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Ovi Symposium; fiftieth Meeting Ovi Symposium; fiftieth Meeting
by Abigail George
2015-04-30 12:03:43
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Ovi Symposium:

“A Philosophical Conversation on the Nature of Art within Modernity
and the Envisioning of a New Humanism”

between Ms Abigail George, Mr Nikos Laios, Drs. Paolozzi, Paparella and Mr. Rywalt
Forty-ninenth Meeting: 23 April 2015

symposium01

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Symposium's regular participants (in alphabetical order)

abigailAbigail George is an African activist for human rights, a feminist, writer and poet. She has received writing grants from the National Arts Council, Centre for the Book, and ECPACC (Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council). She is not purely devoted to poetry but to pursuing writing fulltime. She has written two volumes of poetry, and her latest book is titled Winter in Johannesburg. Storytelling for her has always been a phenomenal way of communicating and making a connection with other people. All About My Mother (a collection of short stories) was published by Ovi magazine in July 2012.

laios_01Nikos Laios is a poet, artist, lover of philosophy and student of the human condition, currently writing poetry and producing art; he is also a sculptor, a photographer, widely read in the humanities. He hails from the highlands of Epirus in Greece; greatly influenced by the poetic traditions which have been passed down from his poet ancestor on his maternal side from the island of Cephalonia. He currently resides in North Sydney Australia, is an autodidact and a passionate ‘renaissance’ man, has always been a practical philosopher, throwing himself into the hard questions that life has to offer in search of elusive gems of wisdom.

enDr.Ernesto Paolozzi teaches history of contemporary philosophy at the University Suor Orsola Benincasa of Naples. A Croce scholar and an expert on historicism, he has written widely and published several books, especially on aesthetics and liberalism vis a vis science. His book Benedetto Croce: The Philosophy of History and the Duty of Freedom was printed as an e-book in Ovi magazine in June 2013.

papDr. Emanuel Paparella has a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism with a dissertation on Giambattista Vico from Yale University. He currently teaches philosophy at Barry University and Broward College in Florida, USA. One of his books is titled Hermeneutics in the Philosophy of G. Vico, Mellen Press. His latest e-book Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers was printed in Ovi magazine in June 2013.

rywaltEdwin Rywalt is a computer specialist living in Pennsylvania with his family. He is a talented and accomplished pianist with a college education from Columbia University and a life---long scholarly interest in the nexus between science, technology, and the liberal arts. Beginning in May 2014 he will be offering pro bono services to the Ovi Symposium with typo correction editing and other useful suggestions aiming at improving the overall format of the twice a month section of Ovi magazine. Perhaps in the future, if his commitments allow it, he may decide to join the Symposium’s ongoing dialogue.

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Subtheme of session 50: From Plato’s “Philosophy as Preparation for Death” to Heidegger’s “Being (Dasein) toward Death,” and Croce’s “Reflections by an old Man.”   

Indirect Participants within the Great Conversation across the ages: Socrates, Plato, Heidegger, Kafka, Woolf, Nash, Sontag, Einstein, Camus, Nietzsche, Adler, Petrarch, Croce, Homer, Mark, Ellis, Day, Frankl.

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Table of Contents for the 50th Session of the Ovi Symposium (23 April 2015)

Preamble by the Symposium’s coordinator Emanuel L. Paparella

Section 1: “Philosophy as a Preparation for Death: From Plato to Heidegger: Man Thrown into Existence as a ‘Being Toward Death.’” A Presentation by Emanuel L. Paparella

Section 2: “Being Toward Death.” A Presentation by Abigail George

Section 3: “’The Soliloquy of an Old Philosopher’ by Benedetto Croce.” A Presentation by Ernesto Paolozzi

Section 4: A comment by Emanuel L. Paparella on Croce’s Reflection on Death by way of a conversation.

Section 5: “Death: A Journey through Life.” A presentation by Nikos Laios

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Preamble by the Symposium’s Coordinator Emanuel L. Paparella

 sy00047_400

The Death of Socrates

Heidegger introduced the philosophical concept of “dasein” (“being there”) and “being toward death,” but it was Socrates, the father of Western philosophy, its first martyr so to speak, who conceived of philosophy as a preparation for death and then gave an extraordinary example of courage and equanimity in stoically accepting the death penalty for trumped up charges. What he taught us is nothing short than this: to live authentically one needs to be ready to accept death at any time and prepare for it; that is to say, be ready to die a good death because one has lived an examined and good and honest life. As he intimates to his slanderers and persecutors who conspired against him: gentlemen, the issue here is not whether I live or die, for we all die eventually, the issue is whether corruption, which is faster than death, catches up with you, and once it has caught up it may not relinquish you. Those are wise and penetrating words, but they would have sounded hollow had not Socrates been willing to die for what he believed and had he instead taken the option of exile.

In this particular issue, besides the Socratic-Platonic notion of philosophy as a preparation for death, we dwell on the Heideggerian notion of “being toward death,” or a being (Dasein or “being there”) who begins to die as soon as it is born and from which no man escapes. What man is able to escape, however, is corruption and he does this by living a life of integrity, a holistic life which integrates the corporeal, the spiritual and he intellectual; the Dionysian and the Apollonian. We do this existentially, that is to say, by contemplating how this notion has affected our own lives and the lives of those who live with us.

In section one Emanuel L. Paparella explores the issue philosophically elucidating the Heideggerian notion of Dasein (being there) thrown into existence and journeying toward death. In section two Abigail George gives a poetical existential rendition of the experience of being there (Dasein) journeying toward death at the very moment of birth. In section three Ernesto Paolozzi treats us to a veritable philosophical nugget from the pen of Benedetto Croce reflecting, shortly before his own death, on the meaning of life and death. In section four Emanuel L. Paparella comments on Croce’s reflection by way of dialogue with Ernesto Paolozzi. In section five we have another perceptive presentation by Nikos Laios which is both universal and particular/existential. It points to what we all intuit when we are open to the sudden surprises of life: that there may well be another life which begins at the end of our life, that death may be a mere transitory passage after the journey of life to another reality which may be our final destination. Even our modern “enlightened” empiricists and positivists, steeped as they are in materialism, will have a hard time denying this intuition with those who, having been certified as dead, have then returned to share with us their phenomenological intimations of immortality.

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1
Philosophy as a Preparation for Death: from Plato to Heidegger:
Man Thrown into Existence as a “Being towards Death”

A Presentation by Emanuel L. Paparella

 sy00048

“Being toward Death” in Decker’s rendition of Verdi’s La Traviata

Plato famously called philosophy a preparation for death. We can see the goal of this preparation in the dialogue Phaedo, which depicts Socrates at the day and hour of his execution (see David’s painting above). This approaching death, therefore, is the most significant and formidable of Socrates’ interlocutors, and the one he has been preparing to meet for his entire life: Plato, after all, did not call philosophy a “preparation for Calicles” or even a preparation for sophistical arguments”, but a preparation for death. Socrates meets death- which he compares to meeting the Minotaur in the Labyrinth- and prevails.

It is in his dialogue the Apology that Plato portrays Socrates with the tools of a dramatic plot structure and characterization. He portrays him as a citizen hero thus demonstrating the arête (the excellence) appropriate to that role. The reader is cast in the role of a jury member. By judging Socrates the reader in effect must judge him-or herself by choosing the standards which represents one’s own conviction. Plato is quite clear in what his own conviction is: Socrates’ way of life, the care of the soul, embodies the arête of the citizen hero.

