"If to its own content, there is no need of reasoning, which could not itself perform the act of creation; creation is the operation of that phase of the Soul which contains Ideal-Principles; for that is its stronger puissance, its creative part.
It creates, then, on the model of Ideas; for, what it has received from the Intellectual-Principle it must pass on in turn."
~ Plotinus, Second Ennead III, 17
"For as long as divine Mind and Soul exist, the divine Thought-Forms will pour forth into that phase of the Soul: as long as there is a sun, all that streams from it will be some form of light." ~ 18
I was recently accused of writing like a professor. I write how I need to, and I relay what I feel is important, in relation to what I am figuring out and going through. As long as there is sun...
It pains me to read ancient philosophers attempting to explain what we now know as science with reason, like it pained me to read Aristotle or Hippocrates explain biology with reason.
You only understand what makes sense to you.
You can only function in what makes sense to you.
I always thought my relation to existence was my work: what I produce is how I see the world, and I am sharing that world with whoever is paying attention, but the existence of my work is reduced to the relationship of who is paying attention.
Every Thanksgiving we go on an adventure, to accomplish something when most are sitting around filling their stomachs and pretending to get along with their families. This year was a bust, but some of my daily reading provided some inspiration. The morning we left I had to backtrack because the morning before I left for work in the early dark, and didn't have a chance to read. The stoic reading mentioned the Zen teaching of "the glass is already broken," which I use to explain my "I Died At Birth" philosophy, and the Taoist reading mentioned something that shamefully kicked my ass: "There is no such thing as objective reality. You color everything. If you want the highest state of being, aim for consciousness without color." 11/22, Day 327
Both Stoicism and Zen condition you to just do what needs to be done, because it needs to be done; you can bitch and moan about it, or you can just do it. How you choose to respond to it in the meantime only effects your mood and the responsive mood around you, but either way it is going to get done, so you can just do it, or you can complain that it isn't the way you want it to be. This is all very relative to how our little Thanksgiving vacation went
Then, the morning of: "There is one thing and only one thing that causes unhappiness. The name of that thing is Attachment." ~ Anthony de Mello, a la the stoic reading.
I feel like everything at this point is just overlapping too much. There is too much information, and I am having trouble fitting everything into its right place, so let's just fight about everything.
A few campers parked in the sand; some desolate buildings sinking into the earth; at the end of a road with a sign: "County Park Closed."; Lifeless power poles littered the landscape; something as simple as a boat ramp deemed completely useless: broken earth where the water once was.
Eroica naturally went straight for the fish skeletons.
"Withdraw into yourself and look. And if you do not find yourself beautiful yet, act as does the creator of a statue that is to be made beautiful: he cuts away here, he smoothes there, he makes this line lighter, this other purer, until a lovely face has grown upon his work. So do you also: cut away all that is excessive, straighten all that is crooked, bring light to all that is overcast, labour to make all one glow of beauty and never cease chiseling your statue, until there shall shine out on you from it the godlike splendor of virtue, until you shall see the perfect goodness surely established in the stainless shrine."
~ Plotinus, First Ennead VI, 9
Picking away at Plotinus' beauty, but that quote doesn't fit the location as much as my people in it.
Something about the sunset light at the Salton Sea is absolutely incomparable to anywhere else I've ever shot. I have no Idea why, but I could make some practical guesses. Forget the masses of abandoned structures in the area, this is basically an abandoned lake. Man made, though by accident, a pretty sizable aquatic structure here, to sit in desolation amidst a universe of fish skeletons. The only time I have ever seen a significant number of people around this lake, it was groups of photographers who seemed to be mulling around capturing the aftermath of some natural disaster. The true irony here is that most of the beautiful abandoned structures and cars that everyone always told me I should shoot, but I didn't, are gone, in an attempt to clean up the area, and apparently make more plots of uninhabitable wasteland, like trying to polish cancer. I imagine that at some point I'll be the old guy telling my grandkids that I remember when there was water there, like those our great-grandparent's age would say that they remember when this was just a pond in the ugly desert.
I get mixed messages when the stoic daily reading quotes Nietzsche, especially when it's the Nietzsche I know and not the nihilist that people assume. Ironically, I was having a conversation with Mephistopheles (for those who know) just yesterday about Nietzsche being nothing like what we were told: stating the painfully obvious, which seems to elude the masses, is not nihilistic; if it is any 'istic', it is optimistic, with a genuine hope that someone, anyone, will understand, even if he was "philosophizing with a hammer." Most the time people only listen when you're yelling.
“The solution is in understanding the virtues and what each has to give: thus the man will learn to work with this or that as every several need demands. And as he reaches to loftier principles and other standards these in turn will define his conduct: for example, Restraint in its earlier form will no longer satisfy him; he will work for the final Disengagement; he will live, no longer, the human life of the good man—such as Civic Virtue commends—but, leaving this beneath him, will take up instead another life, that of the Gods.
