On Nothingness

Michael Novak, from The Experience of Nothingness:

When, meanwhile, the drive to raise questions makes us aware of its total range and depth, a feeling of formlessness, or nausea, or lassitude arises.  When I perceive the drive to question in its purity, apart from the products to which it leads me, I perceive the ambiguity of my own conscious life.  I recognize the formlessness, the aimlessness, the disunity implicit in my own insignificance, my mortality, my ultimate dissolution.  I peer into madness, chaos, and death.  These insights are true insights.  Not to experience them is to evade the caharacter of one’s own consciousness.  It is to live a lie.  The experience of nothingness bears the taste of honesty.

The truth of the human situation, however, remains to be decided.  Is the character of human consciousness so inherently chaotic that the only genuine way to mirror our situation is insanity?  Quite possibly.  I wish to argue tentatively that the character of human consciousness is merely tragic; that the experience of nothingness may be absorbed in full sanity; that a clear and troubling recognition of our fragility, our mortality, and our ignorance need not subvert our relation to the world in which we find ourselves.  The experience of nothingness may lead either to madness or to wisdom.  The man who shares it, however wise, appears to those who do not share it (and sometimes to himself) as mad.  Wisdom lies on the edge of insanity, just as those who wish to see themselves as sane and well adjusted in this bloody and absurd world may be foolish and insane [themselves].  Our lives seem to be tragic rather than absurd, but I am far from certain on that point.  The issue falls one way rather than the other only by a hair.

Read and noted somewhere in late 2014

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