About the Road

Why you ride & Why you stop

He goes on the road with his bicycle because he needs to work something out for himself. He needs to rid himself of something through solitude and suffering, and then through solitude and suffering begin to put something else in its place. He goes on the road when he is spent, has nothing more to write or to say. When there is nothing left to write or to think there is no risk on the road. To die is nothing to this man with nothing.

But when he begins to develop new ideas, when the gods have been generous with him, then to continue on the road is to risk everything. He must stop and protect himself and take the time to develop these ideas without interference. He must surround himself with security, for when there are ideas to be worked out everything is at stake. When his projects are completed and there is no more work to do, he may again go on the road and make himself worthy of new gifts from the gods.
But he also goes on the road to find the good place. He finds good people, and if he is lucky he finds a good woman, and he stops at the good place and he stays there. The good woman is just as much a divine gift as any idea and he will learn much from her. The road led him to her and to the other good people and in the village he will get his work done. His work and the woman and the good people who are of the good place was why he went on the road. Now that he has found them to go further on the road would be a mistake.


Morality & Economics

Preliminary notes for a forthcoming investigation
In the epoch of finance it was very hard to get people to be good to each other. That is at least what the philosophers thought. They thought that science had displaced religion and now there was no moral anchor for human conduct and ethics.
These philosophers were university men and their belief in scientific progress and technology and their distrust for metaphysics had made them atheists and materialists. At the same time they were also very affected by the horrors of the Holocaust. Indeed, many of the important continental philosophers were Jews and did philosophy in order to make arguments to stop the next Holocaust. But since they also denied the existence of any God, their moral arguments needed to be made without a metaphysical foundation. It was a difficult problem for these men. How did you get men to be nice to each other without any moral anchor, any metaphysics?
But these efforts were all in error.
Historically, men were kind to each other and didn’t hack each other to pieces not because of some religious reason, or edict from a State, or argument made by a philosopher. It was economics. It was trade. Men gained something from respecting and keeping alive “the other”, to use the language of the continental philosopher. Religion only came along and formalized many of the ideas men were already practicing between one another. Religion simply codified what was already manifest in the first market relations between men.
It is man’s interventions into markets and the resulting distortions of economics that cause moral decline.
Verily, one must return to the idea of hoarding and the ancient prohibitions against it. One must not annihilate one’s trading partner. One must not strip him of everything. But, verily, all sorts of annihilations, both large and small, are favored by the oligarchs of today and their central banking and regulatory apparatuses. Indeed, the men most admired in western societies are those that have hoarded and annihilated the most. Hoarding has become the dominant (moral) value,.
It is when the rules of the game are changed to protect individuals and favor particular groups that moral life breaks down. Both fiscal and monetary policy are rule changes designed to conduct these redistributions. Regulations and laws are also created and amended to provide selective legal protections.
But economics cannot be successfully manipulated. Inefficiencies build up over time and then express themselves suddenly and violently (recessions-depressions-civil wars). Indeed, the manipulated economies have created so much inefficiency and indebtedness as to cause a breakdown in moral life. But with the violent breakdown of these manipulated economies there will appear a new expression of moral life, of an originary moral life, long since suppressed. The re-emergence of morality will coincide with great violence and social upheaval.
The decline and failure of these manipulations may take many more generations, but with this rebirth of morality will be a return of love, a return to family, and the return of mothers. The churches will once again be respected and priests and ministers will re-assume their roles of leadership in communities. Goods and service will be created with much greater care and individuality. Artisans will re-appear. Great art will once again be made, art that matters to all men.
Economics will become moral again. And the nature of man’s morality will reveal itself. Not some morality founded on Gods and written in philosophy books, but a morality that lives in men and operates through human action. The books of the philosophers and religious men are just commentary upon this originary morality, which is itself an originary and un-tampered with economics.
Morality in this originary sense is a fact of the species
. It is a fact that modern, manipulated economies have attempted to subvert and suppress. All attempts by man to alter or deny the facts of his species have had disastrous unintended consequences. And it is through debt creation and economic manipulation that man denies a central moral/economic fact and most endangers himself and his future. Irresponsible and excessive debt creation allows him to think he has broken the first economic/moral relation: that a man no longer needs to work in order to eat.*
Indeed, there will be terrific bloodshed and pain to restore this originary economics/morality. But that bloodshed is only the flipside of the violence already perpetrated upon the people by those who manipulate economics. Men in needing to fight so that they might eat are expressing the primary economic/moral impulse, upon which all moral life is based. Men will tolerate tyranny. But when a tyranny denies them too many meals men will go to war against it.**
* A discussion needs to follow on what is morally & economically productive work. Any debt-based work that raises GDP is today considered productive. But what happens when that debt was built upon inefficiencies and is totally unsustainable? When that debt collapses it annihilates real wealth. A distinction must be made between the work of planting a small garden in your backyard to feed your family and sitting in front of a computer screen and day trading Treasury Bond futures contracts. The former is morally & economically productive while the latter is not.
** Indeed, there are always economic reasons for armed conflict, even involving Muslims (supposedly the people least concerned with life on this earth). The Arab Spring can be viewed as a food protest after central bank cheap monies caused a bubble in food prices and poor Muslims were starving.


