Sunday Afternoon Crisis
According to Plato, existence can be categorised into two realms: one is the realm of the material, and the other, the realm of transcendent forms. In the former, which is the topic of this discussion, everything is limited and measured. The world as we know it can be broken down into chemicals which ultimately becomes us, both flesh and not. Certainly it is a finite world, for imperfect Beings cannot subsist in a perfect one (the world of forms), as the result will be chaos.
With science, this world that has once filled the ancients with awe suddenly became bland and contrived. Detail after detail it informs us about what-is, what-there-is, how-is; under the banner of medicine it meddles with our lives, highlighting how ought we live when in fact no amount of medicine and scientific know-how can guarantee us immortality. And is that not what the progress of science aims for? Immortality — that is, the fountain of youth, the road to El Dorado, etc.? When our eyes hanker for what is in plain sight, it creates ways to satisfy that lust. The explorers of yore made us yearn for an exotic palate when they discovered spices; they made us aspire to be wealthy when they discovered treasures of all kinds from around the world, and for all of these, they made us want to live as long as we can to covet and have the strength to satiate our desires.
It makes it clear to me to see that science, when used as a business commodity, becomes a tale of tragedy.
Science has not escaped the clutches that the power of greed have over men. This limited world was supposed to be full of mystery until mankind decided that it does not want surprises or mysteries. Hence we exist in an age where the only entity that matters are numbers: “what time does one have to get up?”, “how many hours does one have to work?”, “how much do you get paid?”, “how many admirers do you have?”, “how many places have you travelled to?”, “how many friends and followers on social media?” “how many years does one get to live?” All of these questions are a destitute reminder of how far — and how low humankind has come. Living by the numbers is a pledge to live as a failure.
“Man-unkind”, as E.E. Cummings would say.
Man-unkind indeed has infiltrated the once inscrutable abyss of the world and beyond. While it has not yet fully discovered every nook and corner of the universe, it is continually seeking ways to do so.
What science fails to give us, the power of the imagination can supply. Science itself started as a project of the imagination when the first philosopher (Thales) asked “What comprises the universe?” but it has long since escalated into a downward spiral to being a thing used for monetary gain. What goes on in the confines of the mind is a wide-range of possibilities, though certainly not infinite. The imagination is a great tool to possess when one refuses to live by the numbers. Again, although not limitless, the imagination offers us the idea that we are more than mere numbers, that unless Providence decrees for it to be so, there can be no limit or a particular number to what we can achieve if we set our hearts and minds to it.
Now here arises the problem, since what started for science as a project of the imagination ended in by-the-numbers pedagogy, is it not then that the imagination is just a means to a mundane end? That every man’s journey in life leads him to the commonplace, to a mere number? This is no ordinary problem, but an existential crisis of the highest order.
If man’s raison d’être is to avoid boredom as much as possible, how come is it that mankind strives to acquire knowledge of everything? Does he not know that is shall bore him out of his wits should the world not be shrouded in mystery anymore?
Man, however, is very stubborn and like Sylvia Plath, we all “desire very deeply that which will destroy us in the end.” So it is the same with man’s desire for progress, his wanting to quench his thirst for infinity and immortality. To live by the numbers, the how-many’s and the how-much’s, this is our secret longing — and the imagination is just a pawn in our striving for it. If we look deeply, our eagerness to live with the principle of not getting bored inclines us exactly to that path.
The imagination is a pawn, science is a pawn; the intricacies of worldly knowledge are nothing more than pastimes for a species whose motivation to live is to not get bored.
We all fall in this category and there are no exceptions. To summarize it, life is just one great big pastime until judgement day comes. Imagination, while it lifts us to heights we haven’t been in before, is bound to go downhill to its destination of drab facts and plebeian figures. We get bored easily so that we could invent more things to get bored of again. The cycle repeats itself in a Sisyphus-Like manner, and we are contented with this setting for lack of any better option. It may not be pretty, but this is the raw, incorrigible, and nonetheless prosaic fact of being human as I realize it on a mundane Sunday afternoon.