Monday, July 26, 2010

Epicurious

Plato’s theory of forms, after all, has it that beyond the material world — the all-too-human world that’s anatomized in icky detail in the vast majority of Craigs list postings — are ideal archetypes. These archetypes are the most real things in the universe. A platonic relationship is, therefore, a human relationship that inspires appreciation for the idealized human, the divine. The relationship must be chaste lest it become an end in itself and a distraction from spiritual matters.

- Virginia Heffernan

Sigh. This is why I keep saying, while only barely joking, that Plato ruins everything. Nietzsche famously quipped that Christianity was just Plato's philosophy for the masses, the same overly abstract world-denial. Concepts and ideas are real, of course, but in the same way that our neocortex developed out of, and on top of, our cerebellum and limbic system, concepts and ideas don't exist by themselves, independent and superior to the earthly reality from which they came. Me, I don't trust any idea that isn't still speckled with a little bit of mud and a little bit of blood.

And while they stress their lofty indifferences, the members of the Strictly Platonic crowd are equally passionate about their desire: conversation, conversation, conversation. Live, e-mail, phone, text, chat — platonic people, it seems, want people to talk to. [...] The forum is enlightening because it represents a collaborative effort to define “platonic” — and define it against nearly everything else on Craigslist. You would think the word would be debased by now. But it’s surprisingly intact. Maybe that’s why we still need some notion of platonism in everyday life. Once we’ve stipulated that commercial culture is that which debases everything, we need a popular concept that helps us resist debasement.

See, I could fit in with this crowd. But note the words "passionate" and "desire", those are important. As nerdy as it sounds, I'm at a point in my life where the thought of reading, writing and discussing is more exciting to me than the thought of sexual or romantic adventures. As Henry Rollins once said, "I don't want to know, I don't want to be known, in that relationship kind of way." There's so many ways to know someone, so many angles to approach from. I just happen to not want those sort of entanglements anymore. But make no bones about it, I'm not claiming that I'm pursuing a "better" or "higher" activity; it's just different, like any other question of taste. I wish we could envision a joyful pursuit of intellectual pleasures that doesn't conjure up images of oddball malcontents of one stripe or another, wrinkling their noses in disgust at all the rutting pigs around them. Forget Plato. Listen to Epicurus instead.

2 comments:

noel said...

I can't help agreeing with your last point, as I'm both an oddball malcontent and a rutting pig (actually, I'm an oddball content, but that's not an expression for some reason). But your beef with Plato and Zeno....their ideas are overreached, but genius in context. If we can see farther than they, it is because we are standing on their shoulders.

The Vile Scribbler said...

There's absolutely no denying his indescribably immense influence. You can respect the sheer power of it. But the fact that so many of his stupid ideas have become like the air we breathe, totally unremarkable and unacknowledged, is a matador's cape to me, not to mention that anyone who designs an ideal republic where poets and music will be banned has made a mortal enemy of me. Standing on his shoulders, yes, but pissing on his head nonetheless.