The world is getting more and more existential day by day. More Darwinian. Or at least that is how I feel and perceive it now. It may have something to do with my age, something that anyone approaching sort of like a mid-life crisis will feel. While I am not sure at all if I am in a mid-life crisis (I certainly hope not), the world do seem like that to me now. I used to be an idealist, to a point that can annoy anyone who thinks that there is no such thing as an ideal world. Come to think of it now, it may be true. This reminded me of an essay Isaiah Berlin wrote entitled “The Decline of Utopian Ideas in the West”. Quote:
“The idea of a perfect society is a very old dream, whether because of the ills of the present, which lead men to conceive of what their world would be like without them – to imagine some ideal state in which there was no misery and no greed, no danger or poverty or fear or brutalising labour or insecurity – or because these Utopias are fictions deliberately constructed as satires, intended to criticise the actual world and to shame those who control existing regimes, or those who suffer them too tamely; or perhaps they are social fantasies – simple exercises of the poetical imagination.”
I remembered how joyful I was when I first read Plato’s allegory of the cave in his “The Republic”. I was pretty young then, still sort of a punk that fits Shimamoto’s description in Murakami’s “South of the Border, West of the Sun” – “…uncouth and selfish. And all they can think about is getting their hand up a girl’s skirt”. With my brand new set of “Great Books of the Western World”, “The Republic” was the first book I read from the set.
It just blew my mind away back then. Yes, Truth exists. Perfection exists. Ideals exist. Exactly how I come to adopt a rather different world-view now, I could not understand. Perhaps it is due to many years of roughing up after stepping into society for real, for a living, where resources are scarce, and everyone is going all out to put themselves on the map. It is also through a perception and observation of the many things that happen in the world and around me and I think to myself, how could all these happen if there is really such a thing as “Ideal, Perfect, Truth”?
Anyways, I am not bitter at all with life. Far from it. It just striked me at this very moment how my world-view have changed. Now, for me, existence really precedes essence. Well, at least most of the time. Some essence do precede existence. I still need to go find out exactly what these are. I am still a bit stubborn and would still prefer to be a true idealist. I guess maybe that’s because my “essense” is still rather much the same as the me in the age Shimamoto-chan described. Or maybe even earlier.
As the closing sentences in Berlin’s above-mentioned essay noted, after an extensive analysis of the topic, “Immanuel Kant, a man very remote from irrationalism, once observed that ‘Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.’ And for that reason no perfect solution is, not merely in practice, but in principle, possible in human affairs, and any determined attempt to produce it is likely to lead to suffering, disillusionment and failure.”
The same picture as the last one posted. Exactly what is reality, no one can really be sure nowadays… Thanks to my wife for altering this reality ;-)