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Philosophical Essay



By Anthony Steyning


Unedited January 2006, draft


Where lies hell?

We all dance to the same mysterious tune, Einstein suggested, but it’s clear some hear... only their own song. For when I look into the eyes of a fundamentalist I see no real expression. And when I look at his lips I never see a smile. All I perceive is a wan, a sallow face rarely rejoicing at the sight or sound of anything or anyone.


I truly don’t mind and I’m ready to respect eccentric believers, provided that they’re generous and laugh every once in a while. The ones I find preposterous, unacceptable and damnably unfair the self-obsessed robotic ones, not giving a hoot about anyone, only seen crying for their own, sunk into a deep, collective religious psychosis bad for the health of literally all others. Those standing accused of clockwork insensitivity, that is the total indifference to a quarter of a million souls drowning in a tsunami or perishing in some seismic mishap elsewhere. The result of perverse intellect, not believing in and wilfully dismissing Maya, Papua, Inuit and all the rest of us while not hesitating to use that electricity, the mobile phone, the internet, the car, the airplane, ‘god-given’ Semtex or the AK-47 they neither discovered nor manufacture. Yes, there’s something disingenuous in this. They use and use, never produce and never give; they are the inhabitants of a sad universe that isn’t, breathing cruel untruth, suffering from analogous impotence having to do with ancient, living letters meant to warm, but turned deep, dark, cold and exclusive by them.


All this as I sit in the shadows of a Chiringuito, in the south of Spain, overlooking the coast of Africa, taking a small breeze break at this simple, open beach bar where I’ve just picked up a leaflet on deep sea diving someone left behind. I’m struck by the word fundamental, how fundamental it is for the deep sea diver to stop half way up when making his way back to the surface, in order to depressurize. Not making this full stop, quite lethal and suggesting that fundamentalism not adhered to is entirely catastrophic. Except one thing. And this is that a diver must continue and rise at one point, or die by drowning anyway, so that the end purpose of his enterprise, a conclusion to his aquatic state, must never be overlooked.


A fundament is supposed to underpin something, a useful structure… or a LIFE. A fundament that allows no further upward movement is a fundament for its own sake, and as such no longer a life force. For instance, in brutal, feudal societies where one could sympathize with unrest, even understand though not quite condone violent refusal, a call to fundamentalism of one sort or another offers no respite if it seeks to preserve submission, commonly fearing true innovation just as before, and in fact wishing to perpetuate the earthly misery it claims to be desirous of eradicating. Like trying to reach the moon by horse and carriage, as sanctioned immobility by definition prevents advancement in any daily state. Furthermore, even though many creeds promulgate the humble life, and are dedicated to our re-joining the Eternal One at one stage, none declare that in the meantime we must throw life away, live like the donkey or wallow in disease. So that here we must decide who’s right, literalists seeking to hold the diver where he is, forever keeping him there in thankful, careful but unnatural celebration of his ‘fundament’ but in the end probably drowning him, or the latter’s ultimate need to come up and breathe. Obstinate these literalists. Willing themselves to deny what a metaphor is, and in the end utterly lacking any moral vision.


It sounds like Beckett, but on another level, a rather flat one this time, can you imagine a city of only foundations and no buildings, where people live between crevices like roaches, waiting, waiting for something to happen to these fundaments. When it does, and again by definition, this always turning out to be insufficient, like yet another fundament, simply because these folks are not allowed to erect anything, to discover, raise themselves, every useful ‘thought’ taken from them: no need for medicine, no need for science, no need for industry, no need for study, no need for educated women, only compliant ones, no need for books except the One, whichever it may be. No, don’t worry, we’ll read it for you, all the while intimidating you with everlasting suffering and punishment, just when you thought the ongoing nightmare could and should be ending now.


Let’s face it, fundament that is incapable or unwilling to see itself as a means instead of an end is out to hold people down and as such should probably be forbidden by God. In this context ‘May your God be with you’ is what I suddenly remember a complete stranger exhorting upon leaving the eatery where I was having a bite and as he passed my table. So that someone’s God indeed may be persuaded to speak out again. It has, after all, been a millennium or more since anyone heard from anyone of Him. Because He could really help His world by adding a few defining pronouncements, like: Thou Shalt Take What I Said With a Grain of Salt or My Intent Always Remains to Hurt Not A Single Living Soul. Meaning: Thou Shalt Not Pay Me Homage by Putting Ridiculous Words in My Mouth! Closely followed by a: Brethren, Do You Really Think I Gave You Life for You to Throw Away, High-Fiving You from my Throne, Each Time You Throw a Lethal Device or Act Senselessly and Sadistically?


Killing someone for not believing in and being unkind to Winnie-the-Pooh, would be equally unacceptable. Let us not forget therefore that common sense also is a fundament, just as freedom is and as bondage of any kind is not. And that on the opposite end of this spectrum Sartre not only proclaimed that existence is our own responsibility, which it is, but went on to suggest that unbridled egocentrism equates freedom, which is false, as no man can cut himself off from this world, from Einstein’s tune, and no one’s freedom should ever be another’s hell, because Monsieur, even locking three people in a room does not always end up with them torturing and killing each other. This is a staged truth at best and thus a falsehood, with nothing further from reality in an overwhelming majority of situations.

Now, in attempting to assess existence it’s of little use getting carried away with pedantic ‘I’m smarter than you’ type of arid notions. Like what is ‘is’, what does ‘act’ mean, what ‘is’ ‘will’, what is ‘being’ as opposed to a ‘nothingness’ in some minds, but may well ‘be’ no nothingness at all, still others undoubtedly concluding there ‘is’ no such thing as nothingness?! For as long as all pain has not been eradicated all of this is fatuous, not where our energy should flow, a bit like, grossly overweight and munching on a hamburger, facing a hungry, dying child in the Sahel ridiculously 'advising' it to 'think positive'!


For no artifical fundament really matters. What matters is that hunger ‘is’, that bombs and bullets ‘are’; no further gratuitous speculation required. So that as a step in the right direction towards living responsibly on this planet ‘Equilibrium’, that old live and let live axiom spelling out tolerance, representing the only viable justice and therefore the only true fundament worth struggling for and build upon. Massive olive branch implied.

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Unedited January 2006, draft                                                                     




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