There are four steps to the main features of the dramatic plot of the dialogue: 1) Socrates recounts the story of his encounter with the Oracle of Delphi, and his encounter there with the Fundamental Human question. Affirmation of mystery as humanly meaningful and truthful leads to the search for meaning as the most basic form of piety. 2) Affirming mystery, the mystery of death, as meaningful and true implies admitting one’s basic ignorance; the highest wisdom is to know that you don’t know. 3) Knowing that you do not know means that one must live out the question and seek our life’s meaning; it requires courage to persist in questioning, but to fear the unknown is to act as if one knows what one does not know. 4) The universality of citizenship requires justice, that is, treating every citizen just as one treats oneself, but this necessarily always leads to death, that is to say, the end of the self as an individual.

But the question persists: can this supreme loyalty to the common good, to citizenship as a way of living a meaningful life, give hope in the face of death?

As soon as we take Plato’s definition of philosophy seriously, much of what styles itself philosophy begins to look vain and worthless, for it could no more prepare us for death than some other body of knowledge chosen at random. When we judge philosophies in light of Plato’s definition (or even when we decide to read Plato himself in light of his definition) philosophy takes on a new urgency and a greater focus, for so many of our arguments, complaints, papers, seminars, pet theories and conferences prove themselves as so much wasted time, and we don’t have much time. Sooner or later we will turn a corner and the Minataur will be upon us, voiceless, real, and promising to take away everything. This can perhaps best be confirmed by those who have had a brush with death, as we will see especially in Nikos Laios’ presentation.

In any case, in existentialist philosophy too Death is at the heart of life. Once a man is born, he is old enough to die. Death is all the more the foundation of the individuality that it is impossible to share his death. Every death is solitary and unique and nobody can die for somebody else, although a hero will be ready to sacrifice one’s life to save that of somebody else. The authentic life is one that always knows the death and promised to accept courageously and honestly. We must track down everything that drives us to bury our dead, for the act of burying the dead is one pointing to something transcendent beyond time and space. It is however, only an intimation, for within time and space all we can do is rationalize death as integral part of life. Kant dubs the transcendent the realm of the “numenon” about which a mystic may be more competent to speak than the philosopher who must remain in the realm of the phenomenon.

 sy00049

The Triumph of Death, or The Three Fates. Flemish Tapestry (ca. 1510–1520)

In this tapestryThe three Fates: Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, who spin, draw out and
cut the thread of life, represent Death, as they triumph over the fallen body of  Chastity.
This is a subject in Petrarch’s poem “The Great Triumphs”: first, Love triumphs; then Love is
overcome by Chastity, Chastity by Death, Death by Fame, Fame by Time and Time by Eternity.

As the above tapestry intimates, the theme of death has been around from time immemorial in Western civilization, and the father of European Humanism, Petrarch, certainly had it constantly in mind especially as related to fame and legacy. But the 20th century philosopher who, perhaps more than any other has reflected deeply on being and death (in his masterwork Being and Time) is undoubtedly Martin Heidegger. Let’s here briefly survey his acute analysis which while differing from Plato’s remains nevertheless in the realm of philosophy when it comes to the examination of man’s nature and indeed, the examination of Being.

 sy00050

Martin Heidegger at his desk

Heidegger encounters an immense problem when he defines Dasein (being-there) as an entity or being that, “in its very Being…[has] Being [as] an issue for it” as something that “always understands itself in terms of its existence—in terms of a possibility of itself”: how can Dasein be the whole of itself? For if Dasein is to make its Being an issue for itself, it must be able to access itself (that is, access its own being, its own ontological existence) in its totality According to how we understand “whole,” Dasein is to access itself as a whole, or be-a-whole, by turning itself into not-Dasein: Dasein would have to be something at the end of Dasein in order for Dasein to be a totality—that is, in order for Dasein to be finished off or closed. And what is this not-Dasein other than death for Dasein? In death, as Heidegger explains, Dasein suddenly becomes “no-longer-being-there;” something other than Dasein.

Indeed, it is then that Dasein becomes a totality in our sense: Dasein is a totality if it is no longer something that was indeed Dasein. That is, if Dasein “was”—if it is no longer existing—it indeed can be said to have existed, and this existence must have formed some type of closed-off structure that we could call a whole. Thus, what we are asking when we ask if Dasein can be-a-whole seems to be something immensely contradictory: whether Dasein can exist as Dasein while not existing as Dasein; whether we can live as Dasein at our death, or “be-at-the-end.” This is obviously impossible, Heidegger concludes, so long as we keep our notion of death (and with it, our notion of wholeness as reached in death). If we conceive of death as something that ends a thing, there is no way this could apply to Dasein—and then of course Dasein would have to be something other than it is in order to have access to it.

Thus, we have to conceive of death as something that is not just added on to Dasein as a state it can just exist in. Heidegger’s notion of “being-at-an-end” becomes, then, something that an entity can exist towards, if only because being-at-an-end is indeed being (or being-towards or having a comportment or stance towards existence) in such a way that one is at-an-end or over with: “Death is not something not yet present-at-hand, nor is it that which is ultimately still outstanding [that is, something that needs to be added on to Dasein]… Death is something that stands before us—something impending”. If death is something that will happen to Dasein in such a way that Dasein can exist as Dasein in (but of course not, it seems to Dasein, after) its death, Dasein is able then to “be-towards-death,” or be in such a way that Dasein has a stance towards its own death. We thus are able to still be ourselves towards what Heidegger also calls our “uttermost” or last “not-yet:” Dasein has the ability to still be Dasein (not yet being not-Dasein) in its own death. This is what he means when he says that “being-at-an-end implies existentially being-towards-the-end. 

 sy00051

Marina Poplavskay as Violetta in Decker’s Traviata

“Being-at-an-end” then becomes “being-towards-death” for Heidegger, due primarily to how we have to treat Dasein as something not present-at-hand—as something that has Being as an issue for itself. If what we are asking when we ask if Dasein can be-a-whole is whether we can live as Dasein at our death, or “be-at-the-end,” this is obviously impossible: there is no way for Dasein to be at the very point where it is something other than it is. And this is not primarily because Dasein cannot be something other than itself (indeed, as we shall see, when Dasein is “inauthentic” this is precisely the case) but rather because Dasein is something that is never at a certain point or state: it is always in a certain way. Dasein can then be-at-the-end because what we are really asking, Heidegger seems to suggest, is whether Dasein can be-in-the-end, or be-towards-the-end (if being-in-something is conceived as a way to be towards something)—that is, be-towards-death.

Dasein, as thrown Being-in-the-world, has in every case already been delivered over to its death. In being towards its death, Dasein is dying constantly, as long as it has not yet come to its demise. When we say that Dasein is dying, we are saying at the same time that in its Being-towards-death Dasein has always decided itself in one way or another. Understanding then manifests itself in the very way Dasein exists, for if Dasein is something that has its own Being as an issue for it, its understanding of this issue makes it be according to this understanding—or be with respect to its possibilities of being in a particular way that is precisely its understanding. Thus Heidegger can say that Dasein is always already dying. Being-towards-death is something Dasein always does.

But Heidegger holds that being-a-whole, if it is going to happen always in Being-towards-death, can only be conceived as something that is entered into in two modalities: authentically or inauthentically. Mostly, we are not authentically being-towards-death: we are not taking a stance towards death by understanding the impossibility of being after death in all its depths: this is what Heidegger means when he says the following:
Proximally and for the most part Dasein covers up its own Being-towards-death, fleeing in the face of it.  Dasein is dying as long as it exists, but proximally and for the most part, it does so by way of falling.