For it is to the Gods, not to the Good, that our Likeness must look: to model ourselves upon good men is to produce an image of an image: we have to fix our gaze above the image and attain Likeness to the Supreme Exemplar.” ~ Plotinus, First Ennead II, 7
Plotinus' second tractate, on virtue, hit home on a number of different levels. Primarily in my having to always remind people to focus on what's important, and when they don't seem to understand what I'm talking about, I can never really articulate what I mean, so nothing changes (like it would anyway). Amor fati, yes, but this definition of fate is nothing more that the mundane things in your life, which we should all easily rise above and be the very best that we can be within our immediate fati. Id est, you can always refine how you choose to live and understand in the life that was thrust upon you.
Amor fati is also very Zen, like most of the stoics I read: thus; life is a dead leaf falling from a tree in L'autunno, twisting in the chill of the breeze, or maybe I understand nothing; there is a very good chance that I understand nothing. I am, in fact, an idiot. I do, however, see the irony in someone who devoted their entire lives to pointing out all the things that were obviously wrong with the world, or our place in it, and our wasting of precious energy on so many stupid things, uttering a phrase like "Amor Fati." Ok, talking about two very different philosophers in the same post is hurting my brain.
"He would be neither wise nor in the state of happiness if he had not quitted all trifling with such things and become as it were another being, having confidence in his own nature, faith that evil can never touch him. In such a spirit he can be fearless through and through; where there is dread, there is not perfect virtue; the man is some sort of a half thing.
As for any involuntary fear rising in him and taking the judgement by surprise, while his thoughts perhaps were elsewhere, the Sage will attack it and drive it out; he will, so to speak, calm the refractory child within him, whether by reason or by menace, but without passion, as an infant might feel itself rebuked by a glance of severity." ~ First Ennead IV, 15
Happiness, sandwiched between zombie tractates on Happiness and Extension of Time and Dialectic.
"And Plato rightly taught that he who is to be wise and to posses happiness draws his good from the Supreme, fixing his gaze on That, becoming like to That, living by That." ~ 16
Again, mixed messages from the Universe, but I am getting what I need out of everything, if only the kind of reinforcement I have always gotten from the ancients. This warehouse that I've always wanted to shoot was more like an art installation than an abandoned building. The graffiti was not mindless, illegible crap; it was intelligent and necessary, aside from some beautiful things being covered by idiots. The building was also filled with dozens of fire extinguishers, so whatever happened there was done responsibly. It was refreshing. Luckily, while this beautiful soul is completely impatient and blind to her own beauty, she is patient with my madness, so she has mostly kept smiling through all my philosophical and psychological flailing and temporal disengagement, which I now understand as my soul withdrawing to its own place.
Just when I was settling in to Plotinus and getting mildly bored with the rambling writing style, I was absolutely blindsided by the Sixth tractate, Beauty, which I haven't continued reading from, and will likely have to read again.
"The same bodies appear sometimes beautiful, sometimes not; so that there is a good deal between being body and being beautiful."
"In all this there is no sin--there is only matter of discipline--but our concern is not merely to be sinless but to be God." ~ Plotinus, First Ennead II, 6
Without stupid and ignorant people, we would not have stupid and ignorant monuments, that people flock to and clog up, "ooh"ing and "Ah"ing over all the overwhelming stupid ignorance. Wasn't that long ago, this would've been beautiful sculptures carved into a hill.
"Disengagement means simply that the soul withdraws to its own place." ~ 5
Which is where I was at pretty much the whole time, because people make me recluse into a safe place where no one exists. Maya kept demanding that I take photos of her in-between the hordes of people mulling around like mindless cattle, consuming and vomiting out the space with nobody selfies and nothing-of-significance social media posts that will probably get more notes and likes that most of my posts because these people probably have followings that put mine to shame. I shot a cat for a while, then spent the rest of the time there glaring and zombies who were standing in my frame until I scared them off. People started paying more attention to what I was doing once I pulled the Mamiya out, but it was still quite tedious. Luckily, Maya is much better at talking to strangers, so once we got up the nerve to actually talk to people, everyone was cool with shifting around a bit for frame. Well...the ones that understood the language.
I knew better heading into it, but we went anyway. The only times I had ever been there were in July and August, over 110, but there were still a handful of people poking around. A Sunday in November was absolutely stupid. It wasn't even completely about tourists, but occupants: that little asshole of the desert, nestled up against Slab City, was packed with campers and tents. I have to assume that these are more permanent residents and desert rats, because I don't know who in their right mind would vacation there. The campers around Salton Sea, sure; as ugly as it is, it's still beautiful during very brief intervals between getting swarmed by dying gnats and choking on the stench of rotting fish. Way down south of Niland? There must be some pretty impressive riding terrain for people to venture way out there to camp around a tourist abyss.
I've heard plenty of stories about the guy who made this place, and I know he was a good human being, but think about the time and energy that went into this, and think about significant things that could have been accomplished with said time and energy. Maya was immediately disappointed because she thought it would be bigger, and I was gradually disappointed to see all the things that had been stolen or destroyed. Whoever the caretakers are, they aren't doing a very good job. There was no one watching the place when we got there just before noon. On our way out there was some rude woman yelling at people to stay on the yellow road, like this was some national monument that was instantly being destroyed. Yes, people could slip and fall, sure; stupid people tend to do that... a lot. Just put up a sign that says: "steep slope. slippery paint. fall down."; and no one can sue you when their idiot asses fall down; don't follow them around and bark at them.
