Renee Descartes revolutionized philosophical discourse (with a lot of help) with his reformation of the basic proposition of epistemology (the study of how we know). His dictum was Cogito ergo sum, “I think, therefore I am.” That concise aphorism raises a host of possibilities for introspection.
Being young, gay and not at all philosophical, one guy I know insists, “I f---, therefore I am.” He has identified the focus of his nights, anyhow.
A mother of 3 young teenagers comments, “I drive, therefore I am.” She thinks her kids really only notice her when they need to go somewhere.
These days I would have to admit that “I write, therefore I am.” My septuagenarian days are divided unevenly between family-friends, lingering work for Payap University, and writing.
All this week I have been putting together a paper on “continuity,” which is a philosophical topic of importance to such issues as abortion and euthanasia, but also Christian-Jewish-Islamic relations, and Christian theology. I don’t expect to make an impact on these critical issues, because I have no prospects of getting the fruits of my labors before those who lead in these matters – if there are any leaders. I am not writing to make a difference, or even to sort out “continuity” for my own satisfaction and benefit.
I have been wondering, in fact, why I am so committed to this project, spending 8 to 10 hours a day on it, checking and rechecking facts (constantly grateful for the Internet since no library is close).
My best answer is that I write to exist, to be.
This writing I do doesn’t validate me (I am valid apart from what I do), nor legitimize me (I cannot display my writing to prove I am who I think I am – although that is closer), nor extend my existence (I am not, I think, searching for some form of immortality this way). I have come to realize that one thing that happens when I write is that I become involved, caught up, and mentally transported into a new context.
This same thing happens when I read “Harry Potter”, which is why I have read all 7 volumes several times. When I write I am living a fantasy life. But I don’t write to escape. I don’t need to “escape”, although “augment” would work for me to an extent. Many people my age and stage are doing things to fill in space in life that used to be full of some other configuration of work and relationships.
How would you fill in the blank, “I _________, therefore I am”?
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.