“Falling,” or the phenomenon of existing inauthentically, is a way of being-towards-death that makes Dasein, who is always authentically being most itself in its always being-a-whole, not understand and be itself in its plenitude or wholeness. Falling prevents Dasein from confronting its death and hinders Dasein from grasping its being-a-whole by covering up death’s certainty and its indefiniteness. Or, to collapse the two into one phenomenon that we have found characteristic of Dasein, inauthentic falling covers up the fact that Dasein is always dying (not just some of the time or only at its demise): Death is deferred to ‘sometime later’ … [This] covers up what is peculiar in death’s certainty—that it is possible at any moment. Along with the certainty of death goes the indefiniteness of its ‘when.’ Everyday Being-towards-death evades this indefiniteness by conferring definiteness upon it.

When death is not conceived of as something “impending,” as something that could always happen, this lends definiteness to Dasein’s understanding of its death, and makes it not be-towards-death authentically—that is, as if death could always happen. This allows us to characterize why Dasein does not always comport itself towards death, or understand itself as being-towards-death: when Dasein is inauthentic in its “everyday” manner, it evades its essence’s own actuality as always being-towards-death. But why is its death (and the fact that this death is always) so absolutely horrendous or uncanny to Dasein?

Heidegger shows us: in the face of death what is revealed is something inescapably inauthentic that Dasein is also certain to have (if only in the fact of its being born): namely the uncertainty as to whether it really is and definiteness as to when and how it is—Dasein’s thrownness. Dasein is, as we elaborated above, thrown being towards death: Dasein is brought into a world, and finds itself there—it is definite of this. But it does not have a stance towards itself as something that is existing as long as it is thrown and as long as it is not understood as thrown towards death—it is therefore uncertain as to how to be. Inauthentic Dasein “guiltily” remains in this state (as Heidegger will later say in his section on the call of conscience, that manifests itself in guilt), because there it does not have to understand itself and can simply be. Authentic Dasein confronts this inauthenticity and connects Dasein’s thrownness to its death. Characterizing authenticity in these terms makes sense, insofar as Dasein is being-towards-death as long as it is being, and Dasein is always already at the end of itself: death, insofar as it is the possibility of having no more possibilities and a possibility that can happen any time and in any way, is what Dasein is already in its authenticity—a potentiality-for-being that possibly could have no more possibilities.

Heidegger solves his problem then as we suggested: that is, by conceiving of Dasein as being-a-whole always. In the end this is more true to the definition of Dasein as something that has Being as an issue for itself, because it conceives of Dasein’s being-a-whole in terms of Dasein’s ability to make itself (and its essence) an issue, and not in terms of Dasein being placed in a certain state that suddenly gives it its wholeness from the outside: we thus remain something more than things that are present-at-hand, and become most ourselves as well as wholes of ourselves (which are one and the same thing) when we understand ourselves as being or existing thrown wholly towards death—that is, as beings. It is because death is just like any other time for Dasein that all of Dasein’s authentic existence is a being-towards-death, and Dasein is, therefore, always being-a-whole: but Dasein’s time is only what it is insofar as it is something not present-at-hand, as it is something with possibilities as to how it will take its Being as an issue for itself.

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2

Being toward Death
A Presentation by Abigail George

 sy00052

I
An Introduction

For some being is a powerful drug. They are the authentic. Made complete by family life. Finding that sunny road, having those kids. The wealth of ideas that they had as children during story time miraculously disappears. They forget the rhymes they learned as children. They are happy when called ‘mummy’ and ‘daddy’. When they look at the angel shine on the faces of their children they feel by instinct that they have achieved all their goals and then an ongoingness has set in. A study. Drawings. Quietly made observations. Decay and infirmity has yet to set in. Inkling thoughts about death. The lovers still find themselves in paradise. What an alcoholic reads says a lot about the secret life of the alcoholic. What the manic-depressive reads says a lot about the state of the manic-depressives despair and madness. I despair the landscape of madness. It is hard to escape that world.

You will live with that Kafkaesque metamorphosis for the rest of your life. As they grow older in this unit of the family life, the children only grow to become more important, more significant. Preparations made for continuity, for survival of the species. Women raised to become mothers. To keep house. To be wives. Barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. My whole life I saw it play out around the environment I grew up in with my own eyes. The others who fall by the wayside looked upon as failures. I learned something important early on in life. Not to struggle against but acknowledge disease and illness. Live with it as if it was captaining my moral compass. Guiding me. Navigating me. I have learned wisdom with each paradigm shift that my soul has gone through. With each history of my illness’s recovery and relapse, I have learned to cope.

Many people in the world think about the brightness of that arrangement of light that we meet upon death. I have stopped mulling over it. I know there is no escaping it. I have realised this and accepted it. I look at my sadness and I analyse it. What would be the tragic scenario I think is if I did not take lessons away from it. Breathing lessons. I have no more anger. Instead, I have words now. There are enough words to tell stories. Words like illusion, anticipatory nostalgia, capacity and imagination. There are enough words inside of me that dream up die-hard journal entries and manuscripts pouring out of me that I send away. I have to live in the shadows not on some throne of my own making. In sending them away from myself, they create their own realities. I keep a diary with the intent, with the hope that it will become famous one day. That it will develop an otherness. Something separate from myself. A project.

What is it that I am looking for? A narcissistic reflection of my ego superimposed on the world I half-heartedly lived in. It is then that I begin to realise that these reflections that make up the personality and being of my stories. Although they are of my own making and that they come from my hands I am not in control of where they land, whose life my words have an impact on. They are a part of my being. Nothing more and nothing less. I loved that chapter of my life. When I was still in control but when I give it up to the world there is just a dull sensation. Nothing that is bright with intelligence and words anymore. My thoughts become just as dull and I wait for the lightness to leave my being. I cross boundaries that have no borders. Where no flags are raised. Perhaps I do feel a kind of decay butterfly humming in my bones. Being to me is a painting. I absorb everything into that abyss that is my spirit.

I listen to my ‘guardians’, my parents. I listen and listen and listen to the world around me (filling up my being) until all that is left are vessels filled with a kind of flesh and a kind of honeyed sweetness. The stone voice is still there. No matter how hard I work at it, at removing it gently, removing it for good. It always seems as if there is a set conspiracy behind me not to remove it at all. It is left there it seems for a reason. I cannot predict the surge, the influx or the unpredictability of the light that governs my being. I know that one day it will no longer be there. In my world sometimes, laughter exists as a game. I know I have to be happy. I know how thankful I must be. I must have humility, grace, mercy and gratitude on my side. I pray all the time. I pray for simple things. I pray for clarity of thought. I pray for vision. I pray for good health.

I write about what was first diagnosed as clinical depression from a psychiatrist who studied in Vienna. The more and more the world and my self-control seems to spin out of control and out of my reach. The more I have flashbacks that I do not want to have. The more I realise that I have not experienced love yet or respect from a man who wants to make me his queen I know that I cannot push the being that I have become away. Perhaps all the experience that I have had thus far has made me into the woman I have become. Perhaps for the meanwhile that is enough. It must suffice. I never believed in the flame of possessions. Collecting them and putting them away for a rainy day. For the house that I would leave my childhood house for. It just never happened for me. This knowledge has made me smaller amongst the women it has happened for. I have made promises that I did not keep.

