I think therefore I am
A free man with a plan
Trying to do the best I can

Connecting the written to the spoken word
Understanding the literally absurd
This rhyme of mine flowing like time

Connecting the body to the mind
Shining a bright light for the spiritually blind
Meditating on the meaning of time

An all-inclusive reality
Where everything is a possibility

Digging deep for a sense of self
Accumulating spiritual wealth

by Richard Golah-Ebue, published by Philosophy Now

 

 

I didn’t realize immediately the value of this poem. Now I see that it is entirely in line with my concept of spirituality as an experience that is based, to a great extent, on philosophy. I would just say that, for me, this is a masterpiece and I am glad to show the reasons by analyzing the poem.

It is obviously based on the famous Descartes’ achievement about his struggle to find a strong basis to defeat doubt. Now we know that his achievement is highly exposed to criticism, to objections such as: what does it mean exactly “I think”? What does it mean exactly “I am”? What is the criterion that made you move from “I think” to “I am”? How can you guarantee that you reasoning is correct?
All of these objections are able to demolish the stability that Descartes thought he was able to reach, but, after the demolition, we remain with nothing, we are just moved back to the starting point, to a situation of invincible doubt and that’s it. This poem goes further, it shows us that there is a way to move beyond, without remaining stuck in the condition of doubting about everything.
The answer is in the next lines:

A free man with a plan
Trying to do the best I can

A free man with a plan is a bit contradictory: making plans is considered by many people a system that encloses us inside a frame, a cage, which the plan is, because a plan prevents us from spontaneity, fantasy, dreaming, instinct. This is exactly what Descartes tried to do, because his doubt was meant to be “methodic”, which means transforming the problem into a resource, a system, an instrument. But Richard’s plan is different from the Descartes’ one: Descartes imagined his method as something strong, hard, in order to reach a solid basis, able to withstand the attacks of doubt. Richard’s planning is not aimed to be something strong, nor to reach a hard point. Richard’s plan is humble, aware of its limits, and this is exactly what makes it work as an opening door, a new level, the move from the condition of being stuck: he wants to do just

the best I can

nothing more. This modesty is already present when he says

A free man

The essential of our condition is our humanity, it is not the fact that we think. Thinking is human and this makes it weak, vulnerable, while Descartes tried instead to use it as a strong point. We could say “I think, therefore I win, therefore I am powerful”, but this was exactly the approach that made Descartes method not working for his purpose.

In this context, even the adjective

free

is not to be interpreted in any strong, fundamental way: rather, we are here in the human experience of freedom, which means the feeling of freedom, rather than the theoretical reasoning about it.

Richards’ work, rather than on methodology, is based on exploring connections: this is the human plan that was introduced in the first line. Again, here the activity of connecting is not reasoning, working with logic, with syllogisms: the context of the poem, set up in the second line, is a human one. So, connections are explored, contemplated, enjoyed, rather than elaborated. This explains the sense of linking

to the spoken word

The written word is the logic one, the one that remains and drives us towards the rein of reasoning and logic; the spoken word is the human one, the one that disappears, but also contains our voice, carries our emotions, betrays our vulnerability. This shows that Richard does not want to demolish, to forget Descartes’ work: he appreciates it, he wants just to bring it forward, to make it really, which is in the human rather than in a powerful sense, productive.

I think that the next line is provocative:

the literally

is what in the preceding line was

the written

which means, the reasoning, the logic, the maths. Now he says that actually these things reveal absurdity. Logic is not logical, logic is absurd. When we say that 2+2 equals 4, we have been brought up to consider it the normality, the reasonable, the correct. After we have realized not only the problems of Descartes’ reasoning, but also the new world that actually is worth to follow, which is, the world of humanity, we realize that what is actually normal and correct is our humanity. As a consequence, the world of logic, being the non-human, the world of computers, is the world of absurdity. 2+2=4 is absurd, Parmenides law of non contradiction is another example of absurdity, logic is a method to build absurdity. We don’t need paradoxes, like Zenon thought, to realize the absurdity of logic: logic is absurd in itself. So, saying that Achilles will reach and overtake the tortoise is already absurd in itself, just because it is logic. This is the window that is being opened to Richard’s eyes by entering the way of humanity and makes him

understanding the literally absurd.

In the context of what I have said, the next line

Connecting the body to the mind

is almost a repetition of the preceding verse having the same beginning “Connecting”. We could perceive that now we are one step forward: the mind is now enlightened by the connection with the body, with humanity, that is being performed. This way the poet perceived that, leaving aside any false modesty, he is able to shine light. Descartes thought as well that he was able to shine light in the darkness of doubt, but now we have been made aware of the kind of his blindness: he lost sight of spirituality, that is almost a synonym of humanity. In the context of this poem, the two references to spirituality, in this line and in the last one, have no reference to anything supernatural. Next line explains it: shining spirituality means meditating on the meaning of time. Not reflecting: meditating, which means something more towards contemplation. So, the meaning of time is not explored now to grasp it with the weapons of rational thinking, but as something that contributes to make us human: it is Heidegger’s concept of time. We can feel Heidegger in the other line as well

Where everything is a possibility

This means that

An all-inclusive reality

is not meant, again, in a metaphysical, objective, physical, realistic way. Here “all-inclusive” means that time makes us be history, human history; as such, time becomes here somehow another synonym of humanity. Time is not here that thing that is measured by clocks and physics; rather, we need to imagine it the way Salvador Dalí painted his famous soft clocks.

The last lines of the poem bring us to the final, highest levels of spirituality.

If the ultimate direction of “I think” should have been not “therefore I am”, but “therefore I am human”, then, the ultimate step is something like “then I see the infinite mystery of perceiving myself as a self, as an I”. What gives us the magics of destroying any doubt is not some rational conclusion, which Descartes tried to reach, but the mysterious perception of our feeling “I”. A lot of philosophers and scientists are making giant efforts to defeat this mystery, but they are all making the same error of Descartes: they want to dominate, to master it, so that they are all exposed to the same demolition of Descartes’ conclusion. What gives us the strongest, indestructible perception of certainty is the perception of subjectivity: it cannot be destroyed because it is not the conclusion of any syllogism, it is not logic, not reasoning; it is just a humble spiritual experience.

This makes

wealth

because, once we discover our humanity, our “self”, our sweet weakness, our “I”, we are attracted towards discovering the humanity, the self, the “I” of other people. This is the true richness, the true wealth, that enables us to build a world of appreciation and respect, rather than one of conquest and aggressiveness, as the tragedy made by Putin is showing us.