Why do I write?
The following is an excerpt from my journal. The theme is philosophical. My journal is boring, yes. It isn’t filled with pictures of pretty faces and romantic poetry. I’m working on it.
I write thousands of words per day. What I post on my website is the tip of the iceberg. While I have been publishing with regularity, I never paused to reflect on the reasons this is happening. Is what I am doing necessary? What is the point, anyway?
I don’t think my writings are mine. Ideas cannot be owned and we can never draw a clear distinction between the conceptually endogenous and exogenous in a cosmic continuum. Every factor exists in a system of factors. Every phenomenon is couched in terms of other phenomena. Everything unfolds as series of feedback loops. To focus on a dot and to declare it “truly mine” feels arbitrary. It rests on the presumption that the object has a standalone presence: it was created from nothing and exists in nothing to the effect that it can be treated in isolation. Nonsense! There is always something. What is “mine” came from somewhere, intermixed with something, got filtered by another factor, and continues to transfigure the way all presences in the cosmos do.
My writings don’t belong to me for a more practical consideration as well: I do not control what would conventionally be described as “my creativity”. Yesterday, for example, I was tired and wanted to take a nap. Instead of falling asleep I got an idea to write an article which ended up being more than 2000-words-long—the second of that day, mind you. There goes my rest! Superficially, I have a choice: I can, say, go out for a walk instead of typing characters on the computer. Though the driving force behind my writing is not a matter of my volition, for I am practically compelled into action. I can try to run from it, but I do eventually need to get to my bed, at which point it will find me and make me to do its bidding.
This entry is a case in point. I went to sleep, closed my eyes, and then “why do I write?” popped up… Now I am no longer feeling sleepy and must serve this impersonal agency—my creativity—that makes me do stuff.
I think I am content with what I am doing. It is fascinating to elucidate all those concepts and to draw linkages between old and new ideas. My mind stays sharp and my health is excellent. All good, right? I am inclined to answer affirmatively, but the fact I am not in charge gives me second thoughts (non-control would apply to those too). What if my liking of this state of affairs is but a rationalisation? What if it is a coping mechanism to distract me from the reality of my powerlessness? What if my presumed agency is but an illusion and I simply am an automaton that reacts to complex chains of causality? What is agency, anyway, if not the impression of control? “My” agency, “my” ideas, “my” life… Who is even the owner in such a relationship? Take life, for instance: I had no choice in it and there is no “I” which exists independently of “its” life.
I write out of necessity. The answer to the titular question is the same as the one for “why do I breath?”. I cannot do otherwise. Will this last forever? I have no idea. One day “my” creativity will stop controlling me and I will never publish a single word again. If I disappear, it is not because I had any such intention. It just left me alone.
I can come up with self-congratulating explanations such as that I write out of a desire to help others. After all, I am the greatest do-gooder ever. Sure! That narrative would give me a few inane points. Perhaps someone would flatter me and my ego would be satiated for the day. Alternatively, I can be overly dramatic by formulating some story that conforms with the tired trope of the struggling genius. Perhaps I am distracting myself from the ugliness of my life. This would also serve the purpose of bringing attention to myself. More points for my meaningless high score! The ego loves that sort of thing. Would I be honest, though? Would I be admitting to what is actually happening or would I be pretending that I am the prime mover and ultimate arbiter of whatever feedback loops and processes contribute to this state of affairs? Even if I were driven to support others or was running away from my misery, the motivation would still not be “mine”.
The illusory state is all we have. My musings here involve the contradiction of using “my” reason to argue against it. It is a fool’s errand. Though we cannot do otherwise. Even if this is all a phantasmagoric show of epiphenomena, we are still caught in it. The human condition imposes as much. Again, not a choice. There is no opt-out mechanism from this chain of impressions. I thus cannot avoid entertaining the thought that I am actually being reasonable now, that this text makes sense and that its contents have a deeper meaning. When I state that I do not own ideas, I am already expressing this as my idea. It is conceived and stated as such.
We thus operate at a certain level of abstraction where we take some magnitudes for granted. It is how we identify with extensions of our being. My ideas, my fears, my desires… Though we sometimes realise that the interplay of factors contributing to our actuality is far greater than whatever capacity of initiative we think we have. Perhaps my illusory state just tricks me into believing that I do not own anything when, in fact, I do. Though if it can deceive me, it might be doing it consistently.
I can only write about philosophy and explain this or that concept. And we can all act in accordance with those or other precepts, all driven by the belief we are controlling our condition. To what end? Does being a philosopher give me anything? Does any role or preoccupation bestow upon us something we may then own?
Here I am, sleepless, writing these words as I have no other option. No worries though. I will explain it away as a moral duty or, perhaps, some awkward attempt at impressing one of those pretty faces. I can come up with justifications that seem plausible. And you will believe me, and congratulate me, and we shall continue to dance.
“Protesilaos, you write so much!” Now they know.