Wednesday, May 30, 2007

On Nothing and Beingness

You know me - I have no ideas currently, or at least none that I’m prepared to share with the whole world (wishing on a star, la, la). Trawling the vaults at House of Pants – or put another way – going through the treasure trove of unpublished Thoughts of Pants in order to decide which will survive the journey to the far side of the world, I came across a piece of frivolity that I would like to present for your (light) entertainment. Some years ago, a male actor friend challenged me to write an original monologue. I therefore present (drum roll optional);

Monologue for Charles

Charles: (Reading) ‘Whatever is for being and thinking must be, for it cannot be, and nothing cannot’. (Takes a long toke of a joint). I can’t get my head around this shit. They told me to do Philosophy 101 if you want easy credits. Sounds like a fucking loan shark. Philosophy, they said or Sociology, are best for padding out your degree. Sociology would have to suck. Pygmies and pineapples don’t interest me. Philosophy sounds like it could get you a fuck.

But this? (reading) ‘Whatever is being and thinking must be, it cannot be, and nothing cannot’. What is the difference between a bison and a bin liner, Aristotle? Anyone? Is the imagination bound by the limits of its own experience. Well you may ask. Thinking, the act of, can only be drawn from what is known. As Greek as Retsina, moussaka and anal sex.

So, we can only know the elements that are there to know? These elements can be altered, combined or destroyed to create something, although not within one’s (get that one’s) own experience, still within the bounds of one’s imagination, based on knowledge of the properties of known elements. Fuck me. Sounds like the kind of atrocity you’d get if you put Heston Blumenthal*, a pan of chick peas and a Hibachi barbeque in the same room.

It’s true that you can’t think about nothing. You can think about a lot of things that amount to nothing and you, yourself, can amount to nothing. But you can’t actually think about nothing, I think. There. Proof, if it were ever needed. Nothing becomes something as soon as you think about it. Western philosophy, as I understand – Philosophy 101 doesn’t go into huge detail – doesn’t have an adequate definition for that which does not exist. There is no such thing as the non-existentialists. There is not a never-Sartre or an un-Camus or a de-De Beauvoir.

My thoughts are the sum total of whatever my conscious and subconscious can concoct. That altered mind states can be achieved through the use of substances, suggests the possibility of other possibilities. That much I’ve verified with extensive personal experiment. Such is my commitment. Since we don’t know what we are looking for exactly, we can’t know how to find it. It wouldn’t matter how many different ways we could find of thinking, we would never know about the ones we didn’t know about or whether they existed at all. We can have fun trying to imagine them though. (Lights another joint.)

If the basis of our philosophy is a binary one – that is – every question can be satisfied with a yes or no answer, we can’t account for nothingness. It implies there was something there to start with. Something has been subtracted. When exactly did zero become a number? Come on, you know this. Was it the Romans or the Indians, long before the Romans. The problem is it wasn’t ever a real number, more of a border between positive and negative numbers. A line separating yes from no, up from down, plus from minus. So, how can zero be the standard bearer for nothingness? For the Greeks, zero was the horizon, the boundary between mortal and immortal. Everything above the line was a god, everything below it, human. Where the underworld fits in is any fucker’s guess.

The only people who ever gave nothingness its due were the Zen Buddhists. They’ve got mu - which is not, as you might imagine, to do with cow worship – that would be the Hindus. I know a little something after a whole semester on this shit. Mu, let me say it again, it sounds so barking, and there’s a full moon, Mu…. It’s an answer to the question ‘unask the question’. Can you get your fucking head around that? Buggered if I can. Here’s the theory – emptiness can exist in isolation, but owes its definition to the relationship between the two. If you can work that out, you’re probably less stoned than me, I, me, whatever. I’m not that far gone that I can’t see it’s still subtraction. Non-existence is not the same as death. Death is the state of ceasing to exist. Death doesn’t invalidate existence, although, if you’ve ever had anyone you liked a lot peg on you, you might wonder.

When someone dies, it can seem like they never existed, but it’s not the same as them never existing. It’s a nothingness, because there was someone there and now there is a nothing where they once were, if that makes sense. If it’s someone you were particularly close to, you’re going to have an experience of numbness, like your whole emotional system shuts down and you feel numb, like there’s nothing to feel. But the feelings will trickle down, when they’re ready. That’s how it was with my Gran, anyway. Death makes existence no longer true, and bereavement counsellors very busy.

I seem to remember that absolute zero is the theoretical temperature at which all molecular motion is suspended. It’s surprising what you can draw from weed and a good memory. Minus two hundred and seventy-three point one six degrees Celsius. Fuck me for a boy scout for remembering that. Old Donald Hesketh, our tosser of a Science teacher, literal bastard. He’d say things like, ‘My barber said to me, “not too short sir?” Not too short? Why would I ask for hair too short? Ridiculous.’ He loved that word, ridiculous.

Minus two hundred and seventy-three point six one degrees Celsius. Celsius, not Fahrenheit, Celsius. Anyway, absolute zero has never…. Never been reached in laboratory conditions so who gives a fuck whether it’s Fahrenheit or centigrade? Just give me fever all through the night… Sorry, thinking of something altogether different. From memory, absolute zero can never be reached because the night belongs to lovers. No… think, concentrate. Absolute zero can never be reached because, whatever system you use to measure a temperature that low, changes the temperature of whatever system you use to measure it. So, even if some dick was smart enough to actually find absolute zero which means they’d halted molecular motion, who’d know, and, who’d be left to discuss it. Just a thought… (He lights another joint.)

* In the original I’d put Gary Rhodes. And, ps, I made it a bit better...

Picture from the cover of The Age of Reason by Jean-Paul Sartre


Janejill said...

Could 10cc help to resolve the metaphysical aspect? By the by , pants, please check out:- - it is supposed to be helpul and whatever it helps with is closing up on 31st May.x

That's so pants said...

Hi Jane Jill

10cc. I'm not in love, that 10cc? How do you figure? Re new writing partnership - by 'new writing' they mean new work by old favourites. Possibly sour grapes on my part, but that is because if you submit anything to them, they bombard you with emails and junk mail imploring you to buy their stuff for ever after. Not quite so helpful as one might imagine.

Thanks for the thought though. I did follow up your suggestion of submitting to Saga - I didn't get a response though.



Martin McCallion said...

Very good piece. By the way, you have him say "point six one" one time, and "point one six" the other. That may be intentional, of course.

Wikipedia says point one five, and when I was at uni, I'm pretty sure we didn't bother with decimal places for it.

That's so pants said...

Hi Martin

Well spotted. It was my mistake. I meant him to say point one six both times. I think I should allow serendipity. After all, he is stoned.



Reading the Signs said...

It is a long time since I had weed and, somehow, this makes me long for a bit of the old homegrown. Charlie? He sounds like good vintage Pants to me - must be why I like listening to him.

That's so pants said...

Oh Signs - There's no fooling you.

Reading the Signs said...

I wrote a dialogue between Charles and Camilla, inspired by a photo of them together just before they married. He said "don't come near me, I've just farted" and she said "oh, you complete monster". After that it got less interesting. Felt pretty convincing though.

That's so pants said...

Oh - could it not have started with 'What a damnable shame that since you have gone through the menopause I can no longer fantasise about being your tampon. Somehow wanting to be your HRT pill has not quite the same royal allure for me.'