Category: Philosophy


It’s late at night and I’m far from home.

I’m used to that.

Indeed, being far from home is not new to me.

As a kid I am a compulsive runaway.

I mean, who wants to be home all the time?

No, my concern is not due to any spatio-temporal confusion or separation.

What’s worrying me is the company I’m keeping.

She’s supposedly a friend of JJ’s; somebody said Billy the Pill might be a relative…

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking.

I won’t say you’re wrong and I won’t say you’re right, morality is irrelevant to this discourse.

‘Tell me,’ she says, ‘as a man who knows Shakespeare… is there a link between madness and creativity?’

Don’t you just love questions like that, at three in the morning, with a spleen full of lust?

She continues:

‘Shakespeare believes that creative genius is only a kiss away from insanity…’

I sense puckered lips invading my space, lips that, up to that temporal point have seemed luscious…

Suddenly the puckering thing threatens.

‘Another drink?’ I suggest.

She nods.

I escape to the kitchen, she starts reciting some crap from A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

‘The lunatic, the lover and the poet are of imagination all compact. One sees more devils than vast hell can hold…’ etc. etc.

You’ll be familiar with that bit, I guess.

Now, I don’t ‘know’ Shakespeare, nobody ‘knows’ Shakespeare, I mean, I…

Look, personally I think Shakespeare is over-rated. I mean, the guy never writes an original plot, for Christ sake; just picks up on popular legends and such and moulds them into whatever is topical, like any writer does.

Anyway, this piece is not about Shakespeare.

However, the lunatics and the poets angle appeals to me: crazies and writers, scientists and cranks…

How do you tell the difference?

So, anyway, I’m fumbling around in her kitchen with bottles and glasses and chunks of ice, wishing I was at home, and her question is getting to me:

Is there a link between madness and creativity?

Is there a taxi for hire cruising somewhere close by?

There’s something on the floor, something suspiciously still.

Now, run this: I am totally phobic about cockroaches.

Run it again: I’m starting to hyper-ventilate right now, just typing the word, just thinking about it.

But the light in the kitchen is dim and I have drink taken, so I can’t be sure…

F**k it.

‘Your kitchen is infested with cockroaches’ I holler, ‘and you’re reciting Shakespeare?’

I suddenly remember a lecture given by a certain Professor Thomas, of a certain University’s psychology department:

‘There have always been people in societies and cultures who have different experiences of reality compared with the majority, and there’s always been an overlap between people who have those gifts, or insights, and people who are identified as suffering from mental illnesses…’

Cool, huh?

As things turn out, the cockroach is a cigarette burn, but, you know, I’m mad, I need an excuse to get out of there, and… well, let’s just call it creativity, shall we?

In dimly lit rooms faceless men and women sit hunched over keyboards, fingers tapping wildly but silently on their keys, unaware of their thoughts or the processes of their writings. They seek answers to questions that torture timelessly, striving to expel them from their minds and get them out of their mental cells and into the world. There are sensations — something in their fingers like presences or prospects of the cold — but there are no ideas. 

And beyond their rooms there are other rooms in which people lie still as corpses but conscious, as if under a strange and all-pervasive governance, a principality of heel-click on sidewalk and sodium streetlight. A dark miasma seeps into their rooms through loose window pains and broken transoms, a hideously expanding ectoplasm, which they inhale deep down into their lungs as they wait to be written.

Writers are alchemists and they are chosen not manufactured. Chosen by whom? you ask. God? I don’t believe in God, so that’s out. What is there to believe in? Something bigger than ourselves? What could be bigger than a self? What could be bigger than ‘I’? Other men like me, perhaps? Only I’ve never met any.

Writers are chosen. Chosen by what they write. Curses are cast in soiled paper wraps, hexes are hurled through space via satellite and through wires and eventually are rendered in words. Spiritual beauty is to be found in anger. For rage moves like an erotic impulse towards the experience of time suspended; rage can expand the moment so that the whole of life becomes potentially one enormous and eternal present, like a piece of writing.

Here’s an interesting question: isn’t religion a bit like pornography?

P.Z. Myers has ten good reasons for answering that question in the affirmative:

it has been practiced for all of human history in all cultures;

it exploits perfectly natural, even commendable, impulses;

its virtues are debatable, its proponents fanatical;

people love it but can’t give a rational reason for it;

it objectifies and degrades women even when it worships them;

you want to wash up after shaking hands with any of its leaders;

the costumes are outrageous, the performances silly, the plots unbelievable;

there’s nothing wrong with enjoying it but it’s nothing to be proud of; 

it is not a sound basis for public policy, government, or international relations;

its stars are totally fake.

Professor Myers is a Secular Materialist and he’s welcome at my table any time.

Visit his blog.

Truth?

15/06/06 

Truth is important to us, it's what we all strive for. But what is it, and how do we know when we've arrived at it? […] 

Read complete article.

Absurd?

Life often seems absurd.

To some people it seems so vividly and continually.

Yet the reasons usually given for this feeling are clearly inadequate.

How many times, for example, have you heard someone say that nothing we do now will matter a damn in a million years?

Perhaps that's true.

But if it is then it follows that nothing that will be the case in a million years matters now; in particular, it doesn't matter now that nothing we do now will matter in a million years.

Even if actions performed now were going to matter in a million years, how would that possibility stem our current concerns over the question of absurdity?

Furthermore, if it's not enough that what we do now matters now, how will it help if it matters, or not, in a million years from now?

Just thought I'd run that by you.

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