Some times when this happened a part of me experienced a succession of deaths. Sometimes I believed that I could do great things. Sometimes a part of me of me retreated from the world. I knew that I had a mental illness. Other people did not. I knew that if they did their opinion about me would change. I was afraid that I would just be a hypomanic tragedy waiting to happen. There was space in the years that grouped itself around me and called itself ‘personal’ or ‘glass’. Glass shatters. Glass breaks and sometimes you cannot put the pieces back together again. The ugliness in the world breaks my heart. Pierces my soul. I do not know how to thread my own heart back together again but I do know how to thread other hearts until they are whole. Until my being feels whole, I will continue doing a very simple thing. I must be the captain of my own thoughts in a mad city.

Putting other people’s hearts back together again. You cannot have access to a person’s heart but what you do have access to are the windows to their soul. Why do I write? I write to make sense of the world around me. To discover what makes man, woman, child great and then vulnerable after minutes, moments passing. I write about my faith. I write about my journey for self-love. I write about how I do not want to lose my motivation for writing. I write for people and to keep their loneliness away which is very, very difficult. I write to keep my own loneliness away, which is difficult. There is a chorus of loneliness attaching itself to me. When it does, it does the impossible. It inspires and I forget the ongoingness of my daily battles and the struggle I have with sanity. I think of John Nash and Virginia Woolf and I pool their wisdom. I struggle. I have good days and I have bad days when all I feel is tiredness and exhaustion.

Almost as if, I am drunk on them. If you have, something beautiful then let it be your mind not your possessions. Let it be the identity of your being and the death of arrogance. Let it be the wealth of sunlight that we experience every day. Let it be the metaphysical world. Let it be the ocean. Forgiveness is only a destination. There came a time in my life when I wanted to live. My being accepted this as it accepted everything. The depression that ruled my emotions that was great and had chameleon-like traits. That played master. The mania that came and went. The psychosis that came with it. I discovered I needed to live and to find my inner being again in order to save myself from that ever-drowning visitor feeling I felt so often. Mrs Patterson at Collegiate High School for Girls taught me moral lessons in English classes of Muriel Spark’s Miss Jean Brodie. Language became code.

Once you grow up you begin to believe less and less in perfection. You do find though because you never had those children. You were never ‘lucky enough’ to find the one who was going to save you from that awful, awful word spinsterhood that you want to educate yourself and so you become someone brave. It is not brave if you are not scared half the time. You realise that you are in it to win it. You believe what your heart is telling you. That you have to achieve all your goals. You can feel the brightness behind your eyes. Thoughts race through your mind. You deliver expectations and you learn to have no expectations at the same time. There is no limit to your potential. The history of the illnesses that I have becomes something like the history of violence. It is something that I have to live with or write about within the tapestry of a dream world. I began my exploration into feminism, self-learning and the tech world.

II

Scholar of Trivia

 sy00053

The person who has influenced me the most in this world is my mother. I have watched her raise children. Stand by her man. Cook and clean for us. Nearly leave my father with three children to raise. Take us to swimming lessons no matter how difficult it was for us to swim butterfly, breaststroke, crawl and backstroke. No matter how hard it was for us as children she would not let us give up. No matter how hard anything was for us she would never let us give it up. I watched my mother and father from afar. Only understanding them, as I grew closer to reaching their own age when they married, settled down to raise a family. I only understood what the word being meant when I went to a marriage in the family as a child. I only understood what death meant when I went to a funeral. That defined who I was for a long time until a doctor told me I was clinically depressed.

The books I started to read then were books that defined who I was at the time. Books whose protagonist I could relate too. They had to have a mental illness, suffer a little or a lot, gain weight unhealthily, through binge eating, have an eating disorder, have some sought of childhood mishap or trauma (but do we not all have some sought of trauma that we have to work through). I started to mentally document my father’s own battle with manic depression. I started to document alcoholism, cancer and diabetes. High blood pressure. The pamphlets screamed. The silent killer off the walls at the doctor’s surgery. A history of family illnesses and secrets that struck me dumb. It is different for everyone. You grow up thinking that doctors are the expert. You grow up thinking that this sought of drama will somehow fix you. A childhood drama will follow you wherever you go.

As I grew up, I became more aware of loneliness. It was just a spell. First, it enticed, and when it left me, I had to search for that grand gesture that it gave off again. That contract. The same gesture that left me elated. When it came, I did not want it to come. It was like a stain, or a human smell. All I wanted to feel was that loneliness. Imagine that for all of all your life that your being was inspired by loneliness. Asking yourself, day in and day out if that was normal. Why that was so real? To me loneliness was really made out of sadness, a hidden kind of sadness and a substance. If my parents were a team, a partnership then perhaps in a way that was what creativity and loneliness was to me. A team. A partnership. I also became more aware of how intense this feeling of loneliness was. There was nothing I could do. No matter how I tried. It was my sun and my moon. It was my thirst and left me with a kind of hunger.

Always this exhilarating and thought-provoking play. Joy fills my lungs. This sweet release when I think of my being now as it exists. I think of my life experience, my background, the love of my parents and the fact that there are many young women out there who lived with illness. They are in this constant flux. They live with the message that they are dying. Dying from what. Dying from something if they do not have any kind of love in their lives. That almost a part of them is forgotten. As if they have not lived if they have not been loved and been held in the arms of a man. To exist as if language is a bubble is not to exist at all. Do you want being or nothingness? To be, to fill your being and then release it from pain, from suffering, from sorrow is what life is most of the time. I watched sisters, daughters and cousins longing turn into love while I was left behind. Lot’s wife. A pillar of salt.

To find love in the eyes of your husband or the love of your children is what I have seen my own mother search for but this is difficult to acknowledge if your own life path, life world does not follow hers. In high school, I always thought that I someone would save me. I did not realise that I would be the one doing the saving. I did not imagine anything existential, hypomanic or psychotic when I was child. You can say it was a happy childhood. We did not have much money but we had everything. Parental love is enough when you are a child but when you grow up it becomes more difficult for them to reach out to you and for you to reach out to them. For my mother perhaps it was enough to have children. Then she could say, ‘I am done. That is my legacy.’ What about forgiveness? As a daughter, I have learned to forgive my mother. Daughters become their mothers. I am flawed and I am not perfect.

Instinct tells me when she is sad, mad or glad. In the end, can illness become a weakness? Sontag wrote that it was a metaphor. It has helped me creative wise. Here, I am talking about what has shaped my being. Mostly relationships. The most important relationship of all being the same sex relationship. The most important person in your life being your mother. What is significant here is that she was sad and elegant. I confined her to a mother who would always open her arms. In the end, she was strong enough to do the impossible, which was to stay and face insurmountable challenges.  We are all fugitives in the dwellings that we reside in. I reside in my mother’s house. Every philosopher, with his or her own school of thought, is a man who stands alone. Einstein spoke about the theory of relativity. The outer limits is where the poet finds itself.

A man may argue that the only thing a woman should know of is conception as if a man is more than a being. As if, the woman is less than he is. As if a woman should know nothing of electronics and economics. Sometimes things get lost and a useless feeling you have never experienced before overcomes you which is why I want the familiar. The uninterrupted source. I think that is why I believe that there is a God. It was familiar to me when I was a child deep in thought. Not so much in high school when I observed agnosticism and atheism. Not really understanding what they meant. I loved my sadness. I loved how the walls were not bright in that room. They were white and cool when I touched them with my fingertips. There were no birds. No garden for them to play in.  No brick red alarming me. No one waiting for me with vows to be said. Self-pity was there. I loved that hollow chocolate Easter egg of sadness.

