anotherlongshot (anotherlongshot) wrote,
anotherlongshot
anotherlongshot

Essence of Being

I wanted to write earlier but I came home quite late over the past couple of days, such that I literally did not touch my laptop. I don't bring it to the law faculty when I'm just reading; and I've been just reading for the past week and a half. I need to get some writing done before next Wednesday. Ugh, stress.

Anyway, Dominic was supposed to buy me a 'special drink' on Tuesday night. There was really no legitimate reason behind this 'special drink'; it was some rubbish we came up with when we were discussing his procrastination in contacting the job centre to get some pertinent information with which he would then claim some missing salary from the tax authorities. We were in London, at King's Cross, about to take the train back to Cambridge. In my usual blase fashion, I attempted to lay claims to a portion of his money if I reminded him to call the job centre the next day. Expectedly, he refused to give me a cut of his money, but he did say that he would buy me a 'special drink' instead.

Thursday morning came around. I forgot to remind him until I got back from my morning run and texted him at noon to remind him to call the job centre, and that I was looking forward to my special drink. The exchange went like this:

Him: Too late! I've already called. :)
Me: My after the fact reminder shouldn't be a bar to my reward. [angry face emoji]
Him: I hope your face didn't get as red as the emoticon. ;) I'm looking forward to treating (or inviting :-)) you to this special drink of course.
Me: Maybe it did. :D I'm excited!

See what I mean by how this 'special drink' wasn't actually warranted at all? I even concocted legal arguments on his behalf which he could've used to reject my claim to this 'special drink' if I had relayed them to him. Alas! Anyway, the plan was to go to Hidden Rooms for a 'special drink', which is basically a cocktail, on Tuesday evening (i.e. 9 February). Alas, the plan failed. Hidden Rooms is pretty much the only non-pub drinking place around its vicinity and its surrounding 15-minute walk radius. It therefore stands to reason that it gets hired out quite a bit.

It was hired out on Tuesday night. What a bummer. Dominic also specifically picked Tuesday because it's Lent or something and he's abstaining from alcohol for the entire period, i.e. 40+5 days. (Sometimes I don't know if his religiousness doesn't scare me a little...) Thanks to whoever hired out the place, now I have to wait a month and a bloody half to drink a bloody cocktail. Ugh, this fucking village really drives me crazy sometimes.

In any event, and more to the point, we went to the Brew House where I had a nice glass of wine a week or so ago. I'm not sure if he remembered what I ordered that time; it didn't seem to taste as nice. I stupidly also ordered the same thing when we went for round 2, when I could've gotten the second item under the 'fruity' category and see if that was the correct one. It's actually really non-trivial to get this right because it's a rare occasion when I come across red wine that I actually really, really like, almost without reservation. Oh well.

The point of this entry, and of this whole tale, isn't the alcohol, or Cambridge's village-ness, or Dominic's promise of the special drink. The point, on the other hand, is an intense and deep conversation that we had, during which, if I were being honest with myself, I would say that I fell for him a little bit more. It began when I told him about the animal law in the UK talk that I went to in the evening and how I cried when the speaker was describing how pigs were slaughtered in factory farms. He was surprised to hear that I was significantly more moved by tales and images of animals suffering than the human counterpart. We explored this a bit, and then he told me about what moves him. I will not relate it because it's quite personal to him (obviously), but I will say that it further underscored how different he is to most people. We explored this a bit, and the conversation turned to philosophy.

It wasn't about anyone specific, or on a specific branch of philosophy. It was him expounding in general on what he thought was unsatisfactory about modernity and modern philosophy, how we have lost our radical freedom to connect with the transcendence. To him, it is the explanation for the unhappiness and dissatisfaction that pervades most people's lives (though I think he would've limited this prescription to people in developed societies). He also said that modern analytical philosophy is pointless because the philosophers of the past have figured it out; that if one examined the philosophies of old, one would discern a constant theme that, to him, is essence of human nature, or truth, or humanity; I forgot which term he used.

He is a bit of an old soul. Then again, that is vastly understating it. He connects to the past and floats about in the present, grounded perhaps by religion and mathematics, among other things. This entire sermon, as he called it, wasn't just the intellectual ruminations of someone who is obviously very intelligent; it was deeper than that. It induced a sense of connectedness in me, something that I didn't expect to feel, and I didn't want him to stop talking at all. It was the most revealing glimpse that I'd had to who he is: it was a combination of what he was saying, the passion with which he said it, and the manner of his speech - his choice of words, his accent, the way he emphasised certain points with his hands. More specifically: it was a complete synthesis of his mind and his soul. One always thinks that the intellect - the capacity for reason - is separate, or should be separate, from the heart, or the soul, or the non-intellectual. In that moment, however, these two things flowed and blended into each other perfectly. Somehow, it was very moving.

