Cogito ergo sum…I think therefore I am. Rene Descartes
Bogey greets the red fire hydrant. It’s on our morning walk route. It’s a magnet for him, and others. Not me, I’m not a dog, but I can relate to the call of nature. It’s the island’s puppy post office, the pee-mail deposit center.
Today he gives it a cursory sniff. Apparently, no morning gossip yet. He sits and stares at it for some time. He seems to be thinking. It’s useless to inquire what he’s thinking. As my brother once said dismissively, “Imagine a brick wall.”
It doesn’t matter if he’s thinking about something or nothing. He’s thinking. By the very process he is existing, which confirms Descartes’ theory that to think is proof positive that one exists. Which seems so self-evident that it would require no additional postulation. But hold on, what constitutes thinking?
First, let’s state the obvious: Politics aside, it wouldn’t be a long stretch to affirm there’s a lot of ‘I-am existing’ going on without much thinking. Thinking needs definition. Read on.
The Scene. Morning coffee, a dimly lit room. A married couple at the table. Too early for conversation. Silence prevails. Existence is questionable.
He’s staring out the window at something, maybe a tree, or a red fire hydrant. The object is irrelevant. She’s reading the newspaper. The air is weighty. She breaks the silence:
“What are you doing?” she asks.
“Thinking. Therefore, I exist.”
“That’s questionable. Thinking of what?”
“That’s stupid. How can you think of nothing?”
“Easy. Focus on something besides myself. The dog does it.”
“He’s a dog.”
“Right. He’s not searching for nirvana, just existing.”
“Who calls that ‘existing?’ You need action to exist, to confirm you’re alive. Where did you come up with that notion?”
“French philosopher, Descartes. I’m confirming his theory”
“How can you possibly think of ‘nothing?’”
“It’s like this, see? If I start thinking of something, then the problems begin. So, I think of nothing.”
“What kind of problems?”
“Life is full of details. You can’t escape them.”
“Right. That’s why I think of nothing.”
“That’s double stupid.”
“Not really. Look, if I start thinking of ‘something,’ then it might confuse me, lead me down dark alleys. I might even come to some strange ideas, maybe ideas about you. It’s hard to know what to anticipate when you think of ‘something.’ Dangerous, too.”
“Now I’m confused.”
“It’s simple. When you think of ‘nothing,’ you’re safe. You know you exist. And when you think of ‘something,’ why it might lead to conclusions. That’s the beginning of sorrows. You might then be compelled to action, to actually have to do something. Then that might make your ‘existence’ hell. No, it’s better to think of nothing.”
“Well, you must be thinking of nothing most of the time then.”
He ignores the comment and resumes thinking about nothing. But now she’s thinking of something. She pictures him as a red fire hydrant and says to herself, “If only I could lift my leg…”.
* * *
There is no moral or message to this story, or for that matter no redeeming purpose whatsoever. It simply exposes the unlimited minefields the mind can avoid while focusing on a red fire hydrant and thinking of nothing.
Take my advice, start your day by ‘petere nihil et raro deesset… Aim for nothing and you’ll rarely miss.’ How about this for a philosophy?
April 4, 2022