5 Aspects of the Great Philosopher

First, a philosopher must have his physical health. He must be strong. Wittgenstein was strong and his philosophy displays that strength. Nietzsche was weak and infirm and his body betrays portions of what he writes (he writes of what he would like to have been).
Second, a philosopher must have experience. He must have left his own country and lived in foreign lands. He must have had to struggle with daily concerns in new languages. He must have had to struggle with the simplest aspects of life, things he never considered while in his home country. He must have had varied jobs, both skilled and unskilled, and worked alongside many types of men.
Third, a philosopher should know extreme wealth and extreme poverty. Wittgenstein knew both and this knowledge is understated in any examination of his writing. It is also better to do philosophy when poor than when rich. But to do philosophy while poor and hoping to become rich will doom a man‘s thinking.
Fourth, a philosopher must have taken physical risks. He must have felt pain and been fearful. He must have had concerns about whether he would live or die. He must have been insecure. It is best to perform these physical risks when he is young and vital and naive. Wittgenstein received formative training in this area in the trenches of WWI. It resulted in the great insight in the Tractatus of “the mystical.”
Fifth, a philosopher must not be at a university. He must not receive acclaim from academic men or have a following. It is essential he not receive fame or money from doing his work. Ideally, a philosopher would do all his important work and then, just before his death, when he was no longer thinking clearly or doing philosophy, he would catch a momentary glimpse of fame. Because fame, the applause of lesser men, is also an experience worth knowing, though it has in all cases been destructive to active philosophers.


Dying in Los Organos

It was bright and hot at Los Organos. The mototaxis drove up and down the Panamericana and into the square. Behind the pueblo were sandy cliffs and the wind blew up the coast and through the dusty streets. The malecon had been abandoned and sand was drifted over the concrete walls and benches and blew across the concrete soccer field.

I was walking along the malecon when I heard the yelping. It came from a depressed area around a disused fountain. There was a dog laying on its side. His body convulsed and shook. He took tiny rapid breaths and the muscles in his neck were tight.

He yelped and staggered up onto his front feet and collapsed, smacking his head against the cement. He lay quietly and then staggered up again and yelped and collapsed. He did this again and again, smacking his head against the concrete. His hind legs were curled against his body and did not work. His front legs would not support him. There was dried blood on the cement where he had hit his head and it was smeared where he had dragged himself through it. His tongue dangled from his mouth, shriveled and dry as pink crumpled paper.

I called out to him, for his attention. He didn’t see me or hear me. His eyes were cloudy and dried permanently open. I watched him laying on his side, pawing at the air in front of him and shaking. I went downwind of him and there was a terrific odor. He smelled already of a long dead dog. That was how some died, men and animals, violently, fighting it to the very last.

I came down the malecon and saw vultures sitting on the fountain. I saw their pink heads and large obscene bodies. As I came closer I saw the black birds down there working on him. They had torn open his stomach and dragged out his intestines and they were tearing at them with their beaks. There were 15 of them all pushing and flapping to get at the clump of insides. The big birds were very busy and ignored me. I walked out onto the concrete soccer field and did my pullups and leg raises on the rusted goalpost. The blowing sand got into my mouth and my hair and eyebrows and stung at my face. Then I did my squats and pushups. I went a different way back to the hospedaje and left the vultures to their undignified business.


For Readers of Ludwig Wittgenstein

So much of Wittgenstein’s writing is asking the reader to imagine practical situations. He asks you to imagine some construction workers doing this and calling for this or that. Or in a store there is a drawer that contains this or that and one gives this or that when a particular word is spoken. It goes on and on this way.

