Usually, when I write, I write for the enjoyment of my readers. Every so often however, life presents me with a set of internal problems which requires me to write certain pieces for myself. This would be one of those times. I have been having a sort of crisis of faith, though not in the traditional sense, but more like what one would most aptly call a quarter life crisis, a term coined by John Mayer, which I am at least sure has more than one component to it. And while this piece is written primarily for my own benefit, if someone else should take away anything from it, then my writing of this will be made even more worthwhile. As of this writing I’m 29 years old, and I have survived the 29 years under the basic assumption that in some form or other my study of philosophy, whether formal or informal, would someday give something back to the world that has given me a great many things, and help it to recognize those things of which it deprives various persons in similar circumstances to my own. But as of today, I realize that dedication to such a study of philosophy is an exercise in futility. Philosophy by its very nature is solely a discipline of the mind, and there is no component of action inherent in it. I have realized, as Francis Bacon once said, to paraphrase that the whole of philosophy simply lies in the shadows of Plato. Why study philosophy in the first place, and how did I get here? But that is only one question I hope to address, and it is likely that the question will have to wait on the sidelines as I address more pressing matters.
I’ve done a lot of interesting things in my life, at least I would find them interesting. I’ve led my life like a religious pluralist, hopping from one faith tradition to the next attempting to learn all I could about faith traditions like Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, the various forms of Christianity, and Judaism. In terms of professions, I’ve held several also. While largely uncredentialed for the majority of my life, I’ve been an IT consultant, a web designer for 13 years, a video technician, a video editor, a computer support technician, a tutor for kids in K-12 public education, and last but not least, a paid male companion and a smalltime grifter. For most of my life, I refused to regret the vast majority of my decisions regardless of how morally questionable some of them may have been. I’ve met a lot of interesting people along with these very interesting professions, and what I would consider to be a very eccentric and somewhat secret lifestyle. But the fact remains that after 15 years since beginning the long trek down this list of widely varied pseudo-professions, and the relationships that came with them… I remain a man of almost 30, and I feel completely alone. While this isn’t to account for the totality of my dissatisfaction with life, I will admit that the lack of a stable romance for at least the past six years has taken a toll on my psyche.
The other component of this is somewhat societal in nature, while still remaining intensely personal. It is no secret to anyone that has known me for any length of time, that I feel as though I’m a disenfranchised product of the educational system, not one of the lowest common denominator to which the vast majority of classes are taught. It is important to mention here that I was born with cerebral palsy, a condition caused by mild to moderate brain damage in some form either during or after the birthing process, typically prevalent in prematurely born infants. This has affected my muscle coordination, and sometimes when I’m extremely tired, my speech patterns and yet I remain nonetheless intellectually capable. As part of having cerebral palsy as a child, I was put into a special ed program at local elementary school, and stayed a special ed student all through high school. As part of this, cognitive testing is often routinely done to assess a student’s current cognitive capabilities and/or progress throughout the years. From the age of 13, I was told that I was extremely bright. I was often assessed with having a well above average vocabulary, college freshman level at that time. I was also told that my reading comprehension skills, and my quantitative reasoning skills were also at college-level. I’m not saying that somehow I was genetically gifted, in fact I’ve always grown up believing exactly the opposite… I could never conform to conventional standards of what it either meant to be masculine, or beautiful. And as such, I grew up extremely self-conscious. What I am saying however, is that perhaps it was not such a good idea for me to be told exactly how bright I was. I was usually pretty good at thinking critically, and as such a lot of subjects early on in school were extremely easy for me as long as I could find an analogous concept in another subject. I started to get bored of school and as a consequence of that, I rarely attended throughout high school. Somehow, I managed to convince my teachers of both my intellect and will power, and the vast majority of them gave me an amount of work that would satisfy the requirements for graduation my senior year. All but one.
