The things that count

Despite the large number of philosophical schools and their nuances, all philosophies are said to fall into one of two primary categories, defined in contrast to each other: idealism and materialism. The basic proposition of these two categories pertains to the nature of reality: the primary difference between them is how they answer two fundamental questions—what reality consists of, and how it originated. To idealists, spirit or mind or the objects of mind (ideas) are primary, and matter secondary. To materialists, matter is primary, and mind or spirit or ideas are secondary—the product of matter acting upon matter.

Now that, I know, is a very bad way to start an idle ferret into literary nonsense. And, yes, you are correct to observe that it likely predicts philosophic ruin. The subject opens a floodgate of information and detail, both physiological and psychological. I am a confessed materialist – though I as readily add that I too am an idealist; that is, I don’t close the door on cultured Epicureanism by professing an ignorance of more exotic matters (such as space, energy, forces). Nor will I allow the debate to descend to such absurdity as, “The materialist view is perhaps best understood in its opposition to the doctrines of immaterial substance applied to the mind historically by René Descartes”. I am guessing that the problem here stems from conflicting “Cogito ergo sum”  with a mental blur only. This is a bit of a stretch in my opinion.  But it doesn’t matter; what matters is that the two things – materialism and idealism – can survive together. Call me pragmatic. Whatever. I don’t see any value isolating the two; but, I know for certain there is something to be gained from each.

Epicureanism is a system of philosophy founded around 307 BCE based upon the teachings of Epicurus, an ancient Greek philosopher. Epicurus was an atomist and materialist, following in the steps of Democritus. His materialism led him to religious skepticism and a general attack on superstition and divine intervention. It is a form of hedonism insofar as it declares pleasure to be its sole intrinsic goal. However, the concept that the absence of pain and fear constitutes the greatest pleasure, and its advocacy of a simple life, make it very different from hedonism as colloquially understood.

I found an item on my desk today.  A material object. Actually it’s something which is there all the time, surrounded by a number of other things on my desk (like a letter opener, paperweight or signature embosser). The thing I found (or rediscovered) today was from the past, a gift. As you might imagine, it meant a lot. It means a lot. Significantly it is a gift which I have kept forever. Along with other things I have which I consider to be precious for whatever obscure reason. Naturally the refinement of things to the level of precious is the blunt product of downsizing. Yet it equally predicts the favourites; and, more importantly what I consider to be their value. And here I instantly acknowledge that value has nothing whatever to do with money; rather it is affection for colour, touch and all the other (material) instincts. Or the emanations prompted thereby in the mind.

This is such a roundabout way of saying things.  Just to be clear, I haven’t any ambition whatsoever to unblock the springs whence flow these simmering pernicious thoughts. In this too I am confident to lean upon the shoulder of time, the passage of which shall entitle me to be dragged or escorted along as I decide. Meanwhile I have permitted myself the delinquent pleasure of a rumination upon the best course to follow. It is worded thus broadly as a hopeful summary of general application.  Life, in spite of its detail, is broadly speaking a collection of overall strokes. Like an impressionist’s rendering. No need to haul in any more gravel than necessary. But while remodelling is unnecessary, the preservation of some level of thoughtfulness is required in order to ensure that one isn’t smitten by mere additives and sauces alone. Substance is what matters.

And it was upon that very subject, the subject of what matters, that I stumbled in my idle musing upon the things in life that count. Making this checklist requires critical prerequisites among which is a minimum of 75 years of age.  This I have.  I’ve earned it. And now I am reaping the benefits of a lifetime of assiduity, perspicuity, amiability, largesse, and a bunch of other really important stuff.  All of which has enabled me to speak with moderate strength regarding the things that count.

The vastness of the analysis is the least dilemma surrounding its identification. There are for instance any number of personal credentials which weigh upon the currency of the things that count. And the determination becomes complicated by the application of associated psychological themes such as, “We see in others what we see in ourselves”.  A reminder such as that instantly infects the health of prior considerations. Overall however I have learned that there is, in spite of the contaminations and prevarications upon the subject, a thesis of substantiality which similarly insinuates the whole and acts as a more improving and broader conclusion of the analysis. The paramount theme is the analysis which overcomes the universal attribution of meaning to others; that is, in plain terms, not everyone matters. The worldly beneficence is especially adulterated by complex issues such as love, hate, anger, pity, remorse, persuasion and malevolence. Yet penetrating the whole is a seam of convincing identity.  The surviving cogency is the aroma to be followed. Once again in these circumstances of universality it is convenient to draw upon an adage such as, “Believe what you see”. It is an admonition which I have regularly found to be of sobering value. But it is a reminder too that the list is not of those whom we mistrust but rather of the values we find useful in the daily management of one’s life. Nor should it be a dreary subject especially in the springtime when the fields of yellow dandelions abound.

We live in a global whirlwind of activity within which we circulate sometimes as whimsically as deliberately. The capricious nature of acquaintance is such that we shouldn’t attach more to it than the casualty of its occurrence in the first instance. By the same token there is fulfillment in habit and custom. Overall its a question of figuring out the things that count.