Two weeks ago I signed up for a philosophy class.
On the first day of class a lot of the students said they took The Mind and its Place in Nature to get out of a history requirement. I said was there because I wanted to be and that was enough to make two students ask me after class what my story is.
My story is that I want to understand why things are the way they are. I want to know why we think about ourselves the way we do. I want to know how this relates to the ways we govern and educate and behave. I want to know more about our assumptions and our judgments and want to look closely at human nature.
But during the first day of class I had some moments of "Uh-oh...."
Maybe I DO want to know this stuff but don't necessarily want to hear people TALK about it. I wrote in the margins of my notebook There is an awesome conversation happening about PINK ELEPHANTS. Do they exist just because you think they do? After class I kept smiling and thinking, "Goddamn kids. They are some argumentative motherfuckers."
The next day I read about how Rene Descartes (1596-1650) studied with Jesuits, got a law degree, and joined the army. Descartes really liked travel and wanted see the world so he threw himself into the good life and partied, presumably with this smirky look on his face.
In his 30s, he realized how uncertain he was about everything he'd been taught. He left France, went to Holland, and sat around asking scientific questions all day long, trying to empty himself of everything he thought he knew. Oh, and he wanted to prove that there's a unity to knowledge that had been lost and that there's a God and a soul that's separate from the body.
You know, the usual.
I'm totally into this. I don't care right now if I agree with Descartes; I just want to know what he thought. Descartes isn't the easiest person to wake up to and it did take me three hours one morning to read 17 pages of his book but I liked doing it. Yesterday morning, however, was different. I'd stayed up late reading the night before and had been thinking I didn't know where Descartes was going with it all but I'd figure it out in the morning.
Unfortunately my morning and night were separated by only four hours and when I woke up, I had a sick, shaky feeling in my gut. I started to read and became quickly enraged, due more to lack of sleep than anything else. This guy is making me CRAZY! I don't care if he's the father of modern philosophy! THIS IS BULLSHIT.
I got up from the couch, poured another cup of coffee and said out loud, "Fuck you, Rene Descartes." We made up yesterday when I stayed after class with some other students to talk about him. FOR FUN. Bring on the pink elephants.