A friend confided to me recently that he believed that life was not simply illusory, but was deceptive, dishonest, mendacious, malevolent. Not simply constructed and confusing in a nearly zen buddhist sort of way, but actively obsfuscative. I don’t know if I can agree with him. There is a strong binary construct at the heart of the argument- the construct of victim versus villain, life versus the individual. There is a veil separating the two, creating a relationship that necessitates strife and confusion to reproduce itself. As agent of thought, as one who gestates thought, who carries ideas, is spoken by language, is expressed by opportunity to react, the individual is married to this multi-valent approach. When he expresses it he gives life to it. He reinforces it, or the possibility that it is true, by being its agent and by not being that which oppresses him. It is a malevolent multi-valence- a male-valence. It is a tautological stance that guarantees its own outcome. Certainly life can be unfortunate, but malevolence requires interpretation and anthropomorphic qualities. If you are unable to find happiness within an interrelationship of various positve/negative binaries with the outcome being a positive or negative reading termed happy/unhappy, perhaps one should adjust or abandon one of those dualities, or abandon the happy/unhappy duality altogether.
Where does one begin to draw the line between a self that is distant enough from the total reaction to that self’s actions or for whom the totality of other reactions originated by the selves of others is a completely overwhelming force to such an extent that it appears that there is an outside pressing inside? Is it even possible to take possession of actions or reaction within a milieu that existed presumably prior to your participation- after all you are the result of a coupling, which was the result of other couplings and other social arrangements before that. And, at such a point, does not the interpretation of such an invasion (though invasion already be charged with a value) constitute a new action that demands its progeny? It would seem that the very act of possessing a point of view can function to make true almost anything at all at the basic level of reality.
As such, the point of view purports to construct in abstract permanence in the memory of its holder an absolute notion of any given moment. This memory is never again accessible to the possessor of the point of view, nor is it ever accessible to any others- the self changes and interpretations change and, after all, we are never fully here and now but always becoming and living in some other fragments of improved memories. Our memories are never free from interpretation and the shortfalls of recall. They are always a shorthand that leaves out the totality of an experience for the sake of easy recall, so that it is not necessary to live the whole moment again, so one does not have a map of the united states the size of the united states.
As the possessor of a point of view, however, one has the certain confidence that, though these memories are never again accessible to the possessor in perfection, nor are the experiences ever in any form communicable to another, for the concrete self certain things happened in history, that there is somewhere a real and permanent mark of action that took place and a continuity within which the self is functioning. This space is narrative, private, and historical. That all have access to such a space that is their own, or rather is there in relative mimesis of others’ histories and narrative conventions functioning to place the self historically yet sealed off from the apparently common histories of others means that there is a conceptual location within which one can say, “Life is deceptive” or “Life is honest.” This space is only a notion, marked only by the confidence that it is there and that it contains a story. It is never written, nor is it ever visible to anyone, including the self that is its proprietor, for the events on which it is predicated can never be revisited and can never be seen except from the point of view of one’s own eyes or the point of view of how one imagines the eyes of others would see.
Inside this space, or by referring to this space one can say, “I am put upon.” One can say “I am blessed.” “I am happy.” “I am unhappy.”
Outside of this space there is a breakdown, there is no narrative and one can merely pose the question. “Am I happy?” “Am I unhappy?” It becomes impossible to value one’s experience.
No one exists purely in one of these spaces or another- that is, the experiential and the narrative, rather there is a constant interchange and inter-referentiality to experience, a reinforcement of experience and action that creates continuity and the apparent existence of succession or descendance from one thing to another, as there is the perception of some form of repetition of what has come before in every moment.
So, in the end, I cannot agree that life is dishonest. To do so I would have to agree that there is an answer or an outcome to the question or story of what life is answering in an attempt to become finite- I would have to agree that there is a true end to all things. I would have to believe in finite and universal answers- products of subscription to a system of authority that do not require understanding. Answers are clerical. To rely on a foregone conclusion, a clerical technicality, is only to plug a hole in the story of one’s understanding of, in this instance, the motivations of the abstracted life. Since all narratives occur in a private space, one eventually has to admit that one is providing oneself with the premise. Consequently, if one is to provide oneself with that premise and not admit to it, one fulfills the premise- one is dishonest and one lives that way.
I cannot agree that life is dishonest because I am incapable of knowing if that is true.