My social frustration quickly translated to technical frustration when I pulled out the Mamiya. The only film I had expired four years ago, and the only polaroid film I had was sitting in the holder for about three years, so those chemicals were shot, but I had to try them anyway...just to make sure they were what they were... three fucking tries... around dozens of oblivious people... killing like 40 minutes of our day. Then the shutter froze up again on the 120 back. Upon further review, I am pretty confident that the little piece of metal that allows the shutter to release is bent, but I don't really know, so that's awesome. The shutter on this camera has always been sluggish. Maybe that's why. Meanwhile, I ordered 10 more rolls of film that I can't really afford, and now I have to pull out my chemicals and developing gear because I can't afford to send the shots I did get to any lab for processing. Then, naturally, they will sit in a plastic sleeve and gradually get more and more scratched up because I don't have a scanner good enough to scan them, and I don't have the means to set up a darkroom anywhere.
After the Salvation debacle we headed to an abandoned warehouse that I've always wanted to shoot at, but never had time. Then we headed out on an unexplored road that dead ended into the Salton Sea and watched the sunset, which was at like 4:30pm, because those are the joys of daylight savings time changes. We shot a ton, and decided that we needed to do this more, just hopefully with a lot less people around.
Or... the first nine; the first of six nines. The collection of writings by, the ever awaited and skipped ahead to, Plotinus. Finafuckingly.
Plotinus "seemed to be ashamed of being in a body and hence refused to tell anything about his parents, his ancestry, or his country," so sayeth Porphyry, who was not only a disciple, but the one who collected and published the works of the philosopher after his death, against his will. Seems to be a theme amongst the ancients. Most of the work I've read was never written to be published and shared.
It appears to me that the truly great work was the stuff that wasn't refined for public minds, but personal ramblings... sincere heart stuff. Now, as a note I was given just days ago exemplifies, random heart is seen as weakness; everything must be refined and "professional," or it should remain in a journal and only shared if rewritten and structured properly to fit a story or theme, or serve a purpose. Well, my heart serves a purpose, and that purpose is telling my story and documenting my evolution, whether it's the voice you believe I should have or not.
Plotinus, though humble in theory and sound in reason, was obviously from Egypt, and he wandered aimlessly until he happened across a philosopher speaking named Ammonius, and immediately knew that this was the person he needed to find, then proceeded to spend over a decade learning from him. I never really found that person. I have had many people in my life who had a huge impact on who I became, but no one I could say I really learned from. There were two teachers in high school, Art History and Humanities, who completely changed my view on everything, but they don't even know that, and one of them is dead now. In college, I had the chair of the dance department and the chair of the theatre department that I have often referred to as mentors, but, while they were the only two people I could think to name as ones to speak on my behalf when being considered for probation, we weren't ever really friends... they simply recognized my abilities and talents, and let me get away with more than others would be willing to; they kept giving me opportunities to get better, even though my behavior didn't even remotely deserve it.
I never really had any significant mentors or internships that most use to move forward in life. I remember having dinner with Roger Hagadone and Beta Juliet after he shot me, and I was picking his brain about the business, primarily about how he got to where he was, and, when he mentioned that he interned with Annie Leibovitz after attending a photography school that I could never afford, I vividly remember slowly raising a middle finger, and he just kind of chuckled and shrugged, like "it is what it is." I had to figure all this shit out for myself, the hard way, and no one appreciates that anymore because they're too busy celebrating people who had opportunities handed to them. I've done pretty damn good here, making the most of what I have access to living in poverty. In my personal opinion, that helps me appreciate things better, and has taught me more heart than those who are dialing it in for more money.
At thirty-nine Plutarch decided to leave his teacher to "obtain direct knowledge" of the philosophies of Persia and India. He, of course, tagged along with the emperor, who happened to be heading that way, and when the emperor was assassinated mid route, he narrowly escaped death and ended up in Antioch, then Rome. Appreciating where life lead him, like any good, rationally minded philosopher, he spent the rest of his days in Rome, teaching philosophy and giving sound advice, or "directing conscience", to anyone who requested it. He didn't write anything down for ten years, to honor his mentor, then spent his final years scribbling things down, never even going back to reading it because his vision was so bad, and they read very much like random meanderings, which he never meant to be published and survive for thousands of years.
At the end of it all, he leaned into a friend and said, "now I shall endeavor to make that which is divine in me rise up to that which is divine in the universe," a phrase that could very well be as glorified as Beethoven's last, "Plaudite, amici, comedia finita est (Applaud, my friends, the comedy is over)."
It is so fucking amazing to be reading philosophy again.
Yes, I skipped ahead.
Yes, Ptolemy/Copernicus/Kepler read like a physics textbook.