Armchair philosopher

It is a Saturday. The sun is shining, which is something of a novelty this week. I am sat at my desk looking out onto my garden. Procrastinating – or mentally pottering – as per usual, I take a look at the TLS’ website and serendipitously chance across the exact article which reflects my present circumstance: The privilege of boredom.

Descartes’ philosophy was borne out of isolation. Having the time to think has been one of the blessings of lockdown. For some people at least. Anil Gomes, the article’s author and an Oxford philosopher, discusses the relevance and practicality of a philosophy conducted in isolation. How valuable is the thinking we do when detached from life?

This set my thoughts tumbling. We live our lives in layers, or perhaps on different scales. We have our work life; our professional selves. Our social animal (or recluse). Then we have our self, perhaps truest, when we are alone and look in the mental mirror. Like the layers of the earth, or scales of a map, our different lives are of course entwined. Some (im)balance of order and chaos results.

In those moments of reflection, I am sure I am not alone in scratching for meaning. Contemplating. Evaluating. Analysing. Always analysing. Over-bloody-analysing. Questioning. Sometimes filling myself with that existential angst: the clock is ticking and what is there to show for it?

I find myself alternating between the grand, or possibly just allusions to grandeur: embracing life, the universe and everything. Wanting to grapple with and grasp the big picture, the macro, the meta. If all the world is a stage, then what is my role?

And then I revert, or maybe retreat, to a contentedness with the trivial, the mundane, the mediocre, the banal. I find myself happily basking like a frog atop a lily pad, floating on his small pond. The textbook plodder which I hold in such derision when my mind is in macro mode, is suddenly what I myself have become.

Why? Maybe it’s a natural rhythm of personality. Like an intellectual, emotional okey okey. Or maybe it’s because being on the ambitious offensive all the time is just draining of energy. Maybe a balance is needed; it is just recharging the batteries. For I do always switch back. I seem to snap out of the plodding and go back to plotting, asking, in the word’s of The West Wing’s President Bartlett: what’s next?

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