Monthly Archives: September 2007

“And what is good Phaedrus,/And what is not good-/Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?”

Lately the philosophical concept that has been most prevalent on my mind seems to be context. This post is going to be incredibly stream of consciousness, but I feel like such a loser for never writing my thoughts down anymore. My God, I remember a few days ago I read this quote about context and how it was the only way to feel anything, and if I were a smarter person I would have written it down. Now my thoughts of it are so fleeting! Ah well.

Usually my thoughts on this topic are triggered by some inane, stupid event. For example, when I used to run the self-checkout at Tops, the weight on the bagscale would stay zeroed at a certain value, and the operator could reset it at any time. If something very heavy was put down (heavy things tend to have a higher average differentiation from the actual defined weight on the packaging), you could reset it to let the person using it continue. I feel like I’m tangling my participles here, but I’m not going to proofread this. Deal. And so, I started thinking about how the only context by which a difference could be observed was the set default weight on the computer. Since that’s manually altered by zeroing, it was always changing. If you sat down with a pen and paper, or if you were some kind of mathematical genius, you could probably figure out from any point on the number line that the machine was zeroed at where the weight of something would have fallen if the machine was zeroed at another point. However, it’s a detached, academic process and so much work for so little reward that few people (read: no one – I only said few people for rhetorical purposes) would ever actually bother trying to figure it out.

I’m trying to figure out if this is a shallow or a deep metaphor. It might seem deeper for me because it was such a realization for me when it actually happened. But anyway, obviously what I’m trying to say is that once a new “zero” is set for someone in their life, it’s very difficult for them to think about things from the viewpoint of a past context. For the purposes of this discussion, the context that I’m writing about should be thought of as a purely emotional event, at least in the moment of experience. Therefore, if someone experiences some deeply emotionally profound or powerful event, it can zero the scale for them. Unless the person is especially aware of their emotions and really knows themselves, they will likely not be able to properly compare it to past feelings without quite a bit of meditation or something of the sort.

People who know me know that I hate so to advertise my feelings, so I’m going to be as vague as humanly possible here. A few years ago I had what I thought was a life-defining experience. For the past few years, I’ve thought about this one moment as like, the greatest point that I would reach emotionally. I attributed this conviction to an emotional youth and an ignorance to the darkness of the world that has since permeated my philosophy, and to a generally happier self then. However, in light of recent events I feel like I may have been thinking about it all wrong. Living under the assumption that one point could ever be the best, while possibly realistic, is definitely self-fulfilling. Well, maybe only for someone who could be much more optimistic. Ugh, ranting.

Anyway, having that context to define my other life experiences by radically changed my view of them.

…I am so not into this right now. I left for dinner amid writing this, and I have completely lost my train of thought. I’ll finish this later.