Almost Philosophical

¶. Now and again, particularly when I am tired, I have a tendency to philosophise. Some more malicious fellows might say I am like this all the time. It would be good for me, but I think not for them. On the other hand, Jose Ortega y Gasset assures us that "philosophy keeps its virginity in spite of its repeated violations", so that philosophy is in no danger. As for my inclinations toward such preoccupations, they exist only in the etymological sense of the word: love (philo) for wisdom (sophia). A philosopher involves a professional, namely someone who earns his living doing philosophy or at least appearing to do it. As long as I have another profession, I could not be a philosopher at the same time, but I would love to be more sagacious or, at least to know more than I know. I do not think that, for such a little thing, one would agree to recognise me as a philosopher. The professionals certainly don't, but I have to assume that I am not suffering for it.

The adjectival sense of the word philosophy is still acceptable not only for me, but also for all people, because - to a certain extent - all of us are philosophers, that is to say lovers of wisdom. That does not mean that all of us are necessarily wise persons (which would be the most boring thing on earth), but we cannot deny we would like to be wise. But what is wisdom really? Napoleon said that stupid people deal with the past, wise men with the present day and madmen with the future (Les sots parlent du passe, les sages du présent, les fous de l’avenir). If he had been a little mad, his fate would have been better, maybe. One thing is certain: he used to have very unclear ideas about wisdom. So please allow me to consider myself, if not a philosopher, at least a fan of it. Napoleon also said: "Mind always beats sword". Paradoxical fellow this Napoleon!

Why have I said I should not want to be a professional philosopher? Because, since Socrates' day up until today, philosophy has been through the mill, from sublime toward ridiculous! First at all, from the large field of knowledge, smaller but more precise fields have spun off, one after another. They have built their means of investigation, and have definite themselves as more or less exact sciences. The reminded field for philosophy has become smaller and smaller, and more gravely, fewer and fewer people are willing to make philosophy their career, as long as scientific ones were much more pertinent and profitable. The remaining philosophers, following the example of the exact sciences, tried to create their own language but, unfortunately, not to make the expression clearer but, on the contrary, more esoteric and exclusive.

Veda means in Sanskrit language science, knowledge (Rig-Veda, Sama-Veda, etc.). This proves that, in the 3rd millennium B.C., a priest used to be scientist and scholar as well. The separation occurred later. The weakest of them remained philosophers and particularly priests.

Often, nowadays philosophers write on a rigorous, arid and sophisticated way what people knew long before. Often, in many scholarly writings, the author ends his expose with a folk saying, destined to confirm the truth of his logical demonstration, but which proves that popular wise knew for a long time what he had just discovered.

Socrates used to philosophise with all people, for all people, using language adequate to his interlocutors, but always approaching essential problems. Nowadays philosophy is only a parade of language, sometimes just to hide a lack of ideas and content. "Quand un philosophe nous répond, on ne comprend plus du tout ce qu’on lui avait demandé." (André Gide) The consequence is recorded by one of the last of common-sense Romanian philosopher: “the authors of philosophic texts are greater in number today in the world than their readers” (Gabriel Liiceanu).

As for the people, from the philosophy they wait for something that it cannot give, and afterwards they express their disappointment. Man wants to receive the truth, but the single way to accede to it is his own inner act of thinking. By all means, philosophy should be thought again and again, in every epoch, with the tools of thinking specific to that epoch.

As a reader, I prefer the essays of scientists who, willing or not, become more philosophical as the years go by. They, at least, passed some serious examinations and proved some superior brains. The first philosophers were the scientists of their time as well. Later on, most of the serous ones used to have hard studies. Probably such thoughts entered Schopenhauer's mind when he wrote "he who wants to make serious philosophy must study thoroughly at least on exact science". Therefore the idea is not a new one, but it is not convenient. Why? It is not difficult to see.

¶. Life can be intricate but man has the capacity to pass over its tribulations by more than one means. One of them is the forgetfulness. He forgets unpleasant episodes and goes on. The predilection of men for soldier's jokes has just this explanation. Only small amusing events remain in the memory, as if military service had been nothing else but a continuous entertainment. Big mistake!

