, world altering catastrophe that wipes out humanity as a whole, they will exist at some point. So where are they now?

What if there’s absolutely no NEED to ask where we came from and where we’re going? What if things don’t actually start or finish?

Is that scary? Freeing? I’m not sure. And I’m not claiming to have any sort of answer.

What if we somehow found out that we just ARE and that we don’t really even have words or concepts yet for how things really work?

Anyway, that’s been my day so far.

Is this thought actually as brilliant as I think it is? Probably not. I’ve learned that a majority of the “groundbreaking” philosophical thoughts I have were first published in some journal in Austria in 1922. But in the end it doesn’t matter because it’s new and exciting to me even if it isn’t to everyone else.

What does it have to do with writing? Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. I only brought it up because it also occurred to me that it’s necessary to explore these ideas when you have them. And not a half-assed cursory glance either. When you have an idea you find intriguing, explore it as far as you can. Take it and run with it. Examine the implications. Let it burrow and twist in as many directions as you can stand. The great thing is that even if nothing ever comes of it professionally, you might just make it to the gym before you realize that your ribs have frozen together.

Often times these ideas won’t lead anywhere. I mean, currently, I have zero idea what the hell to do with the abovementioned concept. But at least now it’s in there. It’s in there in all of its different forms. I’m not going to force a novel or a script out of it right now because it’s not fully cultivated. Perhaps some day that idea will enhance a plot I haven’t thought of yet or be central to a character I haven’t yet created. Then again maybe it won’t. But a possibility is there that wasn’t this morning.

I guess what I’m trying to say is I’ve heard many writers tell me about a great idea only to follow it up with, “Yeah, but it’s super weird, totally not commercial, and going to be real a pain in the ass to explain. I love the concept but I don’t know… it doesn’t seem worth it.” They’ll immediately discount an idea they were excited about simply because they weren’t quite sure what to do with it right out of the gate. So into the scrapheap it goes.

In the end, I guess the message is – don’t do that. And that’s how my oddball philosophical musings actually relate to writing.

Anyway, just something to think about. For some reason I was in the mood to take this entry in a slightly different direction. And if you were looking for the normal wackiness instead, here’s a link to the single funniest clip in internet history.

Where’d that monkey go after he fell?

It doesn’t matter.

Or does it?

Fine, a source told me he landed in a fortuitously placed garbage truck that just happened to be driving by at the time. Don’t worry, he’s totally fine.

Or is he?

Does it even matter?

Ok, knock it off. Seriously. Knock it off.

photo credit: Kalexanderson via photopin cc

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