Packing up my belongings when I move always causes me a small existential crisis. Suddenly, the walls are bare. Nail holes rather than photographs line the hallways. My feet, accustomed to the soft pile and bright pattern of an Oriental rug, touch a hard, cold floor. My empty bookshelves no longer cloak me in an aura of culture and history. My speakers are boxed up, and the quiet disquiets me. I have, in preparing to move, already moved into a house devoid of color, warmth, and resonance. Is this the same place I was living all along? Seeing my familiar home stripped and emaciated feels like seeing the skeletal figure of a friend on his death bed. The bare, unsignifying walls seem like a hidden truth I had papered over with my belongings. I worry, was the old life and color a lie? Is human meaning a poster on the white plaster wall of nature?
A paradox of philosophy is that, having originated as the pursuit of knowledge, it has mainly led to skepticism. Aristotle sought rational meaning in nature and humanity, but philosophers since him have steadily given up, culminating in the twentieth-century existentialists who deny the meaning of life, and deconstructionists who deny any meanings beyond the mere wizardry of words.
Yet what do philosophers accomplish by their denials of meaning? They gain for themselves professorship and authorship; they define an idea they can embrace and base their life upon.
Humans are so needful of meaning, we find it even through denying it.
Mr. Stanley’s Aphorisms and Paradoxes are outstanding examples of the long-form aphorism... inevitably studded with discrete individual aphorisms that could easily stand on their own.
-James Geary, author of The World in a Phrase: A Brief History of the Aphorism