There were no men. There were no women. No children to make me feel small. No one to say I love you to me. I did not have to say those words back to anyone. It was bliss. Here I was on the threshold of finding my bliss. I knew that at the end of the day I would have an impact on someone else’s life. I did not know how or when I just knew I had to be ready and write down those words. Let me talk to you about love now, which we often feel by instinct. Love that fills our being with the utmost trust and loyalty. Once I held onto somebody’s hand but I felt that my instinct was telling me that this was not important. I knew I was not in love. I knew that this was not love. What is a good night? A night filled with stars. I would rather have that than love. My parents were my first teachers. I remember how painstakingly my mother taught me how to write my name. They were my first role models. My first gurus.

They knew what lithium, self-help and psychiatry meant before I did. I did not know what roles they would play in my life later on. Although I learned very quickly what social isolation meant on the school playing fields where if you did not know how to perform cartwheels and handstands you were not popular. Clever did not make you popular either and neither did playing chess. I turned my thoughts to listening to the waves (while standing on the shore, or when in my bedroom to radio waves), swimming until the chlorine burned my eyes. Anything to forget that at home I was not the chosen one. There was so much memory work in those words. I was not the chosen one. I was not the heir apparent. My mother smiled in photographs with my sister. She did not smile with me. I am closer to illness than life. I am closer to the illness in my life than I am to my own siblings, to other relatives.

I think that is why as I grew older I clung to religion. I began to open my heart. Not to grief or sadness but little by little to the glare of the world and perhaps the imagination that existed before, that was there when I was a child. I hoped it would still be with me. The illness would make me ‘on’ all the time. A mental switch I could not turn off. I desired to be someone else. The someone else that could transform the person I was since birth. I do not know if I believe in ‘being toward death’ yet.  I think the most we can believe while we are still alive or of this world or want to believe in is life toward death or light toward death. Do we not all want to believe that we are beings of light and that our souls illuminate light? It is the reflection of our best intentions. What we project I believe is what we have left of our souls after karma, after grief, after sadness and after the trauma, the relapse and recovery period of illness.

Do feminists pray? Well I pray. Do feminists make good Christians or good Beings? Shaman wise eye to the telescope on the stars. For death, I only have a few words. You can never be prepared for it and life is short. To harbour on death, well I think that is a whole other school of thought. Perhaps a new philosophy that is still to be written. I will not throw caution to the wind here. I can only talk about the makeup of my own being. The continuity in my life. The role that illness plays in it. The people who love me and who do not love me. It does not matter where you are, or who you are with what matters is that you are still you. Your sister might call and never talk to you, only to your mother. You will still have no words for her though. People might hurt you or love you. You may have experienced loss, or welcomed a child into the world.

In the essays that I write, I always reveal the people who I love in this world and was closest to when I was a child. Sometimes they were a costume. Sometimes they do not. Some I lost along the way. If I say because of the illness and give it a name (bipolar) does it make it easier somehow? The measure of that loss. No, not really. I still wish that they were around to make me laugh but I knew early on that they were not really in it for the long haul with me. People do not want to sacrifice too much when it comes to the mentally ill. Some directly or indirectly influenced the pain that I felt. You might be the interloper through the looking glass but what matters I realise is that you are still you. I do not want to wait until my deathbed to make peace with individuals that I was not at peace when I was living. Despairing of intuition, creativity, imagination, exerting myself is what fills my being.

Understanding that perhaps it was not my loss in the end but theirs. I love them anyway.

III

Psychosis

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There is a torment in waiting for the psychosis to break.

You can never heal completely from that wreck. I can tell you what it is not. Psychosis is not a polite madness. It is not going to go away any time soon. You will recover but then again you will relapse. Psychosis is I am afraid another dimension, a violent dimension, in which we are dealt the cruel blows of hallucinations and voices. I wish that it could only be my potential, food, music and love that affected me deeply instead of psychosis. I have discovered that a woman and an inpatient of a mental hospital must always keep a diary. I have discovered that within me there is always this struggle for creativity, extraordinary innocence, and unchanging hope. I have to be better. Better than sane and the mania. I have to be better than when the hypomania triumphs.

I have discovered when I do better everything begins working coordinated. My parents are my guardians. In the great house where once my childhood ruled, my mother’s love is my anchor. My lifeline. It features goals, my adolescent potential, sanity and sleep. For a long time I lacked awareness of what having psychosis would mean in the long term. I know now the depression would make me an ordinary woman but what gives me the creativity. I have never been in love like other women. I have never married like other women. I have never had those children with the white picket fence but I write books. They pour out of me. I dismantle marriage and give it a bad name in my short stories. All I know of life is empty fields, waiting rooms. Waiting for doctors to see me. Psychiatrists. Still I am left overwhelmed.

I have been damaged, filled with anguish, bittersweet angst, filled with manic energy and I have written with a spontaneity. Family life, keeping diaries over the years has saved my delicate psychological framework. Given me the motivation for my intuition to dream again, when all I have to offer the world is my sadness. I know what the word ‘lack’ or rather the words ‘lack of’ means. The lack of being there so completely in the present. I know what the sensation of being caught between fantasy and illusion means.  I spend a lot of time on my own now. I do not call the pain and the wounded feelings that stir deep within me loneliness. Psychosis is a nightmare. I cannot really bring myself to explain the parts of this non-reality that is also very much a frightening reality for some.

It is only a voyage. It is only a voyage into eternity. There is winter in my heart. Ice in my lungs. The horrors of depravity in my chest. All holding me down. This is an acute system. Psychosis is like suffocating in the dark. Drowning with despair on your left-hand side and hardship on your right. Studying the case studies of people who experience psychosis must give you a profound take on humanity. How much of our soul we give away. How much we take and take and take from the people around us. The people who love us. The people who treat us, the doctors, the nurses, after all are they not strangers.  These are all rhythms that go by the name of love. These are all rhythms that are a return to love and normalcy. I think when I say that I mean it to be factual.

People could never see the brightness behind my eyes. Why I kept to myself. The quiet me. Perhaps all they saw was the intelligence. I knew early on how dangerous it was to make friends, to have relationships. I was scared to death of the boyfriend and girlfriend relationship because this would mean now I would have to come clean. I would have to confess. I was always the confessional type though especially throughout my poetry. I could not see what others saw. I knew I would be no good for anyone. No good for domestic life. No good as a wife and a mother. Sacrifices would have to be made. I think my children would have been too independent at a very young age. They would have had to look after me. I do not think that men really have it within them to take care of a mentally ill wife.

I know every day what I have given up in the pursuit of sanity. Mostly I feel the hunger in the dark. The hunger for closeness, for contact, for love but I know I would not have been able to deal with it or accept it. I cannot even accept praise for my writing. I shy away from it. I painstakingly crush it. I know I must or else the art form that has become part of the perspective that I have of the exterior world will not survive. All those drawings of people. Am I tragic? That is hard to escape. Not with the wealth of ideas that I have though. With my battle with psychosis, I have encountered coma, relief, disaster and horror. I write about what I think intimacy is. All I know of intimacy is the partnership of my parents. Sometimes I feel that all I am are fragments pieced together.

Fragments of dopamine, serotonin, burnt out nerve endings and flashbacks to times when I was happier. When I was a child not having to deal with trauma, depression, my dad’s depression, pharmaceuticals and lack of parental supervision but you must understand I was dealing with all of these things at some level or other even when I was a child.  Life was stressful when I was a child. Life became even more so when I grew up. What is despair compared to love? We all want to be accepted. I mean it makes you begin to question the distance between self-love and fear. I have lived my whole life in fear of what others might think of me, what they will say, and what their opinion of me is. Fear just programmes the psychosis. Fear just becomes another reality. What I wanted for all of my life was to live in your world.

