MIRANDA AND HER PHILOSOPHICAL TRIO (Chapter 5)

MIRANDA DISCOVERS NEW MEANINGS

After Miranda tells her Trio friends about her “bubble” of insight (See previous chapter), Linda, the philosophical facilitator, suggests thinking about this insight with the help of a philosophical text. She goes to the pile of papers on her desk, and comes back with three copies of a one-page text. The page is from the book Way to Wisdom by the German thinker Karl Jaspers (1883-1969), an important existentialist philosopher and psychiatrist. (See Agora, Topics, December 2015)


The desire to lead a philosophical life comes from the darkness in which the individual finds himself, from his sense of abandonment when he looks without love into the void, from his self-forgetfulness when he feels that he is being consumed by the busy-ness of the world, when he suddenly wakes up in terror and asks himself: What am I? What am I failing to do? What should I do?
      But the human being is inclined to self-forgetfulness. He must pull himself out of it in order not to lose himself to the world, to habits, to thoughtless banalities, to the familiar track…


For a few minutes, they identify the main concepts in this text: darkness, abandonment, self-forgetfulness, the busy world, waking up, terror, losing oneself versus pulling oneself. This is Jaspers’ network of ideas in this text, Linda explains. The three of them reflect together on the kind of world that this network constructs.

“Good,” Linda finally says. “Let’s now see how all this might relate to Miranda’s insight.”

“Linda, are you saying that this text can tell me how to understand my insight?”

“Of course not, Miranda. Jaspers’ text is not an authority for us, but a source of inspiration. It gives us materials to work with. A deep text inspires us to think our own personal thoughts.”

Linda signals to Miranda, and she reads the first sentence out loud. Then David repeats the same sentence again, then Linda, then Miranda again, and again and again for several minutes. After a couple of rounds of repeating the same sentence, their minds start listening in new ways to the words, to their sounds, to their meaning. New images and thoughts pass through their minds.

Linda signals to stop, and she invites Miranda and David to explain their personal understanding of the words “the darkness in which the individual finds himself.”

Miranda reflects for a long moment. “It’s like being in a dark basement, or in a prison-cell underground. You are abandoned down below, forgotten. Life goes on somewhere, but without you.”

“I had in mind a different kind of darkness,” David says, “the darkness of not seeing anything, where dangers are hiding.”

The three reflect on the various meanings of darkness. Next, they move on to Jaspers’ expression “abandonment.” They read several times Jaspers’ sentence that contains this word, and then share the meanings that they see in it. They continue to “wakes up in terror,” “awakening,” and “pulling oneself.”

“Let’s stop here,” Linda says. “Let’s summarize everything we have said so far. First, what are the main concepts which Miranda mentioned?”

“She mentioned prison several times,” says David. “Being locked. That’s not in the text – that’s Miranda’s meaning.”

Linda writes down this concept. “What else?”

“Above and below,” David adds. “These two words appeared almost in everything Miranda said.”

Linda writes down these words. “Above versus below – that’s another important concept in Miranda’s world. You can be stuck down below – below the floor, below life, locked away from life.”

The words touch Miranda. “Away from life,” she says slowly as if tasting the words. “Yes, to be stuck in the dark basement, away from life.”

An idea strikes David. “Basement? To me it sounds more like a grave!”

Miranda looks shocked. “Yes,” she says hesitatingly. “Like being dead in the grave.”

“It’s getting late,” Linda summarizes. “We now have a network of concepts that came from Miranda. Miranda, does this network give more meaning to your insight?” Miranda opens wants to respond, but Linda says quickly, “Think about it at home, Miranda. We will talk about it next time.”

After the meeting, Miranda walks home, thinking about her network of concepts the group had identified. “Locked in a dark grave, disconnected from life,” she whispers. The metaphor fascinates her and frightens her.

 

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