The walls were tiled. Each tile approximately three quarters of an inch square. They were varying shades of blue and purple – the grout a bright white. I stood staring at the mosaic before me, a mere arm’s length away, letting my eyes go in and out of focus. And born of this act, a calm had come, descended upon me as I drifted playfully between uncertain states of mind. In that space, I was free to contemplate the history of ideas as something other than a totality, to break apart the behemoth into its more manageable parts so that every single tile in turn came to take on the weight of one of its ideas. But under such pressure, the tiles began to separate from the walls, to float forward and away, to encircle me where I stood.
I didn’t stop to judge this experience. Real or not, I wanted it. Somehow, tonight, I needed it, to let my mind dance this one tune, arm and arm with the absurd. So I let the experience proceed. I let my crooked eyes see what was to be seen. I stretched out and into the swarm of ideas, through them, my arms the whispers of a giant reaching up from the earth into a dense cloud of stars, exhaling a promise, “Soon, child.”
I continued to tumble aimlessly, shamelessly, through the ideas. I knocked one into the next. I didn’t pause, nor take any time to understand a single claim. I let Hume smash into Aristotle and Kant brush up against Plato. I watched Sartré stumble then fumble for a hold as his Being and Nothingness slipped inelegantly into a puddle of Seneca’s letters to Lucilius. And there I remained, stoic amongst the mass of concepts.
I could not have counted the ideas had I wanted. There were just too many. And honestly, I can barely grasp the meaning of a single one. For instance, I cannot tell you much of Kant and his Critique of Pure Reason. Or of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, or of Hume and his Enquiry Concerning Human Nature. And I never finished, I hardly even began to read, Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy. I know some names and I know some titles. And I may even know a detail or two about the Existentialists. But that’s about it, really. And still, I have the audacity to engage an area of study whose representative intellectuals require that one be well spoken, be able to write eloquently, be able to understand how to express in academic terms what it means, for instance, to be conscious. I can do none of that to their standard. And still again, I have the balls to explore such depths, to stumble headlong through the exclusive domain of the erudite. I have the gall to suggest another way of being that has nothing to do with numbers or things already established, or reason, or logic, or whether or not I get the gist of what actually occurred in that half-lit cave 2000 years ago where dancing shadows played like these dancing tiles, these ideas – like they do now. They are the representations of our human effort to understand what maybe only the unabashed, unashamed nudity of the uninformed experience can help bring to light.
But there, in the spaces between the ideas, a vibration echoed forth. Hinted at the existence of something beyond the conceptual – a kind of purity of thought that could transcend all the fighting, the endless bickering between thinkers, an energy that was absent of ego that sought not to be right. She was something other, an unrighteousness of being, an unwitting representative of a hidden paradigm, a child born again – she was Naiveté. She lived and she breathed, though quietly, having at once been made to feel ashamed of her own existence. Her way, until this time, had been to bend herself to the intellectual will, to a boundless ego forever unmoved by the good intentions of simple, innocuous, human curiosity.
I reached forth to coax her from out of hiding. But I was a ghost to her existence. So I moved closer. I pushed Locke and Socrates out of the way and brushed aside all the pedantic noise of Husserl’s phenomenology. She seemed to take notice. On her knees, she paused looking downward to avoid my gaze. I knelt before her. I sat with her. Time was not real. I patiently held my hand before her. Eventually, she placed her own in mine. The tiles, the ideas, they turned to witness our reunion. They froze, prisoner to such blatant sacrilege. I lifted her chin so that I could see what her eyes had meant to share. They were a green I could not describe. They were the beauty of an unadorned light. They were my own crooked eyes, a product of recognition. They were the need to be heard, simply acknowledged, not in any way concerned with the need to be understood.
We sat for a while hand in hand. I was in awe before her. I wondered how this child could have ever caused so much distress, so much concern, so much fear. Then I spoke. “Ask me, child, whatever it is you have been wanting to ask.” She hesitated, eyes ablaze. Then, “Why is the sky blue?” And in that moment, smiling, I pulled her to me, into me, absorbed every ounce of her essence and watched as the history of ideas fell to the floor. And I knew, almost simultaneously, that to deny human experience, human curiosity, to disallow ourselves the experience of innocence that is the free play of thought unencumbered by the intellectual activity of those who came before, by an academia vacillating uneasily on the insecurities of its own ego, then we consequently deny ourselves an avenue to enlightenment that only works to complement the intellectual drive to understanding, not to impede its progress towards that goal.
And there on the floor, upon my knees, a child amongst a shattered behemoth, I begged:
Let Naiveté move without any fear of being judged. Let her speak boldly of physics, talk of politics, converse openly, courageously, and yes, naively, of any idea under the moon. And, let her hands full on tremble as she stumbles all over her words. Let her hesitate and take back. Let her change her position on her way to understanding. Go forth and embrace her as she mispronounces a common name, and do not correct her – what Kierkegaard had to offer will not change no matter how often we mispronounce his name. And go on to praise her when she asks why there are boundaries between countries, why there are so many flags, why there are flags at all. She evokes a much needed curiosity, the kind which makes politicians blush and the most tenured professors take pause and recall a time when they too were not afraid to ask questions. Most of all, recognize that her intention is just that – pure, unrefined, harmless intentionality, absent of any agenda, good, bad, or otherwise. It is this intentionality that gives way to the expression of one’s own existence above and beyond the realm of the ego. And let her coarse through you, alongside those things you know well and those things you can barely comprehend so that you might forgo shame to simply express what is true for you in any given moment. Be heard, be acknowledged, exist.