All I wanted was to have thoughtful parents who loved me; thought the world of accomplished me. Parents who clapped every time I won something at school. Every diploma I received. My goal was to perform excellently. Even as a child, I was a perfectionist. The doctors never spoke about the hallucinations. The hearing of voices. Maybe they wanted to protect me. Maybe they wanted to say. Perhaps this will never happen to you although it has happened to other people whose diagnosis played out the same way that mine was about to. Perhaps psychiatrists do not believe in the future. Perhaps they only believe in the now. Perhaps they only believe in fixing the now. I made a normal life up for as long I could when I was in high school. It worked. Then it did not. Now I write for a living. Psychosis banging at the door.

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3

“The Soliloquy of an Old Philosopher” by Benedetto Croce
Prefaced by Ernesto Paolozzi

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Benedetto Croce as an old philosopher shortly before his death in 1952 at age 86

If there is a truly serious philosophical problem, it is that of suicide. To judge whether or not life is worth living, means to answer the crucial question of philosophy.” This famous aphorism of Albert Camus, puts the issue of death at the very center of philosophical reflection, but at the same time, it appears to close the door to every attempt to provide a philosophical answer to life’s drama, of life understood as absurd exactly because it is tied to death.

Camus’ life is a life lived toward death authentically felt and lived. Nevertheless, the great philosopher-writer, so much more authentic than of Sartre or Heidegger, does not exhaust the issue with his lucid and desperate cry of pain. Life is for death as much as death is for life. And we live as we can and as we must live it. Even for others.

I think it is opportune to offer to the readers a brief soliliqui of Benedetto Croce, The Soliloquy of an Old Philosopher, is treated with serenity, even with an ironic and polemical note at the beginning and at the end, but always with depth and insight and sadness. It seems to me that a religious sense accompanies Croce’s reflection. It is a secular sense, to be sure, but secular of a Calvinist character (the exaltation of the work as a duty)?

I am not sure, but it is worth re-reading the wise words of the great philosopher: “Sometimes, to friends who ask me the usual question “how are you?” I answer with the words that Salvatore di Giacomo heard from the old duke of Maddaloni, the famous Neapolitan epigramist, when in one of his last visits he found him warming up under the sun and answered him in dialect—don’t you see? I am dying.—But this is not a complaint to get off one’s chest, it is rather one of the usual reminiscences of literary anecdotes which curiously keep recurring in my memory and makes me happy. As melancholic and sad as death may be, I am too much of a philosopher not to see clearly that it would be terrible if man could never die, if he remained imprisoned in the jail that is life to repeat the same vital rhythm which as an individual he possesses within the borders of his individuality, to which there is a duty assigned which comes to an end eventually.  

There are those who think that during this span of life the thought of death must regulate what there is left of life, which in effect becomes a preparation for death. In fact, life in its entirety is a preparation for death, and one cannot do anything but to carry it on till the end, attending loyally to the duties which attend to such a life. Death will overcome us and put us at rest, to take away from us the projects to which we were attending, but death cannot do anything else besides interrupt us, just as we cannot do anything else but allow it to interrupt us, if we will not allow it to find us inanely doing nothing at all.

While it is true that this preparation for death is interpreted by some as a necessary gathering of our soul in God, we need, here too, to take notice that we remain in contact with God, in fact we need to do so, all of our life. Nothing happens that is extraordinary in that respect, at the moment of death, that imposes something out of the usual. Pious souls usually do not think thus, and they attempt to get God on their side with some actions that they believe will correct the ordinary egoism of their past life, which in effect are the ultimate expression of such egoism.”

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4
A comment by Emanuel L. Paparella on Croce’s Reflection on Death by way of
a Dialogue with Ernesto Paolozzi

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Thank you Ernesto for sharing with us this brilliant nugget of Croce’a philosophical reflections on death which, while not being as convoluted as Heidegger’s, it nevertheless offers us some relevant and unique  insights on this complex issue. They will certainly enhance our ongoing virtual conversation in the symposium and elsewhere. If the Greeks have taught us anything on the nature of genuine philosophy, it is that besides being a preparation for death, it is dialogic for no man is an island and when the bells tolls it tolls for all of us.

What I found particularly noteworthy in the above reflection is that final affirmation that being in God all our life is just as important, and in fact necessarily so, as being toward death, and that were we never to die life would become a rather excruciating and boring experience within time and space immersed as we are in the senses and in materiality, something we are blessedly freed from at the moment of our death. What Croce seems to be pointing to is that the whole of creation exists in God; this is quite similar to St. Augustine’s insight that the universe is a thought in the mind of God and death is the place where we are released by the deceptions of the senses that often lead us to mistaking reality for appearances as is the case in Plato’s allegory of the cave. To be is to be perceived, Berkeley subsequently taught us, and if God were to stop perceiving and caring for the material universe it would ipso facto disappear. Given the emphasis on materialism and positivism of our present Western culture.

In any case, even out of the cave we continue to see through a glass darkly, but after death we shall see clearly. It remains true however that meanwhile, out of Plato’s cave, in the world of the intelligible, we begin to vaguely sense the transcendent realm and that only at death we will perceive clearly what reality is all about, just as when we wake up from a dream we realize that what appeared real while undergoing it was a mere dream. For the moment however, let us carry on the great conversation initiated by our great philosophers and poets, be it in a virtual agora or symposium. For, in a positivistic age lacking the poetical and the consolations of philosophy, art and poetry, dubbed by Vico as one characterized by the “barbarism of the intellect,” rampant idolatry, and narcissism, a spirited imaginative philosophical exchange of ideas among friends in the realm of the intelligible is as good as it gets and more than justifies the raison d’être of our symposium.

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5
DEATH: A JOURNEY THOUGH LIFE
A Presentation by Nikos Laios

I

REFLECTIONS ON MORTALITY

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"For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

I have always pondered this question from the gospel of Mark, and one which touches us when faced with our mortality, where this moral question is quickly pushed back down into our dark subconscious basement when it becomes an inconvenient and unpalatable challenge to the way we live, and how we conduct ourselves in life, and what kind of legacy we leave behind.

The moment we are born into this world, we are automatically doomed to die every one of us; and how we as individuals or societies deal with this eternal question dictates the quality of our lives. But now we live in a vacuous western civilisation that is losing both its instinctual ties with the earth and the spiritual structures we have built.

From the very early dawn of time, man's first state of being was an instinctual one, of man's will for being directed through an animalistic preoccupation and focus of survival in a brutal and unforgiving tribal landscape. A landscape which was sparsely populated by humanity, with small clusters of hunter-gather tribes living amongst the deserts, islands, mountains and the seas.

Small tribes nestled alongside the blue water rivers rushing toward the reeds, the rivers weeping; the gentle lilac scented breeze smiling as a village girls swayed, picking strawberries amongst the trees.The butterflies fluttering and dancing around the daisy chains hung around their hair and as their hearts sighed as they sang while rivers wept.

It is this landscape that first etched itself into the collective subconscious of humanity, becoming our first archetype, and which formed the stone foundation for our sense of awe and wonderment as we pondered the cosmos and our place within it.

Chewing straws with fingers interlocked under their heads as they lay on the soft cool grass at night on some mountaintop looking upwards towards heaven at the black velvet sky that covered them, with the stars blinking like small flashing diamonds in the fresh mountain breeze. As they wondered at the patterns and shapes forming in the stars and constellations, and gave names to them: celebrating warrior-poets, goddesses and nymphs.

