Saturday, March 03, 2012

Soliloquy at thirty

When the great philosopher Georg W. F. Hegel was fifty years old, he wrote:
"I am just fifty years old and have spent thirty of them in these endlessly unsettled times of fear and hope, always hoping that sometime fear and hoping will be ended. Now I'm forced to see that it will always continue, indeed, in gloomy moments one is inclined to think that things will be getting worse."
(Quoted in Robert Heiss, Hegel, Kierkegaard and Marx, trans. E. B. Garside [USA: Dell Publishing Co., Inc., 1975], p.11.)
I find no immediate consolation reading this on my thirtieth birthday. Both fear and hope constantly dominate my days. And according Hegel, this will only get worse.

Two months to graduation and I still haven't secure employment. Without savings and a home, I have no idea where will I and the five hundred books are going to stay. The only resistance against desperation is a directionless hope. 

In times like this, I can only trust in the invisible. Directing faith towards the unseen; leap into the dark.

"...faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1)

That is comforting... at least until one comes to a subsequent verse: "...all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised." (Hebrews 11:39)

"None received what had been promised..."

Which criticism can I use to un-read this? 

Textual, as in seeing this verse as late edition by the Church? Historical, as in it is only meant for that specific context? Rhetorical, as in it is to support a point rather than being the point itself?

Anyway, do I know that John Calvin published the Institutes of the Christian Religion when he was twenty-seven?

.......I'm not Calvin.

Do I know that Rowan Williams obtained his doctorate by submiting an acclaimed thesis on Vladimir Lossky when he was twenty-five?

.............I'm not Williams.

Who then am I? Someone who is still completing undergraduate study when he is thirty?

......................

So... what then? 

No one. 

Huh?

No one..

I can't hear...

Absolutely no one! I'm zero... No achievement, no contentment, no legacy...

Am I depress?

I'm comfortable enough not to. At least for now.

So, what is there that keeps me believing it is still worthwhile?

People. Those who have decorated my past with beauty, love, and grace. And those who are still doing it now.

Is that all?

No, there is still the directionless hope.

Seriously, directionless hope? Why don't I consider growing up, start living like someone who is thirty?

That's harsh...

Yea.

Hey, as Sean Maguire said, "I know who I am... I was a conscientious choice, I didn't fuck up!"

Am I living in fictional character now?

Am "I" not a fiction already? Look at my shoes and hairstyle as a starter. Aren't they are how they are because fiction says so? Look at the prices of everything that I pay for. Aren't they cost what they cost because fiction says so? I can go on.

Okay. But what about people?

Oh, that...

2 comments:

Martin Yee said...

Hi Sze Zeng,

Congrats! So you are graduating soon and you are only 30! Half a glass of water can be preceived as half full or half empty :)You have a bright future ahead as a philosopher cum theologian.

God's grace be with you - "When we walk though the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life...when our disgust at our own being, our indifference, our weakness, our hostility, and our lack of direction and composure have become intolerable to us...when year after year, the longed for perfection of life does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage. In such a moment, light breaks into our darkness, and it is as if a voice speaks to us: "You are accepted, You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you,...Do not seek for anything, do not perform anything, do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted." - Paul Tillich.

As anti-dote try reading Psal;m 90, Paul Tillich's or Soren Kiekergaard's work. May help.

Regards,
Martin

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Martin,

Without disrespect, I seriously doubt that I have a bright future in philosophy + theology la..

Nonetheless, the Paul Tillich's quote is consoling. Even if my weakness disallows me to live up to anyone's expectation, I'm still accepted by God. And God thought it worthwhile to send his son to die for me...