A CARTESIAN MEDITATION

For twelve summers, until this one, I’ve spent the lion’s share of April to September in a village overlooking the Amalfi Coast. If the borders reopen by next April, I’ll be able to carry on as before. But if not – if we’re thrown back a couple of centuries to when almost no one travelled because almost no one could – I’m going to have to rethink how I’m going to live the rest of my life. I’m going to feel like Tennyson’s Ulysses, who complained “How dull it is to pause, to make an end, to rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use! As tho’ to breathe were life.”

I suppose I’d have had to rust unburnish’d soon enough anyhow, as I face my approaching dotage. Covid has probably cost me no more than a year or two of shining in use. So even if the question is not What to do now?, then at least it’ll be What to do soon?

Dotage is not something the mind can project itself into. I’m not sure the mind knows it’s in it even when it is. It can only be seen from outside itself, by the rest of us. That’s probably a mercy. Who could tolerate so regarding himself?! So for aught I know I’m already there, and my friends and my wife – who’s sixteen years my junior – are just humouring me. Well, if so, I should be grateful. And therefore gracious.

The problem is, how would I know the difference between feeling undiminished and diminished? After all, isn’t one always at his full capacity by definition? So there needs to be a non-subjective test, a non-subjective test to which the subject being tested gives uptake. It has to generate a report which cannot but be falsified phenomenologically, but which also generates a will to transcend that phenomenology and to accept whatever it reports. 

Look! Millions of people give up their driver’s licences when the time comes. Why can’t they do likewise with their licence to think clearly? It can’t be done, and for the very reasons long-since articulated by Rene Descartes. If I can wonder if I can still think, I must still be thinking!

As I’ve just shown, thoughts like these are not worth returning to, because they can never generate a different result. Of course that good council presupposes the reliability of memory. Maybe I only thought I’d worked this through. Best to run through it again just to make sure.



Categories: Angst, Humour

Tags: , ,

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