The conversation then became more like a conversation. I told him that I thought often about these things too - life, humanity, truth, meaning - but my conclusion is quite the opposite. Namely: I think that life is just like this; that there is no deeper meaning; that we ascribe some kind of a priori significance to life to console ourselves about the randomness and meaninglessness of life; that I agree with Hobbes' description of life as 'a motion of limbs'; and that I see no point in trying to find this deeper meaning, or this transcendental significance, because I would rather face up to the truth.

He disputed my usage of the word 'truth' and rejected the empirical method of deriving a statement from an observation. The statement 'life is a motion of limbs' is meaningless, he said. It's just Hobbes sitting around thinking it up. I told him that Hobbes lived during the civil war, and so his views on human nature were informed by his war experiences. Dominic, however, was dismissive: Hobbes, Locke and Hume did not appeal to him. Ironically, he became analytical at this point, attacking me on the structure of the argument instead of the content. He was pedantic about how one could not make a meaningful statement purely from observation and experiences, but I can't remember the reasons for this. In any event, I wasn't very convinced. I saw what he meant to some extent, in an analytical way, but it didn't mean that there was no truth to Hobbes' sentiment. (Truth, though, is such a loaded concept in itself.)

He also thought that people who thought like Nietzsche were mad. 'Why would anyone think this?' he said. 'It's madness!'

'Maybe because it's also true?' I said.

'Nietzsche was mad!'

Of course, there is a reason for my relatively bleak prescription of life's lack of meaning. It was more or less formed in 2012, 2013, when Wei Chuen was going through what he went through. Perhaps it is wrong to make definitive statements based on a limited experience, one which isn't universally true; but it's entirely because of its sheer, unbridled and unabashed randomness that led me to this conclusion. Things happen - especially bad things - just because they happen. Attempting to find some meaning is either futile, or desperate self-consolation. I am also unable to be tempted away from this view when I think about the injustice that goes on in the world: the chaos in the Middle East, the lives that are lost for nothing on the Mediterranean, how the difference between me and a Syrian refugee is little more than a roll of the dice. I think that we have radical freedom only if we live in the developed parts of the world. I think it is useless to think about transcendence and deeper meaning when one is struggling to stay alive.

Clearly, we are definitely opposites in this sense.

In addition to philosophy, we also discussed the extent to which we are comfortable with PDA around people that we know. It was a funny discussion. With him, sometimes, it is almost as if I am walking on eggshells, trying not to do something that would make him uncomfortable. That said, he said that he would be fine with my publicly displayed affections, but that I should adjust my expectations of his behaviour.

Yesterday, I met him and a friend of his who was visiting from Germany. We ended up at the MCR after the Punter closed. The three of us were in the kitchen; they were making tea while I was looking at the photos on the wall. When they came over to join me, Dominic put his arm around my waist, which was very nice and unexpected.

What was nice and unexpected was also his kissing me quite deeply while walking me home on Tuesday night. He'd suddenly stopped walking when we were at Quayside, next to the college; and then again when we walked into the Fellow's Garden by the back gate and stood next to the library; and again when we walked on the stone path to my house. Upon nearing my house, I was about to ask if he wanted to come in for a bit when he said that he could go out from the back gate. It was already past midnight.

Lastly, we argued over whether it should be '-ization' or '-isation' at the Brew House. He bought the Oxford Style Guide, which apparently recommends '-ization' because its etymology makes more sense (something to do with Greek). 'I like the explanation,' he said. 'I'm going to use 'z' instead of 's' now.'

I was almost shouting when I said, 'No! If you do that, then you have to write American for everything else!'

The next day, over drinks with his friend, he said that the '-isation' came about because of some French thing, and so we should start using '-ization' because why should we glorify the French? I said, 'Well if that's the case, I guess we should get rid of 30% of words in the English language, since they're French.'

He just looked at me impertinently, raised his eyebrows, said nothing. Obivously I won the argument.
Tags: cambridge, conversations, dominic, philosophy, thomas hobbes
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