Speaking of forgetfulness, I have always found interesting the proximity of meanings between the verbs to forget and to look back. It does not work in English but it obviously did in Romanian and, probably, in old Greek. I do not know for sure, but Orpheus' legend makes me think so. Let me explain. In Romanian language, to forget and to look back are homonyms: "a uita". As far as the legend goes, it is nice. Thanks to his special qualities, Orpheus had got the privilege to bring back to life Eurydice, his wife, who had just died. Persephone, Hades' wife, who granted him this unexpected favour, asked him not to look behind on his homeward journey until they reached the upper world. Everything goes well but, when they were about to get out, he looked back for assuring of Eurydice really was walking behind him. At that moment, Eurydice vanished back into the darkness of the underworld. In a moment of wandering, Orpheus forgot (a uitat) his engagement, and looked back (s-a uitat inapoi). Later, a fierce band of women killed him and threw his head into the Hebrus River. The head continued to sing for Eurydice and was carried as far as Lesbos, where the muses buried it. Let's remind that his mother, Calliope, was a muse too. In Greek philosophy everything takes part in a cycle, and comes back to where it departed from. Also, singing means to obey the memory.

Perpetual return is the fundamental principle in most old faiths, which even the Greeks could not elude. The Jews broke the cycle and the Christians perfected it. They created history, namely something that has a beginning and will have an end. Wow! The Greeks, at the height of their advanced conception, had the notion of infinite only for the time, not for the materiel. According to their conception, atoms were of a finite number. It results from this theory that, however great the possible number of combinations would be, as time is infinite, the atoms will return to identical configurations already seen in the past. Consequently, every shape of life will return somewhere at the same stage after a while. From here, it comes the idea of the cycle, reaffirmed in nature in an infinite number of forms and confirming the idea of perpetual return.

Oriental faiths start from the idea that, removing wish, we get rid off the sufferings. But pain is a sign that something goes wrong. It is only a symptom. Removing it we do not remove the cause. Consequently, we must correct our wrong way, behaviour, or convictions. This is the only way. We cannot make a perfect thing for the first time. Not even God did not succeed. He still works for improving his creation. As for the Bible, it needs many up-to-dates.

Happiness is everybody's major aim. Any man seeks for his own happiness. That's why all serious religion tried to give a way to its parishioners. Usually, they are persuaded to do nothing but follow a pre-established way. Doing it, they are happy being are sure they are on the right way.

As for me, I must confess that I love to learn as much as possible; I split hair for it. Maybe this is a flaw and not a quality, as I am happy only for the moment, when I have just learnt something, but I am not happy generally.

¶. Johan Huizinga wrote a book about the play: Homo Ludens. Huizinga is a very serious savant, and the sub-title of his book is "Essay of determination of the ludic element of the culture". He says the play is performed in the fullest seriousness. It has its rules. It is the play that teaches the man to keep the rules. Firstly, he does it with good humour, without stress and on his own initiative. Huizinga persuades us that everything that man does, no matter how serious, is what he learnt playing, during his childhood. In the whole his life, he will put into practice the methods learnt then, and will be respectful of those rules. Even the most cruel war, is a play too. (Not for all! I remember a maxim of a Greek, I think: when children throw with stones in frogs, just for the fun, the frogs do not die for the fun, but in reality.)

On the other hand, the play is exaltation and ecstasy. By means of play, the man isolates himself in time and space from usual life. For a moment, he lives in another world. The main role of the play is to stimulate the imagination. Yes, this is the key! The new ideas come by playing, when we let our brains to frisk. One's intellectual value seems to be directly proportional to his availability to enjoy himself.

¶. The single being who postpones is the man. Plants and animals do everything immediately. Postponement is an attribute of the intelligence. The idea of waiting is the essence of any religion. For Christianity, there is the belief in a future life in Heaven, the Second Coming of Christ, etc. Even communist propaganda built such a promise too: communism would be a final aim; till then, we must sacrifice ourselves in a socialist society. It is not different now. Romania is said to be in a period of transition, from a dictatorial-communist country toward a market-orientated one. As a mater of fact, nobody does something in this purpose. On the contrary, we are going from a bad organised society to one completely disorganised one, in which some chiefs will do as they wish.

¶. Do we are free? Without the pressure of the atmosphere our body would burst. (Schopenhauer said it.) The absolute liberty is not possible. In society, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said that it is the enemy who borders us, gives form and found us. Let us not say just enemy, but it is clear that our liberty come up against the others' liberty, so that we must not disregard them.