Then as man and civilisations became more sophisticated, and self aware of themselves--conscious of their own consciousness imprinting itself on the world around them--man then becomes more aware of his mortality, aware of his impending doom and this makes him ponder his place in the world, his reason for being, the meaning of his life: and this existential question therefore threads itself subsequently through every human civilisation that followed thereafter from our primitive, primal origins.

However it is in a primitive, ancient, and tribal state of existence that the construction of a spiritual superstructure was built to give meaning to man's existence and to enable the will to live by the birth and constructions of myths and archetypes that spewed out of man's soul like an Athena sprouting from Zeus's forehead fully grown. Myths and stories that spread across the landscape of the world and metamorphosed with the landscape in a symbiotic relationship. Spurting red ochre paint from long dead mouths blowing against their hands leaving an imprint on same cave in France or in Australia; or the first spiritual symbols of animals, stars, planets; of the turning of the seasons that became objects of worship and which then formed the walls of the superstructures of the temples of our belief. A belief that helped man cope with his impending doom, and indeed we are fortunate that we have contemporaneous records of this recording of the symbols, myths and archetypes through art.

For it is through art and it's unconscious process of symbolisation that continued through time as the primal incarnation of the human spirit, and which will continue to be the driving force and core of our creation - and here, death and mortality--is and has marked the boundaries of our human imagination.

From the achievements of the ancient civilisation of ancient Egypt which was built upon the belief and preparation for an afterlife after death; its sand-ochre coloured pyramids, and secreted sand covered graves amongst the date and palms trees along the banks of the Nile, the whole working structure of its society measured by its religion that gave hope of an afterlife; or the cultures of the Americas--The Aztecs and Mayans-- with their magnificent shinning cities built from the jungles. With their belief that blood sacrifice fed and satiated the earth for it to remain fruitful and enable the survival of their civilisation; or in Homeric Greece, where young warriors like the mythical Achilles, who would sacrifice longevity and embraced death to seek an immortality for the honour of their name thereafter and achieve everlasting glory.

Death has, and will continue to mark our perceptions of mortality, and as humanity grows in sophistication, enabling us to choose how we would like to live the years we have upon this earth, and upon which values that we would like to base this on as we become more aware of the moral and ethical imperatives which drive us as individuals and as members of a society.

Man has was and always will be a social being, and as members of a society and civilisation, this therefore affects his choices in defining a meaning for his himself. Whether that is based on an individual's needs or from a societal need.

The first heroic existential figure for mine is the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, who when charged with sedition and corrupting the youth of democratic Athens was offered a choice to flee into exile, or stay and face the consequences of death. Socrates chose without flinching to face death and the punishment that his fellow citizens had decided for him, and did so for he believed not only for dying for his principles and beliefs, but also to sacrifice himself for his belief in his society. Therefore Socrates considered his will to meaning and chose and followed a path that he believed was the correct one for himself that would satisfy his existential needs.

Since those ancient times, human society how lurched forwards throughout the ages through trials and tribulations to arrive at our own modern time; to an age of a materialistic, consumerist and a nihilistic western world, and where other civilisations define  themselves by a brutal and primitive all-pervasive religiosity that seeks to impose itself on the rest of the world through violence and blood, and here the quote from the gospel of Mark comes back to me, as we reflect on our mortality and lose sight of our Journey : "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

II

THE ROAD TRIP

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The only time death affects modern man in the western world is when it inconveniently imposes itself on our lives when a relative dies, or a friend and when we get pulled away from our cable televisions, and pizza deliveries, beer-soaked bars and the smashed bottles that lie scattered around the cardboard boxes of the homeless under the glaring blue and red neon light that shines on the dark, wet pavements at night.

Where grown sibling adults fight amongst themselves at the percentage of the financial contribution that they each will need to make for their mother's funeral - for a mother that is still living and not even dead yet. This is the materialistic, consumerist, individualist and selfish age that we all live in, an age which only values man at what kind of material or financial value each individual can contribute to society; and it is within the context of this background that the subject of death, and its ability to define our lives touched me in a very personal and individual way. Yet before I expand on this experience, I need to firstly flesh out a vignette of my life and the context within our modern western world.

After coming back from Greece to Australia with my family, my father died when I was ten years of age; my mother was thirty three years of age at the time, and my sisters where twelve, seven years old, and my brother three years old. That was my first experience of death, and even filing past the open casket, I refused to believe that this was the final stage of life. We had a happy childhood, and then my return to Greece, and then back to Australia. I was just in my early twenties by then and it was the late 80's; an age of Walkmans, and moussed bouffant hair, vivid colours and where we tried to dress in the Miami chic of the fashions from the American television show Miami Vice.

It was the era when Brett Easton Ellis's novel 'Less Than Zero' was made into a movie, and the other movies like 'St. Elmo's Fire', and where Tom Cruise starred in the movie 'Risky Business.' Chris De Burgh was singing 'Don't Pay The Ferryman', and Soft Cell's 'Tainted Love'. On television in the late 80's ,we were caught in the backdraught of the culture of the 60's,with Elvis Presley, Doris Day, Bob Hope and Three Stooges movie reruns playing; it was a fascinating era to be a teen or a young man, but an era of materialism and consumerism.

Australian society--then as now--was extremely materialistic, where the peak goal of defining a meaning was in getting into debt to buy a home, and buying cars, and all the materiel goods to fill up these homes, to marry by a certain age and have their 1.2 children and keep up with the next door neighbours whilst getting drunk at barbecues and pubs. This was--and is--the societal reality that repulsed me then as it does know; for I had the advantage of being nurtured in the bosom of literature and art from back home in Greece, where the seeds of a young intellectual and bohemian where sown in me that made me question the reality and nature of society from the age of nine.

From this point on my life changing experience occurred; I had gone back to Greece for several months in the summer of '89, and upon my return to Australia met a beautiful Italian girl by the name of Elisabetta, and we fell madly in love and got engaged virtually immediately and it was not until the early nineties that we decided to hire a car and go for a road trip from Sydney to Queensland.

After having driven up the coast of New South Wales, we reached the north coast, and celebrated my birthday in a surfing town on the thirteenth of July, and then the next day we continued our drive up the coast. It was 2:55PM when a small minibus in the far distance started to weave and thread across both sides of the road miraculously missing the dozens of motor vehicles in front of its path. Then I remember as the minibus approached us just before collision, that I could see it was a minibus full of young school children with arms waving in the air in a panic, with a young blonde girl with her face pressed against the windscreen looking at us. We collided with them at a speed of 130 kilometres per hour.    

I don't remember the impact, but from what I was told much later, the minibus impacted us and jackknifed into the air landing on the passenger side, on my head and our car was crumpled in a ball with us in it. All the children and the driver in the bus died, and I was declared dead on the scene. It was at this stage that my strange after death experience began. I remember being in white rectangular room with a tall ceiling and a trap door in the ceiling, and to my left hand side a long, deep corridor with translucent chiffon curtains. I looked down and I was wearing a white gown and way lying down in a bed, yet on my wrist I was wearing my Favre-Leuba watch which had a scratch on it from the car accident.

At this point I was trying to intellectualise what had just happened to me and where I was, but in a confused state of mind; then suddenly, the feeling of wellbeing washed over me. It felt similar to being on a summer holiday and spending a beautiful night of passion with a beautiful woman, and the next day after enjoying a sumptuous summer breakfast buffet at hotel, and lying on a deckchair being kissed by the sun. This is how I felt whilst in this place, and it increased with intensity, and as I looked to my left towards the corridor, I could see a ball of fire hovering in the air coming closer, and closer toward me - I didn't know where is was - but I liked it there and the ball of yellow fire then hovered just behind the curtain and was looking at me,it felt like it was an entity of some sorts.

