It doesn’t require a studied philosophic bent to succumb to the universal perplexity of substance. Eventually – and more often than not in short order – the deterioration of one’s current affairs follows the disclosure of a lack of depth. If the pith and marrow are missing so too are the clout and the mettle. An intoxicating – or merely stimulating – affluence is directly related to a solid, tangible presence. It would be preposterous to assume that only the initiated with obscure knowledge are sensitive to the allure of depth. Recall for example the scathing insight of the child in Hans Christian Anderson’s fable who so uncomfortably observed, “The Emperor has no clothes!”
The guiding thesis is that no matter what takes place it is incumbent upon each of us to adopt an experience of life which affords pleasure through appreciation; and, perhaps most importantly, a native curiosity to embrace the delicacy of what transpires before our eyes and unwittingly within our sphere. This effort amounts to nothing more than believing what one sees. It does however entail the equal necessity to unfold the layers which so frequently disguise the underlying substance.
In simpler terms the meaning of life is what we make of it. Though this may sound like a bit of contrived intellectualism, it is purely axiomatic. It may nonetheless threaten one’s instincts to imagine that there is some hidden translation of life. Au contraire the energizing flavour of life is an open book to the snoopy or inquisitive mind. But one must first accept that the thrust of an event depends primarily upon our own characterization of it. And that in turn requires conviction to thought and analysis.
At the risk of descending into absurd argument, I cannot but state that underlying all my thinking on the subject is the conviction that so much of what we see depends strictly upon the eyes through which we see it. This roughly qualifies as a general rule by which to approach the world. Each one of us – whether the Emperor in the palace or the child by the road – pointedly shares identical human need and complaint. It naturally is no indignity to face the world in a birthday suit; but to pretend to have a cloak of gold thread is an abuse! Not to mention a contradiction and misleading1
“Two swindlers arrive at the capital city of an emperor who spends lavishly on clothing at the expense of state matters. Posing as weavers, they offer to supply him with magnificent clothes that are invisible to those who are stupid or incompetent. The emperor hires them, and they set up looms and go to work. A succession of officials, and then the emperor himself, visit them to check their progress. Each sees that the looms are empty but pretends otherwise to avoid being thought a fool. Finally, the weavers report that the emperor’s suit is finished. They mime dressing him and he sets off in a procession before the whole city. The townsfolk uncomfortably go along with the pretense, not wanting to appear inept or stupid, until a child blurts out that the emperor is wearing nothing at all. The people then realize that everyone has been fooled. Although startled, the emperor continues the procession, walking more proudly than ever.“
While there is certainly room to allow that some circumstances are more palatable than others, the broader conclusion holds true that many of us are shackled by innate limitations rather than external restrictions. I have always flattered myself to think I have the wherewithal to mount at least some gusto for whatever it is that life puts before me. Technically this is true to the extent that normally we have no alternative but to adjust and accommodate. But that is not the same thing as harvesting colour and tenor from what happens. Therein lies the real adventure!