I’m not one for big purchases. But I bought a swimming pool. That may sound ridiculous but its true. If you don’t believe me, here is where I bought it from: I bought it from Signature Swimming Pools. They make one piece swimming pools.
A while ago, I wrote these words:
I often feel that if we were all just a little less sure of ourselves the world would perhaps be a far more hospitable place. I can not relate to those who feel they are right, right beyond reproach, and right in a way that makes everyone else wrong.
I was stumbling toward something here, toward something I believe but was yet to fully crystallize. I went on to say, somewhat clumsily:
We should all be humble enough to admit that we are probably wrong about almost everything.
Humble. That is what we should be. Humble in front of the vast unknowability of the universe and all existence.
I’m not religious. I don’t know if there’s a God. That’s all I can say honestly is that I don’t know, some people think that they know that there isn’t, that’s a weird thing to think you can know. “Yeah there’s no God” “Are you sure?” “Yeah no there’s no god” “How do you know?” “Because I didn’t see him” “How do you?… There’s a vast universe! You can see for about 100 yards when there’s not a building in the way! Did you look everywhere? Did you look in the downstairs bathroom?” “I didn’t see him yet” “I haven’t seen 12 years a slave yet it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist! I’m just waiting for when it comes on cable.”
This is Anthro-Humblism. It is the idea that if we all put a little less confidence in our ability to make solid value and factual judgements on the world. If we held our beliefs a little further from ourselves and accepted their potential fallibility a little more maybe we would kill each other less.
And we should kill each other less, because there’s no real reason to kill each other. There’s a lot of reasons if you believe you have absolute access to absolute truth. You don’t.
But, I could be wrong about that.
This is the room where Friedrich Nietzsche wrote many of his best works. It resides in a cabin in the Swiss mountains. In fact, it is the cabin, this was a one room job. Part of why I love this picture so much is that it domesticates and grounds one of the greatest minds and most self-aggrandising writers of modern Europe. I love the idea of this man rolling out of bed and pottering over to the table to put some coffee on, brushing his teeth, pottering back and fiddling with the coffee pot. I don’t imagine he was particularly competent at any of these tasks, he lived a life where he constantly had others doing this kind of thing, and now he was doing it all alone and almost certainly struggling. So he would do these menial tasks, badly, and then sit down and write about how he was the greatest mind in all of europe. The latest in a long line that included Mozart and Napoleon.
I find that funny. It makes me laugh. It also make me think about the strange nature of the writer and their environment. How the writer is formed and influenced by their environment. Here I like to draw a devision: between the chosen and the non-chosen. We all have an environment that we are of that we never chose. We were all born into some place and time in the world and are all formed by that. Some are formed completely and irrevocably by their un-chosen environment. Some obsess over it, some despise it, many escape it. Then there is the environments they escape to, for so many it seems to be peace and the countryside. These are the keys, this is what Nietzsche sort: solitude. Give the writer solitude, and they will give you work.
Above is Dylan Thomas’s boat house. It sits over the sea in a remote Welsh town called Laugharne. He wrote much of his poetry here, here amongst the silence and the sea breeze. When i was a younger man I didn’t seek solitude when it came to writing, I wanted to be part of the world, to be all connected and interacting. I felt I needed this to feel inspired, I was writing about the world so I should be part of it. This is how I felt. Yet now as an older man I do find my self wanting solitude. The past few years I’ve spent at least two months at lodges in the highlands of Scotland and also log cabins in scotland, I hide myself away and get to work. Go for walks when everything stops coming out. Much like Nietzsche used to wander through the alps, I wonder around the highlands. It is a lonely existence, but when you get a little older, you find theres more to reflect on, and you can be alone a little more, with a little less pain.
Above is the remote farmhouse on the Isle of Jura up in the Scottish Sea where George Orwell wrote 1984. He clearly liked the Scottish air as well. Well, you know what they say about great minds…
“ice contains no future , just the past, sealed away. As if they’re alive, everything in the world is sealed up inside, clear and distinct. Ice can preserve all kinds of things that way- cleanly, clearly. That’s the essence of ice, the role it plays.”- From ‘Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami’.
I’ve been putting together a tome of writings on the subject of Ice for a long while, and for a reason I now cannot quite remember. I’m never quite sure why I’m so fascinated with Ice. It is such a mysterious thing, it is so open about its irreality, we know that it can shift to something so different without loosing or gaining anything. It remains, whilst not remaining. It changes, whilst not changing. It disappears as it appears and appears as it disappears. It is the truth of the matter and the matter of truth. It is real, and it is not real, and it is everything, and it is nothing. Without water and ice we would all die, but to much of one or the other and we will all perish. It is unknowable and essential. It is a mystery. It is life.
