In addition to the imperative that I felt to stay that I mentioned in my last post, I also feel like this reapplication process for graduate school can be an opportunity for me to attempt to go through the process without being consumed by it this time around. “Philosophy Graduate Student Disease” was a disease that I contracted during last fall’s application season. This time around I know what is coming, and I know that I should try to avoid it.
This morning, I could already feel the beginnings of the symptoms. I starting checking CFPs for upcoming conferences, and I started thinking about the various papers that I could write for the conferences. I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically problematic with these thoughts, but their priority in my thinking is problematic.
Where was Love in my thoughts this morning? Where was the passionate desire to share It with those around me? It was displaced by a desire to be the next David Hume. Indeed, I want to live on in the memory of society after I die. I want the the words that I write to influence others. “I write, therefore I am” is the expression that captures this attitude.
This desire is directly in conflict with my goals as a Lover. Love seeks no glory, and my desire for immortality is an egoistic one. It is not about making the world a better place. Perhaps it was at an earlier time in my life, but now, I have come to see remembrance as the final good, the mark of a well lived life.
There is a part of me, however, that recognizes that philosophical glory will leave me empty. When I am dying in my hospital bed, will I still think that I lived a worthy life? Focusing on that moment, the moment just before my death, is the ultimate point of view. It is ultimate because it places me in the position where I must contemplate my existence in terms of its capriciousness, which means that it must be contemplated through the eyes of the One who is responsible for my life.
Ironically, according to Socrates in Phaedo it is the very aim of philosophy to die well:
And now I will make answer to you, O my judges, and show that he who has lived as a true philosopher has reason to be of good cheer when he is about to die, and that after death he may hope to receive the greatest good in the other world.
Perhaps, then, Socratic philosophy is not all that different from Jesus’. Perhaps at least in this instance Jerusalem and Athens can occupy the same normative space.
Regardless, there will be no redo at that point. My life will have been spent. In that moment, may I hear the words, “Well done. My good and faithful servant.” May I see the importance of that moment every day, and may that importance motivate me to aim at Love.