02 December 2012

There's a Place

I know we come to,
There's a field somewhere,
There are many ways to take you,
I will meet you there.

Kind readers, you may recall that over this summer, I read a particular book three times in the course of two weeks. That book, The Fault in our Stars, makes quite a few good observations. However, the one that stands out to me today us about the nature of intimacy.

Throughout the book, Hazel Grace and her friend Augustus have many conversations on the phone. Not those awkward, I just called you and now have nothing to say conversations, but the sort that feel as if both conversants have somehow meet in a third location, separate from the two physical locations they occupy. The sort of conversation where they can say a single word that speaks volumes. The sort of conversation that cannot be forced or recreated by design.

A dialogue, if you will.

I've been listening to a band called Brother a lot recently. You could say they are an independent band. You could say they embrace the ugly ducklings of music. You could call them Celtic, and none of these would be inaccurate. For those of you not in on the secret, Brother specializes in tribal fusion: didgeridoos and bagpipes have never sounded so good with electric guitar and a synthesizer.

Here's what you need to do right now: follow this finely crafted link to the Brother website, and when the automatic player pops up, click through until it plays A Thousand Ways. Listen to the song, then pass go and collect a thousand dollars for your good taste in music.
I'll wait for you, don't worry.



Back?  Congratulations, you are now officially a mongrel.
A Thousand Ways talks about a universal place existing outside of the purely physical realm that is open to all who wish to enter. Don't believe me? Go back and listen to it again. That'll do.
Now, it's entirely plausible they are speaking of something entirely different, with more to do about the continuance of the human species, but it is important to remember that in the realm of art, the meaning the listener ascribes to a piece is just as valid as the creator's intent, if not as accurate.
This song reminds me of the egalitarian nature of ideas. The great equalizer is not the government. It's not tolerance. It is found at the cross, but it can also be found in a discourse.

You may recall my post from a few weeks ago, covering a range of topics from community to conversations. Remember, dear friends, that I am a glutton for good conversation. In this particular post, I spoke briefly of the way the I feel after a good conversation. There is a sort of liveliness, energy, and exuberance that follows such a rousing discussion. Being the person I am, I have not rested until I've come up with a  good enough theory to explain this unusual phenomenon. And here's what I think.

In life, we face many inequalities. Inequality of money is the first that comes to mind, but there are others. While some in the public school system may say otherwise, there is a definite inequality in intelligence. This is not to be judgemental or eugenic in any way, but it certainly true that some people have the capacity for higher levels of thought than others. For instance, I could never replicate the sort of hypothetical thinking that led Einstein to formulate his theories of relativity.

There is inequality of beauty - some people can clearly be acknowledged as good-looking, while others are ... not. Inequality of personality or likeability, or how popular people can make themselves. Inequality of social skills, as demonstrated by the people who feel comfortable interacting with a variety of others.

And then there's inequality of confidence.  How confident am I in the person that I am? Now, make all the jokes you want about insecure female bloggers, but I definitely fall into that category. Not entirely, but there is definitely a part of me that is insecure. But then again, who in this planet isn't? The wonderful and mind-blowing GK Chesterton once observed that the only people who truly believe in themselves are the mad men.

But I digress.

We face inequality wherever we go, whether it's in fortune or favor or fascination or fate. Point being, there is always some reason to feel unworthy. There will always be someone more beautiful, more intelligent, more charismatic, more influential than you are. Where things get funny is that for some (literally) unearthly reason, humans rebel at the notion that we are not equal.

That's how you run into entitlement mentality, that the world somehow OWES you something because of how you look or where you were born or how much money is in your bank account. It's our attempt to validate our own experience. We want to be equal, even though in this broken planet, it's impossible.

Let me take you on a short trip into philosophy. In Ancient Greece, there was a smart guy called Plato. Now, Plato was a professional philosopher - funnily enough, philosophers earned a living in Greece by teaching the rich's children the arts of rhetoric and reason. So Plato wrote a lot of books on philosophy, and in one of them he brings up what we now call The Analogy Of the Cave. Note those capital letters.

A gross oversimplification of The Analogy Of the Cave goes like this. Say a man has lived his whole life chained facing the wall of a deep, dark, dank cave. Behind the man are objects that cast shapes onto the wall of the cave that the man constantly looks at. Now, the man in the cave would know only one reality: he certainly sees objects, and they appear to be the ultimate reality to him. However, what he sees are only the shadows of their real selves.

Say the man were to escape from his bonds. When he turns around, he would be startled to discover that the shadows on the wall were NOT ultimate reality as he formerly supposed, but actually rough representations of the true Ultimate Reality. That he's been living in a sort of Shadowland the entire time, but never knew it.

Sound familiar, anyone? Remember, Paul was a classically educated Roman citizen. For now we see through a screen darkly...

But back to the point. The point is this. Ideas exist outside of our physical lives the way the objects in the cave existed out of the man's personal experience. We are influenced by them, and may even think we've discovered them. Ultimately, though, we all are as new-comers in the realm of Platonic Ideals. No one can truly be said to have an edge when it comes to ideas. True, one may have discovered more of them for oneself, but that is meaningless when another discovers the same idea.

For example, a friend and I were talking recently when said friend started describing what was termed the "Universality of Ideas and Metaphors." On closer inspection, the friend had basically described the whole concept of Platonic Ideals without ever having heard of The Analogy Of the Cave before. This was an exciting conversation, because while I had already discovered what this friend was describing, the friend was still grasping onto its significance. And as my friend talked, I started thinking about Platonic Ideals in an entirely different reason.

I feel like I'm not explaining this well, so I'll try it in a different way.

Conversations make me feel warm and fuzzy and covered in Ewok hugs because they are truly equalizing: No one can be said to have a really important inequality in a conversation. True, someone may have more or less information than the other, a conversation is an exchange. It's a dialogue. A discussion. A give-and-take that flows like the tides and can never be duplicated. You can never lose in a conversation; you can grow and be challenged and forced to change. But you can never exit a discussion and say "Wow, I feel so bad about myself because I now know something I didn't know before."

There's a place I know we come to, because I've been there before.

There's a thousand ways to take you, and we will meet there under the stars glittering in the heavens and listen to the ululations of the didgeridoos as we clutch mugs of tea to ourselves and discourse until the dawn starts sweeping the eves of the sky.

1 comment:

  1. HA! There is someone other than me who likes Brother! I, of course, was exposed to a similar genre of music by the somewhat unfortunately casual Wicked Tinkers...but was, unlike many, able to find my way to a better representation of how skilled such a genre(defying?) band can be. I welcome my mongrelness!