My dearest friends attempt to convince me that I am supposed to be happy, and yet few enough of them prescribe any principled basis for their own conviction. Owing to this lack of principle is the fact that their basis for attempting to prescribe me this apparent medicine, escapes any sort of reasoned diagnosis in the first place. 'He looks absolutely miserable' one acquaintance is heard to say, laughing at the familiar sight of my sullen features brooding. Not over anything, just brooding. Indeed, if the sight of such sorrow provokes a question concerning what I might be thinking, and the genuine response is 'nothing', then it ought to become clear that I, the individual in question have long since been lost to all benefactors, or was never once benefitted, so that my actual vacancy is defined by the affectations of myself and others, rather than any genuine sense of interaction with the world.
It is at this point I highlight the use of the term ‘affectation’, against the true notion of ‘interaction’. Concerning the former I would offer that it represents a pretence in human behaviour quite different from the reality of the inner-self, in categorical definitional terms, of course, but also as a feature which defines us as humans.
We prefer to think of ourselves as truly socially interactive beings, capable of directly passaging our inner thoughts and processes into unmitigated expression in the external world, when in reality, these thoughts and processes are merely translated to this absurd outside environment. And yet to those of us obsessed, indeed overcome by the consequences our externalised thoughts might have, the only way I myself can attempt to translate this fearful occupancy to you, is to say that upon being asked what I am thinking in the scenario described above, or in more delicate settings, to successfully complete this challenge, I am required to respond in a language I have no comprehension of whatsoever: A book of Pushkin’s Poems is placed in front of me, and as much as I crave the ability to understand them in the native Russian, I simply have no grasp of it at all. The Cyrillic might as well be the brick pattern of the ‘stone wall’, and I would be far smarter not to beat my head against it.
As such, what you might call the behaviours of an ascetic, I would rather call the calculus of a logistician, or perhaps even a programmed machine of nuts and bolts: Where is the basis of an understanding of a language when no external instruction is given to us whatsoever toward learning it, and when in this case, the only language we have to draw on (i.e. English), is one very far removed from what we see written before us.
Is there any way to make sense of it, beyond what we imagine it might say? Unfortunately not: there can be no verification of this imagination, unless in this case we are indeed irrational enough to believe in our own imagination.
Let us say that a successful translation of the unknown language would act as a passphrase to break down this ‘stone wall’. The result of an irrationally motivated individual’s continuously flawed attempts would surely not be a collapsing wall, but a mind collapsed by madness.
I seek to inquire: What it is that motivates us as humans to keep trying to tear down this wall?
If I and an accomplice were presented with the wall, and I, through rational calculus retracted and sat to one side, knowing we could not pass, but my accomplice continually attempted to break it down, who would be the first actor to be greeted by madness? Does calculus sooner entail madness due to its early recognition of hopelessness? And who is to say that irrationality is not perpetual, and as such, not exposed to the madness envisaged (as above) by a rational thinker.
After all, my dearest friends to whom I first referred are convinced of the continued merits of their endeavours concerning one another, and there I sit, tortured not by my exclusive retraction ‘underground’, but by my inability to convince myself that I can contribute to this absurd realm in some meaningful direction. In this way I am jealous of Sisyphus, and I am jealous of all my dear friends who wake up each day without feelings of crippling skepticism greeting their minds. It is a mechanical thing of nuts a bolts; a robot, that is struck, and compelled into retraction, or agency by a ‘thought’, or what might merely be called ‘process’. It takes altogether more human characteristics to compel oneself into action through thought. Irrationality cannot be defined by process, and as such I have yet to deprogram my brain away from its retractable setting.
Take comfort however, dearest friends, for I am still determined to investigate this absurdity, and I am not so much of an Oblomov that skepticism shall compel me to the bed until the day’s end, though sometimes I come very close.
I am perhaps still in touch enough to look forward to inquiring in my next piece, what exactly it is that first goes through your head when you wake. Perhaps you could inform me of these thoughts in the meantime.
Extinguished gaiety of years, which sunk in madness,
Presses on me like a hangover restless.
But in my soul, foregoing pine
Becomes through time still stronger, like a wine.
My way is sad. Predicts me toile and woe –
The sea of future in a wrath and row.
But, oh, my friends, I do not want to die;
I want to live for reasoning and trial;
I know, it will come – my satisfaction
Amidst the troubles, grieves and agitation:
Sometimes I’ll sink in harmony again,
Or wet my thought with tears of joy and pain.
And maybe, else, to my nightfall, in darknessWill love smile farewell with her former brightness.
Alexandr Pushkin – Elegy (1830) (Translated by Yevgeny Bonver, 2001)