existentialist cafe

life is sacred

Tag: semiotics

Life is a mountain whose summit we are always trying to reach. It is surmised by many climbers that the mountain is of infinite height, as it is composed of an infinite number of cliffs. Others, though, have surmised that a short-cut could be found to the top.*

If each cliff is climbed in half the time as the previous, then an infinite number of cliffs could be scaled in twice the time that it takes to climb the first one.

Maybe the first is climbed in one year.

The second is climbed in half a year.

The third in 1/4 of a year.

The fourth in 1/8 of a year.

The fifth in 1/16 of a year.

The sixth in 1/32 of a year.

And so on.

If you add up all of these infinite cliffs, 1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + 1/16 + 1/32 + 1/64… 1/n = 2

Some have dismissed this as a mind game, with no bearing on the climbing of real cliffs.

Others, however, have taken up the game of paradox, and in fact argue that through extensive meditation on these paradoxes, one can begin to perceive the totality of the mountain, though in dim outline only. In fact, they argue that this mountain is not only infinitely large but infinitely small as well, and that it can be perceived in a sunflower, a bird flying south, or a drop of water falling into a tea cup.

Others have argued that anyone who perceived the mountain would always fail to perceive herself as well, and therefore taking in the whole at once would be impossible.

Still climbing.

*Rudy Rucker, “Infinity and the Mind.”


the river in the tree

“The lawn is full of south and the odors tangle, and I hear today for the first the river in the tree.” ~emily dickinson

What a delight, to have one’s eyes opened, to see the pure form within ever-constant change. William Styron, reflecting on his mental illness, writes of a contralto passage from a Brahm’s rhapsody:

“This sound, which like all music – indeed, like all pleasure – I had been numbly unresponsive to for months, pierced my heart like a dagger, and in a flood of swift recollection I thought of all the joys the house had known.”

The fog thick as a blanket, one note like a shaft of sun, a comrade in white sent from heaven to minister to the sick, dying man, stranded on the battlefield of depression. There are weights that press against our chest for so long that we no longer notice they are there until they are suddenly lifted. When the ball and chain fall away, we may feel like dancing, but afraid that we do not know how. No wonder that for some time our shoulders may still droop, and our feet may still drag.

There are these things that call us back to life, and in so doing bequeath in us a new awareness of deep, abiding beauty. There is nothing like being grateful for the one bird singing outside our window, for the one child laughing, for the one note played piercingly high. There are these things that come uninvited to our darkened hearth, and bring their light and charm with them.

I could cry salty tears
Where have I been all these years
Little wow, tell me now-
How long has this been going on?

There were chills up my spine
And some thrills I can’t define
Listen sweet, I repeat-
How long has this been going on?

Oh, I feel that I could melt
Into heaven I’m hurled
I know how Colombus felt
finding another world.

Kiss me once, then once more
What a dunce I was before
What a break, for heaven’s sake!
How long has this been going on?

Today a symbol fell from heaven, carrying with it evidence of both its origin and its destination. Sandwiched in between a flash of red and a blade of grass, or between laughter and silence, or between the sunlight and the forest floor. There is no sense of why or how, but only whence and whereto. Today, the dandelions floated by from a lawnmower, like a special effect for the afternoon reverie, so I could sink deeper into a daydream.


There is a time for ‘why.’ Follow that daisy chain further and further back into your metaphysical past. Ask, answer, ask again, to infinity and beyond. Then, finally, when your tongue is swollen, give yourself the silence that you could have learned from the beginning. Do not interrogate the portents from heaven that fall on your lap. There is a neuron in your brain that understands this matter, without speech. Do as it says. If you must speak, know that speech is only the background noise to the efforts of your mind.

There is a time for speech. Speak to others, who do not understand, who desire to understand, who need to understand. Speak to yourself who does not understand, who desires to understand, who needs to understand. Speech fills up our hesitation. When our conscious mind is at a loss and grasping for sense, sending its tentacles into the air to find some purchase, speech coaxes it on. Silence unnerves it. Speech soothes it. There is a time for speech.

And there is a time for silence. Listen to that portent from heaven, that flash of red against the winter white, that dapple of sunlight on the forest floor. Listen, for a long long time. Then get up, and go.