We are fiction(s).

by Narkissos 21 Replies latest jw friends

  • Rapunzel

    Narkissos - Of course, without a doubt, you realize that, in writing "Know thyself," you are quoting the ancient wisdom of the oracle at Delphi. As I remember, on the walls of the same cave were also written the words - "Nothing in excess." Does my memory serve me correctly?

    Just curious, how did you first come to know of this sage counsel? Was it by reading L'Apologie de Raimond Sebond by Montaigne? Didn't Montaigne call this sage advice "paradoxical"? I think that he was correct in doing so. I think to know oneself is paradoxical in that it is truly "mission impossible." I find that even my old age [I just turned 50], I'm no closer to "knowing myself" than when I was a child. To paraphrase, arguably, the greatest American poet - Walt Whitman - after all the blah-blah-blah of life, I no closer to knowing myself than when I was first born. Probably, I shall die while remaining a mystery to myself.

  • R.Crusoe

    And the journey is less regretable if it has been a pleasureable one wouldn't you say?

    And I wonder if lck of pleasure is what predisposses some to arrive at the place of not knowing??

    Are there any voyeuristic philosophers amongst each gender who can enlighten us - past or present?

  • Leolaia

    Who we are, our identity, who we think we are, is all based on our remembering of ourselves (the notion of the "self" depends on this iterated self-reflection), of what we have done, or where we have been socially, what social categories we have related ourselves to, or been categorized by others...and everything we remember is not preserved with any fixity in our memory banks, but rather reconstructed every time we access our memories, and our memory is selective and distortive -- no one remembers the whole mass of sensory data we experience day by day, but rather what is meaningful within a narrative construct of our lives. We can't help but select and arrange our memories in such a vastly simplified and biased way -- we forget the things we'd like to forget, we assign meaning to old events that at the time may have lacked such meaning, we may fabricate memories unintentionally or for self-preservation purposes, and even what we recall accurately or with precision is but a bare, tiny sliver of what we have experienced in our lives -- we conveniently forget the rest. And we depend on the inadequate, limited resources of language and culture to express -- again in oversimplified but meaningful categories -- the subjective experiences of what we reify as our "lives".

    I started keeping a diary when I was in third grade, but I was quite reluctant to continue with it because I felt that every time I tried to write an event down, I set it in stone in a form that is so devoid of all the details, the real-life feelings and emotions, and all the other complexities that still abided in my memory of the event. I felt that if I wrote the memory down, I would then only remember what I wrote down, and forget everything else. So I began to stop keeping a diary, because there was no way I could do justice to what I experienced -- of course, I ended up forgetting nearly everything eventually, and my diary preserves what little I could remember -- but I do remember feeling something very much like this, the frustration of keeping a diary, even though I am sure that my current recounting of it is inaccurate in the details and couched in reflective language, but it does capture quite a lot of what it felt like at the time.

  • Rapunzel

    "...man is separated from the past (even from the past of a few seconds old) by two forces that go instantly to work and cooperate: the force of forgetting (which erases)) and the force of memory (which transforms)...Beyond the slender margin of the incontestable (there is no doubt that Napolean lost the battle of Waterloo), stretches an infinite realm: the realm of the approximate, the invented, the deformed, the simplistic, the exaggerated, the misconstrued, an infinite realm of nontruths that copulate, multiply like rats, and become immortal." Milan Kundera, - The Curtain [Le Rideau].

  • lalliv01

    The Internet has a way of helping people to "know themselves" again. *Thinking of Hillary*.

  • purplesofa

    Have you read A New Earth by Tolle?

    good read

  • Narkissos

    Thank you all for your input.

    otwo: "autobiographical fiction" seems to be a fairly honest label for much of what we live/write anyway... best wishes for your "next chapter," should it consist in "actual writing" or not.

    Mr. Flipper: nice to meet you too! Inasmuch as I am dead, past, silent or absent, I guess I am "fact," too.

    BTS: great! just mind the mills.

    cbb, nice to see you! I guess we're the readers / audience just as much as we are the authors / actors. Much of our "freedom" may lie in our ability to shift positions -- within our own time as NMG writes...

    FF, can we help influencing others, in one way or another? We are interactive fictions, and this applies ad intra, too. The past chapters of our life certainly affect the next, but the reverse is also true. The future can give fresh meaning to the past.

    DoomVoyager: maybe solipsism smiling at itself in the mirror?

    hamilcarr, are we "trapped" if we are the texts?

    Rapunzel, merci! I think I'd prefer the formula "no 'outside-the-text'"... and in your last sentence (of your first post) I'd stress the word our. To me, the point is not about denying there may be such thing as "non-human reality" -- it's rather about acknowledging that we never actually know "it," since our verbal and imaginary representations, which all involve some "fiction," are an integral part of our cognitive processes.

    You're quite right about gnôthi seauton and mèden agan in Delphi (although we actually depend on literary, not archeological sources on this point afaik). I really don't remember where I first read or heard about the former. In my mind it is tied in with the alleged Socratic use of the formula, which may have been paradoxical already (certainly more than in the Platonic system which involves a positive knowledge of "ideas"). And before being paradoxical it was probably ambiguous (like many oracle statements). Anyway, certainly to us it is only understandable as a paradox -- although a very useful one I believe.

    Thanks also for the great Kundera quote.

    R. Crusoe, you raise very interesting questions. I must have a look at your "anhedonia" thread, the title of which caught my eye.

    Leolaia, thank you very much for your analysis of memory and sharing your experience. I tend to think "we" are "fictions" in an even more radical way, by structural necessity of language, since "that which speaks" in us cannot do so without separating itself from anything "real" or even imaginary. Objectively, of course, "man speaks," but when I say "my body," "my soul," "my life," "my mind" I "confess" not being whatever I call "mine" -- and, perhaps, not being anything "real".

    lalliv, your remark about the Internet made me think that one reason of its success may consist precisely in what I'd call (paradoxically) our "virtual nature". From ancient myths, epic and theatre, to the Internet we have no truer way of expressing our "selves" than playing fictions.

    purps, nice to see you too! I haven't read Tolle, in fact I only heard of him through discussions on this forum. As you might remember from such discussions (with James Thomas in particular, I miss him!), I'm rather wary of the oft-repeated idea that one has to break free from "fiction" to find his/her "true self". But that may be quite different from what Tolle is actually suggesting. Got to read him someday. Thanks again for the tip.

  • nvrgnbk

    Thanks, Narkissos.

    As you've often pointed out, we're all the product of our respective cultures.

    Tolle, mentioned by purplesofa, and others that subscribe to the concept of awareness that he promotes might suggest that behind the "fiction(s)" that we participate in and that we identify ourselves with (inextricably linked with the cultural influences we've been exposed to) there is a true self, a true essence, an "I Am", free from the duality of the stories in which we we play endless and meaningless roles.

    Bien à vous

  • Xena

    We are made up of our memories. That is why I try to make mine good ones.

  • ninja

    I drink therefore I spam

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