Friday, November 14, 2014

On Why I Write



I haven’t written anything of substance in about two weeks.  That’s an awful feeling.  It has given plain-face to the truth I already knew.  Namely that a writer is who I am, rather than simply something I do.  If I couldn’t write I would deteriorate from boredom, mental lethargy and anxiety.  Writing – to be redundant – saves me from all three.  This is the main reason I write.  Any noble words and actions – outside of mental creativity which I hold as one of the highest goods there are – said or performed by me in my writing are secondary and completely incidental to the findings of my mind.  That is I write on ethics not to be virtuous but because it sustains me.  Like a boy scout who helps the elderly not out of ethical compulsion or reasoning but because it gets him a merit badge.
I have asked myself why I don’t simply think rather than write.  My product is not social after all.  The main conclusion(s) I came to was that writing is more of an activity in the formal sense than thinking disconnected from any action, and being an activity of permanence it focuses the mind to construct something that very-likely could not simply be thought.  Like a musician who tries to think of the most beautiful symphonies the mind can construct, but feels he can truly only compose such melodies when he has the bow in his hand.  Schopenhauer then was very wrong to say that writing is not something that should be done in substitution of or as an activity of thinking.  Though thinking disconnected from writing is of equal importance, writing serves as a liquid fixture that one’s thoughts can be poured into and then rarified into some new metal that could not have been made material otherwise, to repeat what I said earlier in-regards to the musician.
Also it is largely a matter of Ego.  Like all writers, as Orwell put it, I am “selfish, vain and lazy.”  Incidentally, Orwell’s essay, Why I Write is one of great sincerity, clarity, intelligence and integrity – as all great works of prose are.  Depicting in written language something that I don’t think could be completely captured in the mind itself.  Brief correction, Orwell actually said:  All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives their lies a mystery.  Though it doesn’t relate specifically to my current train of thought, a portion of Orwell’s essay is so well-written and intelligent I feel somehow that I’m doing myself a service by placing it here for you to read:
“…I do not think one can assess a writer's motives without knowing something of his early development. His subject matter will be determined by the age he lives in — at least this is true in tumultuous, revolutionary ages like our own — but before he ever begins to write he will have acquired an emotional attitude from which he will never completely escape. It is his job, no doubt, to discipline his temperament and avoid getting stuck at some immature stage, in some perverse mood; but if he escapes from his early influences altogether, he will have killed his impulse to write. Putting aside the need to earn a living, I think there are four great motives for writing, at any rate for writing prose. They exist in different degrees in every writer, and in any one writer the proportions will vary from time to time, according to the atmosphere in which he is living.”
It seems rather difficult to over-estimate the Ego’s role in writing.  It serves as both motivation and critic.  That is, it’s what compels us to write in the first place, which could be deemed an act of self-sacrifice in the sense that we could be doing more immediately enjoyable things, but also it functions as a guide so as we won’t embarrass ourselves and write poorly; or rather we’ll feel terrible anxiety when we do.  This in a sense is what separates Egoism from Narcissism.  The Narcissist wants the appearance of greatness and validation from others, not only this but he requires it in his never-ending search for vanity.  Ego is something that is both internally based and is critical of one’s self – when narcissism compels us to ignore our reason and rationalize away our faults or for a skewed view of importance and grandeur.  Ego exists to make the individual feel validated, but it is a critical component of the mind that won’t allow ourselves to be deceived and searches for virtue in utility to one’s self (which is different than goodness for its own sake, which Ego can never aspire towards and I’ll get to shortly) while narcissism would have us only aspire towards the feeling of virtue or the validation that comes from it.  This is very-close to the distinction between pride and vanity that Schopenhauer gives in his Wisdom of Life, which I encourage you to read.  It is also in-theory what Socrates was speaking of when he said that he possessed a Daemon that would chastise him whenever he made a cheap remark or bad move in an argument.  Clearly discussions on virtue, though they have immense public good, is almost never done for the good of the public but for one’s own Ego and search for self-validation – which seems to lead inexorably to the degree that it exists and all other conditions lead to or allow towards self-improvement. 
Though this is true, I also wish to highlight the virtues in selflessness which are lacking in Intellectualism and Egoism.  The paramount and utmost pinnacle of this non-intellectual virtue is seen in the archetype Mother.  She who gave birth to us, who breast fed us, and sacrificed so much though we had nothing to offer her in return.  She who in many minds I believe is that representation of pure goodness on this planet and is therefore something that is held in the light of the sacred even to an Atheist such as myself.  Very few would allow their mother to be insulted even in playful jest – at-least not without protest.  For to insult one’s mother is to degrade the very conception of goodness and unconditional love on this planet.  The Writer and the Mother are at polar ends of the forms of virtue – but both are of essential importance to our survival as a species in any regard that is worth living.  Both physically and morally.  The writer is also the scientist (of course there are distinctions in activity and psychology but the overall ethic is the same) and is therefore someone who has created our standard of living; the writer of course will also seek clarity whether or not it involves the empirical realm.  A writer also often strives for justice in the abstract, for he strives for clarity and non-contradiction in ethics.  The mother however is that moral force that – though she doesn’t necessarily know what morality is in the cognitive sense and therefore could never write on such ethics and be an embodiment of such an ethic simultaneously – performs without thought of her own needs those actions that are essential to both our survival as animals and as ethical beings.  Though the world would be a far-more guilt-ridden place, it would invariably be even to a small degree (even factoring the economic and ideological factors that prevent large-scale improvement) a more harmonious and compassionate place the more often the general populous thought of their mothers.

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