Luckily for me however, my guidance counselor saw that I had accomplished what in his experience, was nearly impossible. I completed roughly a semester’s worth of work in three weeks. For four different classes by the way. Sympathetic to my cause, he enrolled me in a summer school English class that would allow me to graduate in the year I was supposed to rather than attending adult education. I completed that English class with an A, and graduated more or less on time. And after I graduated, I felt intense pressure from my family to pick a path in life, any path. So I feel like I was more or less forced to choose something, and so I chose ITT technical Institute. I finished an Associates degree with 3.8 GPA in IT and multimedia. During this time I made a lot of connections which enabled me to step into various media and computer related jobs in order to acquire experience that could be put on my resume. However, ITT and I did not part ways on favorable terms. I had attempted to continue my education on into a bachelor’s degree in digital entertainment and game design, but upon finding out that their curriculum was nothing short of bullshit, I left. After this, two things were going on: I was trying to make money, and I was contemplating entrance into the Catholic priesthood. Contemplation of the priesthood reignited my interest in world religion and culture, so I devoured pretty much any book that I could get my hands on related to traditions both foreign to me, and to my own. This is when I got my first taste of philosophical thought, in its formal incarnation. My tryst with the priesthood, and a lifelong relationship with the Catholic Church however, would come to an abrupt end. When I requested to be considered as a candidate seminarian, I received a response that basically said, they weren’t going to let me be a priest because I was in a wheelchair.
After that, I started turning to philosophy to attempt to understand something that I couldn’t quite grasp, something that to this day I can’t even attempt to articulate. It’s something intangible. However I fell in love with the search for knowledge. And like I said, during this time I also needed money. Whether it was spending money, or money on which I could survive, it really didn’t matter… I just needed money. So I worked a bunch of odd jobs in technology related fields, when something happened. A friend of mine saw a resume of mine on craigslist. He asked me why I was trying to be a web designer when I could make money in a much easier way. He told me about a girl who was looking for a date to a wedding, and she was willing to pay well, as well as cover all transportation and clothing expenses. She was an enchanting woman, and she started me on a five-year long summer engagement as a paid male companion for various women who had probably too much time on their hands, and not enough love. During that time, I learned a lot about the way women operate on both the physical and psychological level, as well as an emotional one. But it was during this period that I began to realize my own loneliness had not subsided after a previous year-long engagement which left me broken to pieces. I guess you could say I never took the time to put myself back together.
After I left that job, if you can call it that, I started to study philosophy more vigorously. Classes even seemingly unrelated to philosophy became easy, easier than I imagine they would be otherwise. And here’s where my current problem lies, as I mentioned before philosophy is nothing more than a footnote to Plato. It has become painfully obvious that there hasn’t been any original thinking and philosophy for at least the past 200 years. Most contemporary philosophy since Plato can be looked at as either arguing for a Platonic view of the world, or anti-Platonism. This hurts me especially. Every argument I’ve ever read in any sort of contemporary book on philosophy has been a restatement of an argument previously given by somebody who came before. That’s all it boils down to. All the linguistic complexity and reconceptualization means nothing when you consider the fact that the whole of philosophy falls in either camp, with little more complexity. I’ve spent the vast majority of my life thinking deeply and philosophically, even if I didn’t yet know that that’s what I was doing. When I found philosophy, I thought I found an intellectual home, and also one in which I could at least hide a small piece of my heart for safekeeping. But I’ve come to the painful realization that the grand majority of the conclusions that I have reached through my own independent thinking, have already been better stated by some old dead white man or woman, who probably in turn, took the idea from some lesser-known intellectual. And on top of that, philosophy doesn’t actually propose to do anything, in fact a great deal of it proposes highly unrealistic hypothetical scenarios in which to analyze concepts. This way of proposing a philosophical argument leaves very little for the common person in terms of being able to see its practicality, or any sense of its usefulness. So the question I am left to ask myself other than the one I began with, is: what do you do when you realize that what you’ve done, and what you’ve been doing is not worth doing? If anybody’s ever watched the Big Bang theory, Leonard is like Shelden’s sidekick, the experimental arm to his theoretical mind. Sometimes, I feel so bold as to call myself the Sheldon of philosophy in some respects, but then I remember that I am merely a Leonard to an even greater Sheldon, the Sheldon that is Plato. So in short, I really don’t know what the fuck to do with myself. I don’t really want what traditional society wants from me, I don’t equate a degree to intelligence or necessarily even a valid education. An education is something that I’ve tried to give myself, but as Sheldon once put it to Howard “it’s not that I don’t think you’re good at what you do, you’re excellent at what you do… It’s just that I think that what you do is not worth doing.”