Last Sunday, I was sitting in DAR Constitution Hall waiting for Wilco to come on stage.
I’ve actually lost count of the number of times I’ve seen Wilco perform. But this was the first time I saw them play “Sunken Treasure.” Or at least, it was the first time since last spring when I lapsed into a funk so deep that the only music I could stand to listen to for a solid month was Being There. For a while, I could only listen to the first disk, but then for a time I could only listen to “Sunken Treasure” on repeat.
But there is no sunken treasure
Rumored to be
Wrapped inside my ribs
In a sea black with ink
I don’t know if this kind of thing happens to other people. I don’t know what other people mean when they say they feel alone.
If you are not a philosopher, when you think of philosophy, one of the first questions that pops into your head is, “What is the meaning of life?”
Were you to ask this question to a professional philosopher, they’d probably scoff, because answering such questions isn’t really what professional philosophers do. (Professional philosophers mostly argue among themselves at conferences and across publications about linguistic and conceptual distinctions and interpretations they’ve drawn. Sometimes this can be interesting to people outside the conversation, but usually it isn’t. [Sorry, but, well, it isn’t and that’s okay.])
I don’t know why other philosophers got into the study of philosophy, because for me it was exactly questions of meaning that drew me in. Even though these questions have become philosophical clichés, that doesn’t mean they don’t matter. The question of “What is true?” genuinely haunts me on a daily basis, and as much of a devoted Foucaultian as I am and as swayed by Wittgenstein as I am, I still naively believe there’s a satisfactory answer to this question that has nothing to do with an episteme or a socio-historical cultural context or a game.
Of course, I’m also convinced the answer to this question can never be articulated or argued for — once you reach true understanding, I imagine you don’t feel compelled to write a tell-all.
The meaning of life is a question that still baffles me, too, because, like I want there to be truth, I want there to be answer where I also know there isn’t and can’t be one.