Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Summer Harvests, New Beginings, and Hannah Arendt(?)
I woke up this morning with a freight train of thoughts circling my mind and influencing my emotional state. One thought, which stood out from all the rest was the idea of the possibility of a new beginning in life; in my life in particular. You can only imagine how this thought was intrusive in comparison to all of the other thoughts ransacking my mind. My days, like everyone else, are filled with endless repetition. I normally greet the sunrise with thoughts of accomplishing daily tasks, reflecting on missed opportunities of the day before, reconciling myself with the guilt that follows most of my social interactions, and the burdensome goals of morning hours--e.g. washing, brushing my teeth, clothing myself, and eating breakfast. Alas the idea of a possible new beginning is out of sorts! Can there be any new beginnings? What would that even look like? I am imprisoned by the culture (or madness) of the day and taunted by the duties of the night, could anything change that? How would my day be different or brought anew? Would a new beginning change the course of my actions throughout the day or make the endless tasks of the day bearable? Even if I changed my environment and the substance of my daily culture I would still have to labor, eat, sleep, and accomplish all the things in between...
I guess the thought itself was not out so of sorts taken within the context of my current life. In almost 30 days exactly I will be moving once again back to the east coast. I have been living in Los Angeles (my home town) for the past three years. Two of those three years has been attempting to complete my M.A in Philosophy while I have been living in a small (and at times aesthetically unpleasant) town of Playa Del Rey. A few months ago I was accepted to a doctorate program on the east coast and will have to relocate in the beginning of the summer. Nevertheless the thought of leaving Los Angeles I imagine envelopes similar feelings Abraham the Biblical Prophet maybe have had when he had to leave his homeland to embark on his journey (in the Portion 'Lech Lecha', Torah, which literally means leave, go). Yes, Los Angeles is in many ways the land of false'idol worship,' but the fact that I will have to leave that which has become comfortable, routine, and predictable will now become nothing but a series of memories and removed mental images once I embark on the present journey.
Ok back to the issue at hand. Is a fresh start or a new beginning possible in ones life? The first thinker/piece of literature that comes to mind is Hannah Arendt's 'The Human Condition.' To be clear, Arendt is speaking of beginnings or bringing 'something a new' in reference to human action in the public sphere (i.e. politics) and literally giving birth, bringing something new into the world. In Arendt's view what was first in existence wasn't our material existence (or a something) rather it was someone, a beginner or a actor. In Arendt action is separate from other domains of human existence, e.g labor, the home, the arts, crafting, etc. Action as a new beginning brings something into the world that never existed before and discloses the actor to the world and herself. Arendt elaborates,
"With the creation of man, the principle of beginning came into the world itself, which, of course, is only another way of saying that the principle of freedom was created when man was created but not before. It is in the nature of beginning that something new is started which cannot be expected from whatever may have happened before. This character of startling unexpectedness is inherent in all beginnings and in all origins. Thus, the origin of life from inorganic matter is an infinite improbability of inorganic processes, as is the coming into being of the earth viewed from the standpoint of processes in the universe, or the evolution of human out of animal. The new always happens against the overwhelming odds of statistical laws and their probability, which for practical, everyday purposes amounts to certainty; the new therefore always appears in the guise of a miracle. The fact that man is capable of action mean that the unexpected can be expected for him, that he is able to preform what is infinitely improbable." (p.g. 177-78, Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, 1958)
Arendt version of a new beginning touches on the depths of human nature and is much more sophisticated then my self-loathing reflections in the a.m. However, overall, Arendt's view does shed light on some crucial aspects of my distinctively human existence that was overlooked in my initial reflections. Mainly, that what is new is always available to me because it is what is in me, it is my origins, my arche. So my initial question of if there can be a new beginning throws me back to the question of myself and the limitations of my own thoughts. According to Arendt's view, I am infinite improbability, thus for me to saturate my mind with only thoughts of repetition is circumventing my own nature-- in a way. So maybe the question I should have asked myself how can I make a new beginning today, through my actions and my thoughts. I should not wait until I move across the country and abuse my final days in the land of idols (i.e. Los Angeles), to day dream if my life can be different or if I can bring about newness to the endless repetition of my life. I should start today with disclosing myself through my actions and deeds towards others within the world. But how?
Can ideas themselves bring something new into the world?
Does newness strictly exist within action?
From the standpoint of Arendt's metaphysics it does...
But let's not relieve my question. Can newness start at the level of thought? Not just in terms of 'positive thinking,' rather an awareness of my own existence--of its possibilities, its infinity---and then that would shift my actions and behavior during the day?
In this sense I am on the side of Arendt, newness does mainly come into our lives and the world from our individual actions and through being with others.
But I am still unresolved about the question of newness in thought or self-consciousness.
Of course this is a bit overwhelming and I have gotten ahead of myself in many ways. I guess I am trying to say is that there is a such thing of a new beginning in life, and in my life in particular. How that is going to manifest itself I don't know, at least today I don't. An intrusive thought in my morning haze has turned into an unsettling topic of discussion... To be continued......