From my journal:
I just bought a coke and am sitting by Lake Titicaca with the most spectacular view imaginable. The thing Corona commercials are made of. I could hope for shade but where in Bolivian Andes the sparse brush doesn’t have that occupation. Instead its job is to indicate where there is dirt (by occupying it) and where there is only rock (by avoiding it). There is not much foliage. The air is crisp and cool and the sun, while not exactly hot, is powerful. In the distance the snow covered mountain peaks are visible. At almost 4000m high they are not that far off. A group of workmen lounge near me. I pay with a disturbingly large 20BS bill (worth $2.50) the woman struggles to find change and a workman provides it.
But all was not well. It was on the island that I began to have dreams.
That night I dreamed that I had returned to Seattle. Somehow I was in seattle. My aunt had died and I was sleeping in her bed but somehow I was calling people to hang out with them I had trouble dialing the numbers, I had trouble getting a connection. My ex girlfriend was pregnant with my child and I remember feeling like I was going to have to try be a good father and always be in this life. This did not excite me. She was so happy to be pregnant but I had somehow forgotten she was, which made me feel bad. I felt like I needed to call her but either she couldn’t, wouldn’t pick up or I couldn’t call her. My aunt had had 3 different phones by her bed so people could call her but they were in a tangled mess, impossible to use. On one some of the numbers didn’t work. On another the cord would come loose. The third worked fine but I could never remember which one was the good one.
I was able to call my brother to hang out and he was really aloof. “Oh. Yeah? Fine…” “You want to go out to lunch?” “Fine… Where…?” “I don’t know, you’re the one who knows this place.” “Oh…” He was distracted, doing computer stuff. “Aren’t there some great lunch deals?” “Tons…” “Ok, what’s a good one?” Then he told me where he usually went and we decided to meet. The atmosphere was light…
This was not the first time I have had this dream. When I was 16 I visited South Africa for two weeks with my parents. Also I was taking antimalerial drugs and they enhanced the dreams I would have. I remember that every night for week I dreamed I was calling my friends but they could not hear my voice over the phone and would hang up, thinking it was a prank call. I would dream of speaking to them seperated by glass.
I remember feeling frustrated like I did when I began travelling in South Africa.
Calling. Calling. No one listening…
A kite soars high in the air looking down on the fields below. By their nature kites have a paradoxical relationship with their string: it is their very attachment to the ground that gives them the ability to soar above it. How must a kite feel about the chain around his leg, does it dream of being let go, flying forever?
As I write this I remember that before I left an ex-girlfriend gave me a kite that I decided not to bring because it reminded me of her.
The dreams shook me. And I began to be filled with self doubt. I called home and it helped. But only a little.
The philosopher Kierkegaard once wrote that there were three different modes for living a meaningful life: the aesthetic, the moral and the religious.
The aesthetic life is based on the physical. The goal is happiness and the aesthetic person survives by feeding those pleasure centers of the brain. And why not? After all there is nothing else! Sadness is wasted energy. Instead the aesthetic person moves from project to project, never “hoping to change the world” for such changes are meaningless as any. For the aesthetic person all meaning is relative and thus “changing the world” in any objective sense is also meaningless. Instead the goal of the aesthetic person is to “make the most of life” by measuring progress against his own standards. Of course objectively speaking this too has no meaning and sometimes the aesthetic person has “bad dreams”…
The moral person believes in an objective truth, in ideals, and in a world with rules, standards and right. For the moral person there is a “better” way to do things and in a given situation a set of “right” things to do. This person believes in progress, in objective goodness and possibly in evil too. To the moral person you can strive, perhaps through education or willpower, to be a “better” person. Perhaps the moral person does not even pretend to know or understand this objective truth and morality in the universe but he does believe it exists. Perhaps we do not know the standards by which we will be judged, but there are standards. But he also accepts that we can never achieve those standards: they exist only as a goal to be reached for, as a yoga instructor might tell you to “reach for the stars” in order to “improve” our posture. His is a sad lot, knowingly striving for an unachievable world.
Finally, the religious person also believes in a world of objective meaning, of rightness and justice. But, unlike the moral person, the religious person truly has faith that the perfection he strives towards will come to pass. He has utter fath in the world and that the world is as he understands it. The aesthetic clings to nothing but himself, the moral has his rules, but in his time of need the religious has rock solid conviction in his hour of need.
To illustrate the differences Kierkegaard uses an analogy of three nights in love with a princess. To illustrate the differences Kierkegaard uses an analogy of three nights in love with a princess. The aesthetic knight is rejected by the princess. ‘you’re not a prince’ she says. ‘i only date princes’. he loves her but realizes that their love will never happen. he leaves disappointed and eventually dates the millers daughter and they are happy together, though he always reads the papers to find out what is up with the princess. Sometimes he dreams about her though he cannot tell his wife.