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August 15, 2022

A MUSING: Descartes

By Bernie Pilarski

"I think, therefore I am." Simple, admittedly, and overuse and familiarity have drained it of the power it once had, but still, I muse, it is catchy. And I have to admire Descartes, because the phrase indicates that at least he was asking himself the right questions. I can see Renee sitting at a table, leaning over a bowl of steaming vegetable soup, letting his spoon drop repeatedly into the bowl, watching absentmindedly as the broth splashes up the sides of the bowl. The spoon strikes, a half dozen tiny drops of broth are born out of the soup and sail through the air only to collide with the bowl and begin the inexorable, herky-jerky journey back down to be reabsorbed in the soup.

"Alors," Renee says. "What in ze hell iz going on? What iz thees thing called life?"

A modest start, yet it will lead Descartes to some profound observations. It surprises me that so many people seem to be able to live their entire lives and never ask themselves why they are alive, never ponder the statistical improbability of life, never consider why in a universe where all things tend toward entropy, life takes an unnaturally opposite path.

"Life, it iz like the bowl of soup," Renee says. "And I am zhoost ze on-yon, eh?"

I find it curious that while science has envisioned a process that starts with a bang and hurls billions of suns off into the cosmos, little attention is paid to the question of where exactly it is that we are all headed. Doesnt it bother anyone that we all exist in an infinite vacuum?

"Alors," Renee says. "If I am ze on-yon, then I must stink, n'est pas?"

Some of these thoughts may have crossed Descartes mind as he contemplated his soup.

"I stink," he considered. "Therefore I am ... ?" He pauses and ponders. "Therefore I am ... "

It would take a quite a few more bowls of soup and a little editing, but eventually he would reach a profound conclusion.

"Mais oui," Renee would exclaim at his epiphany. "In ze life, you must take ze time to stop and smell ze on-yon, non?"

Persistence, Renee, never stop wondering. The quest -- c'est la vie.

Article © Bernie Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2004-07-03
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