Then from a very far distant, I heard my fiancé's voice: "Niko, wake up, wake up", and without thinking, I said to myself that I would go and see Elisabetta and tell her I'm ok and then come back to this beautiful place. I stood on the bed and reached up for the trapdoor and pulled myself up, and it is then for no more than two or three seconds, that I could look down upon myself lying on the side of the road next to the dead bodies of the young girls, and then I landed back in my body with a thud. I could remember voices around me saying: "this one's not dead, he's alive".

They started to revive me with the electric paddles, and when I opened my eyes, I asked them: "where am I?",and they responded:  "You've been in a car accident", to which I responded: "why?"

My face was so wet,that when I placed my two hands on my face to wipe it, my face and scalp where coming off in my hands; I looked down and I was drenched red head to foot in my own blood, and needless to say fell into a coma.

I spent a year in bed recovering from my injuries; they said I lost so much blood that they don't know how I survived, or the impact to my skull; and when the glass hit my face, it slashed my eyelids open vertically, but didn't scratch my eyeballs at all? Many miracles happened that day, but two years of building myself up in the gym and some plastic surgery, I was physically better than ever, but intellectually and metaphysically it changed my life completely; I lost all fear of death that day.

The life that the Greek and Australian communities has mapped out for me I rejected completely; the house and the picket fence, materialism, and nihilism and I decided to define my own path in life where I firstly made up a list of any persons that had caused me harm and then forgave them all. I vowed from that day on to spend my life living as richly and deeply as I could to experience every single peak and valley of human pleasure and sorrow, success and disappointments; and that I would spend all my material and financial resources to do so, for only this way could I achieve a level of wisdom to mingle with the knowledge that I had gained so that I may write and paint one day with passion and authenticity. This I have done, and it has been that most fruitful and happiest period in the twenty years since that experience. I hold no fear of death, live everyday like it is my last, try to meet new people both old and young that I could learn from, spend as much time honing my mind, body and soul as best I can, and live life with the innocence of a child and forgive all wrongdoers.

When death does come, I will embrace it sweetly, for I would have lived richly and deeply, and where the universe gave me a sneak preview behind the curtain of what lies after death. In the years since that event in my search for knowledge and wisdom amongst the plethora of gems that I have found, Viktor Frankl's existential psychology of Logotherapy resonated with me, and with my experiences. Nietzsche once said: "He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how."

The psychological theories of Logotherapy are considered to form the third Viennese School of Psychotherapy. The internationally renowned psychologist Dr. Viktor E. Frankl developed his revolutionary theories out of his experiences in the Nazi death camps of World War Two, and the core of his theory is that man's primary motivational force is his search for meaning.

This school of psychology focuses on the meaning of existence, as well man's search for meaning in his life which is the main goal of human existence. Whereas the Logotherapists’ search for a will, to meaning, as opposed  to the Freudian's will to pleasure, or the will to power of the Adlerian school.

We live in an era marked by an existential vacuum, where an increased leisure time has brought with it periods of boredom. Schopenhauer once stated that man was doomed to vacillate between the two extremes of distress and boredom, and what I find interesting with Logotherapy is the way they tackle our existential angst. The American aspiration of seeking happiness therefore becomes a strange concept, in that happiness as an idea or goal cannot be achieved for its own sake, for one must have a reason to be happy; and it’s when we find that reason to be happy, when we find our life's meaning that happiness therefore results.

Logotherapy teaches us that there are three ways to achieve meaning: the first is by creating a work or undertaking a deed; the second is by experiencing something or encountering someone; and the third say is through suffering. Yet some fill their existential vacuum by the will to power via money, or the the will to pleasure through sexual compensation and drug addictions, where these methodologies ring hollow, and without ever finding a valid meaning. When I first studied Logotherapy, it resonated with me immediately; the word Logotherapy derives from the Greek word 'Logos', which denotes 'meaning.' In my particular after death experience, and life since that event; I had the pleasure to meet that late Elisabetta  - the love of my life - and fill up two lifetimes worth of love and passion in our short years together before she died; or experiencing that car accident which changed my life due to my experience of death; the periods of suffering I experienced; and the works I have created since through my writing and art.

I have lived richly and deeply and have collected a rich and valuable treasure-house of life experiences that I have collected like a bag of gems. The older and wiser I become, the less material possessions I realise that I require; and the knowledge, wisdom, love, sorrow and life experiences in turn have become my wealth. So the irony is, as I look around me in the world, I realise that all the obscene wealth that people have collected is meaningless, that injustice exists when we cannot somehow place a value on all these aged pensioners who have collected a huge vault of wealth via their life's experience.

Where governments measure the world, nations and people by their bank accounts, or whether they are financial burdens, from the wisdom that I've gained, the wealthy people are in actual fact these very same poor pensioners who hold within them their vivid experiences; imagine if we could mine their experiences and share them and place a value on them? What a world would we live in? A far better one, I'm sure.

In the end of my days - whenever that may be - I will embrace death like a beautiful mistress, for I would have drunk deep from the well of life, and hopefully along the way share what I have learned. I finish with a final reflection which was born on that road trip so long ago through a poem I wrote last year called;

THE SONG OF GRACE

I did

Hear my

Angel sing;

The song

Of love,

The song

Of grace.

 

Her lovely

Eyes, and

Shinning

Face, my

Little angel

Filled with

Grace.

 

The

Pitter

Patter

In the

Streets,

The lusty

Barter with

Their feet,

Among the

Rusty dirty

Ways, in

In these

Cold and

Hungry

Days.

 

In

These

Angry

Dirty

Days,

The

Hungry

Stand

For

Their

Demands.

 

Amongst

The wrenching

Of the hands;

My heart

Did fill

With

Love

And joy.

 

For I did

Hear my

Angel sing;

The song

Of love,

The song

Of grace.

 

When

We stand

Upon that

Day; in the

Shinny

Pearly gates,

The saint

Will ask,

The saint

Will sing;

 

"Have

You heard

The angel

Sing? The

Song of

Love?

The song

Of Grace?"

*********************************************************

 END  OF 50th SESSION OF THE  OVI  SYMPOSIUM (23/04/2015)

*********************************************************

Intro - P. 1 - P. 2 

2nd Meeting - 3rd Meeting - 4th Meeting - 5th Meeting - 6th Meeting - 7th Meeting - 8th Meeting -

9th Meeting - 10th Meting - 11th Meeting - 12th Meeting - 13th Meeting - 14th Meeting - 15th Meeting -

16th Meeting - 17th Meeting - 18th Meeting - 19th Meeting - 20th Meeting - 21st Meeting -

22nd Meeting -23rd Meeting - 24th Meeting - 25th Meeting - 26th Meeting - 27th Meeting -

28th Meeting -29th Meeting - 30th Meeting - 31st Meeting - 32nd Meeting - 33rd Meeting -

34th Meeting -35th Meeting - 36th Meeting - 37th Meeting - 38th Meeting - 39th Meeting -

40th Meeting -41st Meeting - 42nd Meeting - 43rd Meeting - 44th Meeting - 45th Meeting -

46th Meeting - 47th Meeting - 48th Meeting - 49th Meeting - 50th Meeting -

***********************************************************************

 


       
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