I’m told history is doomed to repeat itself, but I never thought I was worth the consistency. Again this year, just like last, I was rejected as a TA in West Thought 2A06. I write this not in angst, but in unbelievable denial that even when I’m serious, I’m not worth the effort.
Perhaps I say this as a large farce, but I don’t think so. If this year has taught me anything, it is that I have learned nothing. No matter what I do, no matter what I say, or what I try, it seems that I’m unable to break from an endless storm. Failure has become my flood and I’m just trying to stay afloat.
I’m told that this is a blessing in a way: the moment of success will be so sweet. But I am unsure. When you have become numb to everything, there is no success, no happiness. There is only what you told yourself there would be – another day, another problem, and another chance at an answer.
It seems I have none currently. I can’t fix the mess I find myself in and I think that my cover letter for 2A06 proves that well. It is attached below, I guess, for consistency’s sake – not because I think it is worth anything. It isn’t. I have the rejection to prove it.
Dear Dr. Greenspan,
Months back, you asked me how I was doing. It was during Kauffeehaus with the exuberant music fit for students tired of the year gone by. We passed each other only briefly, enough for you to notice my unkempt hair, my grizzly beard, and my somewhat dirtied clothes. I looked less than divine but I was able to muster out an answer in a strained voice, “All is well.” I think I can still hear your laughter booming.
We parted ways, and after it all, after the celebration ended and the singing ceased and I eventually found myself writing this cover letter wondering where the time went, I realized that there comes a moment when a person must realize that all is not well, it never was, and maybe never will be. For me, the time came after our encounter. I looked at myself in the mirror with a waning smile, and I saw that beyond my sloven appearance, beyond my attempts at nonchalance, I was struggling to understand my life and its reason. My consciousness suddenly became tinged with an exacting tiredness and the void of everyday became poetic but lacking in meaning.
Rousseau wrote that, “We were born free, but everywhere we are in chains.” Despite his spirited discourse and haunting remark, I think that he forgot there is comfort in shackles. The rhythm of everyday: rising, eating, bus rides, school work, Monday, Friday – all following the same beat, the same consistency and monotony to which we comfort ourselves. Only once we break this daily convergence of pursuits do we see ourselves as we are; that is to say, a boy struggling to do his best impression of a man.
I think awareness of this daily absurdity is the epicenter of all philosophy. All else is secondary. All else is a revolution against the first principle, against the delusion that this chromosomal lottery of a life is normal.
But I did not always understand this. For as long as I care to remember, I have had a predilection for philosophy and its development. As I prematurely understood it way back when, I determined that philosophy was just a defense against the irrational, a special language that dealt with the unreasonable. Yet when you mentioned in your first lecture that western civilization came about from a series of revolutions, I could not help but raise my hand in disagreement (which served as greater proof for you), and when you stated that this led to the disenchantment of the world as noted by Max Weber, I decided right then that I would work for progress and re-enchantment.
I tried throughout the course to reinvigorate the mysticism of civilization, as I believe my essays, my tutorial contributions, and my constant discussions with you portrayed. Besides choosing admittedly challenging thinkers, Jean Jacques Rousseau and Friedrich Nietzsche, I expanded their primary texts to try to place them in whole of Western Thought. Rather than see the thinkers as stagnant, dead figures, I expressed the family of great minds from Kant to Freud, from Hume to Kierkegaard, from the heightened moralists to the chatty philologists, to the vast moral plane to which they were all tied.
In tutorial, I further connected the dots of this universal scheme of philosophies. When St. Thomas Aquinas was mentioned, I associated him to Voltaire’s Candide yet contrasted him to Joseph K. in Kafka’s The Trial. When Plato was brought up, I mentioned Summa Theologica in support for his argument of Ideal Forms and Erasmus’s Praise of Folly as a counter point. For each thinker, having already immersed myself in the primary texts, I tried to find the connections that united them and defined my carnivorous lust for the development of Western Civilization as I saw it – a mystical sphere of possibility and unending hope.
But I was wrong. There was no meaning, no overarching philosophy, and no grand unification that brought every idea to the surface and explained the progress, regression, and subsequent reemergence of Western ideals. The world was disenchanted. Like you hinted at on the first lecture, western civilization was a cycle of war, peace, and war again in that order, and all of it, from Camus’s The Plague to Luther’s 95 Theses to Descartes’s solipsism, was absurd because we were. Humankind was a hilarious hiccup in the Universe.
Yet only when we hold our breath, redden our face, and try to give ourselves and what we do meaning, does this life take any significance. For this reason, I am applying to TA West Thought 2A06. In seeing the absurd, I saw meaning, and this course, I believe, helps the individual understand their place in the greater whole of the world.
It goes on for a bit more, though that is of little relevance now. I mean it.