On the Consolations of Philosophy

I am aware of having possibly taxed my readers’ patience over the last few weeks with various posts concerning matters that can only be of interest to the melancholic, morbid or morose. I admit: I’ve indulged in the academic equivalent of inflicting an hour long PowerPoint presentation of the last five years’ worth of family vacations to hapless visitors too civilized to protest. If there is anything I can use to exonerate myself, it is the fact that none of my readers constitute a captive audience—any one of you can switch off without risking an appearance of rudeness.

But even if none of the posts of the previous days may prove enlightening to the world at large, they have proven remarkably edifying to me. In my four years in the academe, I’ve often lamented what I refer to as my “pedagogic promiscuity.” In other words, I exercise appallingly little fidelity to any particular subject or scholar—I encounter a text or a thinker and fall embarrassingly in love. I’ve ambled through fields as diverse as anthropology, art, biology, design, film, history, language, literature, management, music, philosophy, psychology, sociology and religion and have consistently found something to exercise my fascination (for proof, simply scan the categories of entries listed in this blog). My greatest flaw, my mentors have told me, is the fact that I have a dilettante’s predilection for breadth and none of the scholar’s stamina for depth.

The posts of the last few days have provided a surprising epiphany in that respect. After reviewing the dozens of essays, papers and reflections I’ve written over the last three to four years, a unifying thread has emerged out of all the surface diversity. Whether I’m writing about philosophy or religion, cosmology or mythology, the medieval or the modern, the question has remained the same—and it is the question of how to live in a postmodern world characterized by a surfeit of choice, a scarcity of guidance, and the overwhelming burden of responsibility that results from the confluence of both. My entire life has been lived as an evolving response to the question and challenge of choice—hence the plurality of degrees, careers, interests, faiths, friendships and homes; hence the obsession with alienation, ambiguity, anxiety, disorientation, homelessness, insecurity, opacity and uncertainty. I carry the postmodern’s disenchantment and disillusionment about choice—and the postmodern’s exhaustion and weariness of the perpetual task of justification and rationalization that it demands.

So perhaps my previous posts were not as needlessly self-indulgent as I’d feared. Perhaps for those who suffer, to a greater or lesser degree, from the affliction that I call the postmodern condition, all the meditations and speculations of the past few years can provide, if not the shadow of a solution, at least a glimmer of solace.


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