“The Laundresses”
Edgar Degas, 1884


Disaggregation!  What a title!  Masses of people will be pushing in to hear what I have to say about that one!

It’s the polysyllabic term for what I need to do: separate out and deal with the present pileup of life challenges, each of which is new and calls for resources I never needed before.

Since I haven’t found any time before now to reflect on this pileup, I’ll have to use the time that I ordinarily set aside for this column to double as my hour of retreat for sheltered thought.  Rather odd to do that by means of a column that I share with a lot of readers I don’t know personally – but that’s the time I have.  

Let’s take these challenges one by one, in the chronological order in which they first presented themselves.  

First came the proofreading of Confessions of a Young Philosopher, my forthcoming book That brought to my attention the fact that I’ve done quite a large piece of work.  What’s “large” about it?  I’ll just say what comes to mind:

It has an atmosphere of truthfulness.

It proceeds down a memory pathway untainted by current intellectual fashions in self-understanding: Freudian, existentialist, physicalist-reductionist, Marxist, nihilist, gnostic, and so on.  It’s not post-modern.  It’s not even modern.

While the story pays attention to these way stations of our culture in our time, it unfolds from inside the unsurpassable covenant between God and the people of Israel.  But, as philosophic rationalists would say: 

What is first in the order of explanation

is last in the order of discovery.

The eventual vantage point is found at ground level, encounter by encounter — standing clear only at the end.  That is the genre of confession: spiritual pilgrimage through the writer’s time and place.  But here, as it happens, the pilgrim is a woman.

Now on to the second challenge.  I’ve just had an interview, my first, in what is planned as a series of interviews with people of various perspectives who’ve read my book and have questions about it.  This stage is one I was not looking forward to.  It’s one thing to bare your soul in the privacy of your attic.  (My study looks like an attic; it’s under a slanted roof.)  It’s quite another thing to come down from the attic and answer an array of questions.  The inaugural interviewer was an intelligent young woman who looks to me hard to fool.  Amanda is neither Jewish nor of my generation, but she found Confessions illuminating for the lives of women today.

I’ve replayed our interview once since we did it.  It has yet to be edited for interruptions and repetitions.  Still, what seemed to me undeniable is – for cryin’ out loud — I talk like I know what I’m talking about and I have a lot to say!  And it’s new.  Not padded.  Not your platter of platitudes rewarmed.  Essentially Jewish but not at all parochial.

I’m not bragging.  I’m in shock.  Maybe it won’t happen again.  The next interviews might all come out flat and stale.  But … I sure did have a lot to say!  How could that be?

What else?  Well, third and fourth challenge, almost in the same intake of breath — because that’s how life goes – two infinitely dear friends are facing crises of life and health.

In the so-called normal phases of life, actually we live like trapeze artists, flying through the air but counting on our friends — fellow trapeze artists with us — to catch us so that we can land safely.  Accordingly, anything that imperils our friends jeopardizes us urgently. 

One friend is the chief reason Jerry and I moved here, from our respective big cities (New York for me, Washington for Jerry), to this little town.  Now, for the sake of her health, that friend of this place will be moving away!  The other woman has been the witness of my life from earliest girlhood; she is the loving friend of my time.  She will be having her heart surgically repaired! 

I feel like a person being moved closer to the unshielded frontier of life and wanting to explain — to Whoever is in charge —

I can’t do this.

About Abigail

Abigail Rosenthal is Professor Emerita of Philosophy, Brooklyn College of CUNY. She is the author of A Good Look at Evil, a Pulitzer Prize nominee, now available in an expanded, revised second edition and as an audiobook. Its thesis is that good people try to live out their stories while evil people aim to mess up good people’s stories. Her next book, Confessions of a Young Philosopher, forthcoming and illustrated, provides multiple illustrations from her own life. She writes a weekly column for her blog, “Dear Abbie: The Non-Advice Column” (www.dearabbie-nonadvice.com) where she explains why women's lives are highly interesting. She’s the editor of the posthumously published Consolations of Philosophy: Hobbes’s Secret; Spinoza’s Way by her father, Henry M. Rosenthal. Some of her articles can be accessed at https://brooklyn-cuny.academia.edu/AbigailMartin . She is married to Jerry L. Martin, also a philosopher. They live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
This entry was posted in "Absolute Freedom and Terror", Absurdism, Academe, Action, Alienation, Art of Living, Atheism, Autonomy, bad faith, Biblical God, books, Cities, Class, conformism, Contemplation, Contradictions, Cool, Courage, Cultural Politics, Culture, Desire, dialectic, Erotic Life, Eternity, Ethics, Evil, Existentialism, exploitation, Faith, Fashion, Female Power, Femininity, Feminism, Freedom, Friendship, Gender Balance, glitterati, Gnosticism, Guilt and Innocence, Hegel, hegemony, Heroes, hidden God, History, history of ideas, Idealism, Ideality, Identity, Ideology, Idolatry, Immorality, Institutional Power, Jews, Journalism, Judaism, life and death struggle, Literature, Love, Male Power, Masculinity, master, master/slave relation, Memoir, memory, Messianic Age, Mind Control, Modern Women, Modernism, Moral action, Moral evaluation, Moral psychology, morality, novels, Ontology, Oppression, Past and Future, Philosophy, Poetry, politics of ideas, post modernism, Power, presence, promissory notes, Propaganda, Psychology, public facade, Public Intellectual, radicalism, Reading, Reductionism, relationships, Religion, Roles, Romantic Love, secular, Seduction, self-deception, Sex Appeal, Sexuality, social construction, Social Conventions, social ranking, spiritual journey, spiritual not religious, Spirituality, status, status of women, Suffering, The Examined Life, The Problematic of Men, The Problematic of Woman, the profane, the sacred, Theism, Theology, Time, twentieth century, twenty-first century, Utopia, victimhood, Work, Writing, Zeitgeist and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Disaggregation

  1. Pingback: The Pain of Separation - Philosophy News

Leave a Reply