The Essential Dilemma of Human Existence


I was getting worried because I didn’t know what anything was anymore. I had lost my grip. I was eating bread and it was spilling out of my mouth as I ate. I didn’t know what eating was any more. The whole process of eating seemed chaotic and out of control – I couldn’t tell where my mouth ended and the food began. I felt that I might eat my own lips or choke on my own tongue. My mouth was full of bread and the texture of it seemed to be identical with the texture of my lips, my tongue, the inside of my mouth. There was no difference – there was no up and no down. It was the same either way. I could really tell what I was doing and this made eating very problematical. I didn’t like to just go ahead and take an outright bite and as a result lumps of semi-masticated bread kept falling out of my mouth and down all over my jacket. No matter what I ate the result was the same. Eating was a very messy and unsatisfactory affair no matter which way I tried it. I kept getting the unpleasant sensation that I was chewing my own lips, biting holes in my own cheeks and this made me half-hearted. Whatever food it was that I had in my half-open mouth felt thick and dense and crumbly and the inside of my mouth felt exactly the same for some reason, as if it were made up of the same basic stuff. I couldn’t tell where the one began and the other ended…


“What does it mean to eat?” I wondered, caught up in the philosophical complexities of it all. Life was an impenetrable maze and I was lost in the very heart of it, in the very thick of it. Moving around indecisively, taking a step first in this direction and then in that. Life was a thick philosophical tangle and I was an awkward interloper, trying without conviction to hedge my guesses as to which direction might be the most promising to proceed in. “Who is the eater and who is the eaten?” I asked wisely only it wasn’t wise but something else, something at once perspicacious and perplexed, something both as clear as air and as opaque as a stone. “Can a mouth eat itself?” I asked with the distinct and unsettling impression that I was pondering the imponderable, or at the very least the improbable. “Is it possible for a brain to think itself?” I puzzled, seeing for the first time – as I thought – the essential dilemma of human existence. I was born wise but would I die a fool? Questions like these and others less amenable to articulation erupted into my awareness like clumps of damp fog, they swam ponderously around my mind like so many bewhiskered catfish raking around at the bottom of a very murky pond. Bottom feeders. Somehow I had both grasped and simultaneously forgotten the essential dilemma of human existence. How I had done this was quite beyond me and yet I knew there was truth in everything I thought as well as nonsense. “Can a thing be both true and untrue at the same time?” I asked. “Can a thought depart from its own conclusion and, having thus departed, find its own way back to the Source of Everything?”


All these thoughts and many more came to me and as I wrestled painfully and ponderously with each one of them it occurred to me that there was sense in everything I thought and yet there was MORE sense in what I had not thought. “What is everything?” I asked, full of misgivings and trepidation in the face of this latest insight. “What does it mean to wonder what everything means?” The very ground under my feet felt like it was coming together and yet moving apart at the same time like continents unsure of their role in the Greater Scheme of Things. This was a matter of advanced tectonics I realized but I was no geologist. Even as I thought this I realized that my mind had been overcome by the inherent paradoxicality of reality and was babbling nonsense in a pathetically hopeful way as if this might somehow prove to be the solution to its dilemma. This was IT, I realized then, full to the brim with both bewilderment and perspicacity in equal portions. The essential dilemma of human existence was that we were forever trying to solve the inherent paradoxicality of reality by thinking nonsense the whole time, in the fond belief that this would help. And yet even as I thought this I realized that this wasn’t it at all…





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