The wall before me is tiled. Each tile approximately three quarters of an inch square. They are varying shades of blue and purple. The grout a bright white. I stand staring at the mosaic, a mere arm’s length away, letting my eyes go in and out of focus. A calm comes, descends upon me as I drift playfully between uncertain states of consciousness. In this space, free-falling, my mind eventually latches onto the nearest familiar concept: the entire history of ideas––now something other than a totality that I find I can break apart into more digestible bits. Every tile comes to take on the weight of a single idea. But under such pressure, they begin to separate from the wall, float forward and away, encircling me where I stand.
I don’t stop to judge this experience. Real or not, I want this. Tonight I need it, to let my mind dance this one tune, arm and arm with the absurd. So I allow the experience to proceed, my crooked eyes to see what is to be seen. I stretch out and into the swarm of ideas, through them, my arms the whispers of giants, reaching up from the earth into a density of stars, exhaling a promise, “Soon, child.”
I continue to tumble aimlessly, shamelessly, through the ideas. I knock one into the next. I neither pause nor take any time to understand a single claim. I let Hume smash into Aristotle and Kant brush up against Plato. I watch Sartré stumble then fumble for a hold as his Being and Nothingness slips inelegantly away into a pooling of Seneca’s letters to Lucilius. And there I remain, stoic amongst the mass of concepts.
I cannot count the ideas. They are numerous. 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 always speak eloquently, write masterfully, know how to express in academic terms what it means, for instance, to be conscious. I can do none of that to their standard. Nonetheless, I have the nerve 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 some 2000 years ago where dancing shadows spun a Greek allegory in hopes of waking the masses. And so too these tiles, these ideas, spin a tale. Each an attempt at understanding what maybe only the unabashed, unashamed nude form of the uninformed experience can help bring to light.
But there, in the spaces between the ideas, a vibration echoes forth. Hints at the existence of something beyond the conceptual––a kind of purity of thought that might transcend all the fighting, the endless bickering between thinkers, an energy absent of ego, seeking not to be right.
She is something other, an unrighteousness of being, the unwitting representative of a hidden paradigm, a child born again––Naiveté. She lives and she breathes, though quietly, accustomed to feeling 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 reach forth, coaxing her from hiding. But I am a ghost to her existence. So I move closer. I push Locke and Socrates out of the way and brush aside all the pedantic noise of Husserl’s phenomenology. She seems to take notice. On her knees, she pauses, looking down to avoid my gaze. I kneel before her. I sit with her. Time is not real. I patiently hold my hand before her. Eventually, she places her own in mine. The tiles, the ideas, they turn as if to witness our reunion. They freeze in place. I lift her chin so that I might see what her eyes mean to share. They are a green I cannot describe. They are the beauty of an unadorned light. They are my own crooked eyes, a product of recognition. They are the need to be heard, to simply be acknowledged––not in any way concerned with the need to be understood.
We sit for a while hand in hand. I am in awe of her. I wonder how this child could ever cause so much distress, so much concern, so much fear. Then I speak. “Ask me, child, whatever it is you have been wanting to ask.” She hesitates, eyes ablaze. Then simply, “Why is the sky blue?” And in that moment, smiling, I pull her to me, into me, absorbing every ounce of her essence, watching as the history of ideas fall to the floor. And I know, 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 toward that goal.
There on the floor, upon my knees, a child amongst a shattered behemoth, I beg:
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 struggles to pronounce what we consider “well-known,” but please, do not correct her––the wisdom of Kierkegaard will remain no matter how we pronounce 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 to 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 course through you, alongside those things you know well and those things you can barely comprehend. Brave all of this so that you might forgo shame to simply express what is true for you in any given moment. Be heard, be acknowledged, exist.