But would it not have been more instructive for the readers and philosophers if Wittgenstein had instead asked them to go work at a construction site? Or to go to a foreign country where they did not know the language and to try to live there? He might have said after an aphorism: “Now, travel to a foreign land you know little of. Take no money with you. Live there until you have learned this or that. Then pick up with the next aphorism.”

Wouldn’t the whole discussion of “the mystical” been better advanced had Ludwig written: “Stop reading here. Now go to a war. Demand to be put on the front lines in the fiercest fighting. Continue to the next aphorism if you have survived.”

Much of Wittgenstein’s writing is basically asking academic, upper class men to imagine what it would be like to work on construction sites, operate a corner store, speak a foreign language badly, or be at the front lines of a war. Clearly, Wittgenstein was sour on philosophy because he felt he was having to explain life, how most people live it and have lived it in human history--indeed, how he had lived and thereby learned to do philosophy--to a bunch of overly-domesticated, physically unfit, university-sequestered half-men. 

On Stylists

For Certain Poets

When they do not have experience from which to work they become stylists. These are men who play with words, often big & fancy words, that regular people don’t understand. But there is a select group of fellow stylists who also understand these words and will write glowing reviews of any work that uses them.

These stylists, however, still need material. To get that material they go to a library, often a university library, since many of them are professors, where they do research. They do research into the lives of men who have had experiences and perhaps lived long ago. These histories of other men’s experiences are something the stylist can attach his big words to and ornament with his distinctive style.

Between studying his dictionary and reading at his local library the stylist can then write brilliantly of great and dangerous adventures without actually having to risk himself in any way. 


Language & Life 2

84. It is through physical dangers and risks and challenges that he learns where the most important words come from, and how to use them. He uproots the entire world and begins again with the simplest things. He learns to make fire with the bow and drill. He lays his own cordage from the field grasses and fashions containers from the fallen oak. He sets traps for the ground animals and fishes from the lake. And the simplest words begin to take meaning for him.

85. Strangely, men who have seen and done much are often silent. That words used by other, lesser men could also describe what they have seen is an insult to their experiences and what they have become. The men most capable of speaking are instead silent.

89. Language allows men to seemingly become more than what they are. It is a cheap trick the poets have long performed upon the masses. But there is no great becoming through language itself. One does not achieve greatness in words alone. Verily, the words of the greatest men come later, or not at all.

93. “When he finally learned to use the most important words he fell silent and refused to speak.”


The Broom of God

4. You must test your ideas. Ideas often emerge while sitting, but it is not through further sitting that one tests them. I once took my ideas to Patagonia on a bicycle. I once took them to Colombia and considered them in another language. I took them with me to mountaintops and into deserts. I exposed them to cold and rain and snow and heat. One tests his ideas by shocking them. One risks himself, his life even, to find out if there is something to them. The results can be unexpected.

5. To live comfortably with one’s ideas in the small room in which they were born can bring only modest surprises. Verily, ideas, like men, long for comfort. In comfort they grow and become entangled and whatever was false in them becomes established. For an honest and courageous man to achieve a greatness he must go into the world in search of what is least comfortable. It is through risk and danger and challenge that he may identify and prune away what is false in his thinking.

19. Later they will say it was all written while sitting. Yes, it was composed alone in a room, seated at a desk. But the ideas themselves were made on the Patagonian steppe, tested in the rigor of a wind they call la escoba de Dios (The broom of God), in a land empty of birds and trees and other men. 


67. To a strong man, physically prepared for it, doubt liberates and strengthens. Doubt shatters the world so that he must rebuild it, must make decisions on how it is reengineered. It is a daunting task, and few men have the courage to doubt deeply enough and fewer still the strength for the rebuilding.

70. Descartes is exemplary of a doubt that cripples and sickens a weak and fearful man. Descartes doubted everything but then wanted his world to be exactly as it was before the doubts appeared. His fear of losing his world, his God, his comfortable life, led him to ridiculous flights of thinking to keep his world intact.

72. But an honest, strong, courageous man will doubt so deeply that the world is shattered and then he will rebuild it without regard to the whims of other men, or even his own security. If there is no place for God, then there is no place for Him. Perhaps there is no place for him either. So be it. But great efforts begin in great doubt.

77. Even worse than writing philosophy while sitting is writing it while lying down.
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