Ice in motion.
Through my research for this collection I have stumbled many times on writings about Ice Sculptures and Ice Carving, fascinating subjects. Great glacial art, as practiced by many great glacial artists in the UK and worldwide, both beautiful and thought provoking. The process of reducing something to create something new is fascinating just in itself. You take away, you carve of shards of ice from some gigantic block and you are left with a work of art. This is clearly reminiscent of the classic philosophical issue of ‘The Statue and The Clay‘, a beautiful little problem regarding material constitution that has been pondered for centuries. In my old friends Carroll and Markosian describe the issue thusly:
“Suppose that on Monday you bring home a lump of clay and place it on your workbench. Then on Tuesday morning you carefully fashion the clay into a beautiful statue of a snowy owl, which remains in your workshop for all your friends to admire… But suppose that on Wednesday you wake up in a bad mood and decide that you don’t like the snowy owl after all. So that morning you squash it back into an amorphous lump of clay” An introduction to Metaphysics by Carroll and Markosian.
This is the story, the problem being: what objects exist over this tie scale? The Statue, is the statue just an immaterial idea? Or does it briefly exist? It’s all rather fascinating.
I’m of the opinion that both the problem of the statue and the clay and the wonder of Glacial art – Ice Sculptures London simply reveal to us that we paint the physical world with ideas at all times. We have no 50/50 vision, no pure perception, it is all ours.
The great German nihilist and (in my eyes) true existentialist philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (15 October 1844 – 25 August 1900) took great issue with the concept of objectivity. His problem, effectively, was that it was impossible. We do not see the world objectively, we see what we see, what we see is of us, it is part of us, it is our perspective and our prejudice. Nietzsche has a deep aversion to what he calls the ‘prejudice of the philosopher’. This is the grand lie of a writer attempting an impersonal approach to expressing views and assumptions which Nietzsche believes to in fact be very personal in origin. Philosophers were seen by Nietzsche as taking these essentially dogmatic perspectives and attempting to paint them onto the universe as truth, as if they (the philosopher) were guiding the reader through the world-in-itself, rather than through their world. Wether it be Spinoza cladding his philosophy with the ‘hocus-pocus of mathematical form”(Beyond Good and Evil 5) or Kant luring us on ‘dialectical bypaths’(ibid) to the categorical imperative, such philosophers have the arrogance to display their opinions as truths, but not the ‘courage which also lets this be known, whether to warn an enemy or a friend, or, from exuberance, to mock itself” (ibid).
Nietzsche’s writing room in the Swiss Alps. My favourite photograph.
So this is me attempting to ‘let it be known’ that my writing is my perspective, it is how I see things and how I feel, and I claim none of it to contain objective truth. I claim no certainty, just feeling. This is how I feel. I often feel that if we were all just a little less sure of ourselves the world would perhaps be a far more hospitable place. I can not relate to those who feel they are right, right beyond reproach, and right in a way that makes everyone else wrong. They are the only sane person in a world of insanity. The only smart person in a world of fools. The only right in a world of wrong.
We should all be humble enough to admit that we are probably wrong about almost everything. Just consider all the people through out history who now appear to have been wrong in almost all their factual claims: Socrates, Jesus, others. Knowledge and truth evolves, all we consider to be true now may one day all be seen as false. This is a progression, and this progression is noble. It happens only through the work of those who forge new thought. The Socrates’s, the Jesus’s, the Einstein’s and Darwin’s. Their work is noble, and it is noble without it having to all be right in the way that too many of us posit rightness. Just because an idea has been or will be evolved beyond does not make that idea worthless. In fact, that is where the value of good ideas lies: they are part of the growth, part of progress. A good idea, an interesting perspective, an interesting conclusion, they are gifts to humanity. It does not have to be and it cannot be, eternally and universally true, it can and should only be true for a certain time, for a certain society, from a certain perspective.
The goal in our thought and in our writing should be to contribute, not to conclude. The obsession with being a full stop, with ending the question, ending the debate, is a false obsession that I dare say is built on arrogance and the want to dominate and control, rather than the want to share and develop. This is what thinking and writing is for: it is for the greater good, for the movement forward. Its eternity lies in it being part of the eternal train of thought, rather than being a single immutable truth.
So, all I wish to say is that we are all probably wrong about almost everything, as much as we are ever right about anything, and that is fine. In fact that is great, that is wonderful! Whilst Nietzsche would probably have hated this, I feel his value and the value of all those who play with great ideas lies in how they give to humankind, it lies in their contribution. It is our contributions that give us value. It is our contributions that push things forward. All that matters is our contributions.
These are mine.