Monday, June 07, 2010

The destruction of actions

Let us suppose that I like gardening. I have a large piece of land behind my house and when I bought the house and moved there this piece of land was a wilderness. It was full of weeds. Birds and insects loved to live there and rabbits loved it, too. In short, it was a beautiful piece of nature. However, since I like gardening, I was not satisfied with it. I wanted to cultivate and to civilize it. And so I did. I invested time and money in it, made a garden plan, bought plants, bought seeds, grew plants, planted them out. I did everything a gardener does with such piece of land and after many years I had a beautiful garden. I opened it on Open Garden Days for everybody and my garden attracted always many people. It became famous and it was considered a piece of art. Then, after again many years, I moved. Nobody in the family that bought the house liked gardening, the garden went in decay and in the end it was again a beautiful piece of nature and the birds, the insects and rabbits loved it again and so did the frogs that lived in what remained of the pond. And after some time everybody had forgotten that once there had been a beautiful garden there.

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Let us suppose that I like writing. I always wrote little stories for myself, wrote articles for the school paper. When I went to the university and studied philosophy, I loved writing term papers and then my dissertation. However, as a philosopher it is difficult to get a job and I did something else but in my spare time I managed to write a couple of philosophical books that became rather popular, although it was not enough to live on it. Actually they gave me not more than a bit of pocket money. But I loved it and I had put my heart and soul in these few books, which were actually an extension of my mind. But fashions change. My books were less and less bought and in the end nobody wanted to buy or read them any longer. They were considered boring and outdated, secondhand bookshops did not want to sell them anymore and what remained was snipped. Maybe you still find here and there a copy in an odd corner, and of course, in my bookcase, but I will be sure that after 100 years no copy will be left any longer.

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I ended my last blog with: “When we destroy a book, we destroy not only a bunch of paper, but we destroy a part of a human mind, a part of what we as humans are.” Burning books like the Nazis did is considered uncivilized and a criminal act. It destroys our culture. It destroys what we are. If we see books as an extension, if not a part, of the mind, we can say that I die a bit when my books are destroyed. Many people agree with this idea. Books are holy in a certain sense. But what about when my garden is destroyed? Didn’t I have put my mind in it? Okay, gardens are considered to be a piece of culture by many people. But what about my other actions? I do a lot in my life. Some actions have a material expression, like my books. Other actions do not have such an expression. They fade away at the moment that I have done them and that is it. My shopping, my making a bike ride, my chasing away a burglar in my house, my visiting a friend: What is the difference between all such actions, including writing a book and gardening, and is there a difference? Do I die a bit when my bike ride has ended or when I leave the shop?

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