Coming to earnestness

The slow youth are dim, dim-witted, and droll; they remain there and get decent jobs. The clever ones are boundlessly sarcastic, for they have discovered how to stretch and bend their voices and twist their faces. They can say one thing, mean the opposite, and make themselves ugly in the bargain.

But sarcasm is only a stage of consciousness on the way to intellectual maturity.

As a young adult, one becomes sharper with the sword, more witty, more ironic. The world, looking awry, looked at askew, seems odder than it used, pain-chipped, irony-flected. Irony is the sotto voce of estrangement.

Then there comes a time–a darker night–when the soul is not exempt from its solitude, from its otherness, and the earth and all its inhabitants have become fearsome and absurd. For the absurd soul, the self cannot be known, the world dares, then thwarts all reasonable expectations, and reason is seen as farce. The absurd, hardly a joke, emits despair only, throws one down, leaving one interred.

Here, the philosopher asks, Can the despairing soul take to a speculative view? And what would she find should she be led, back again, to the beginning, then shown the tortured route her consciousness has taken from sarcasm through irony to absurdity? And if the transitions were made clear, the story listed lucidly, the lived logic exhausted, would she then ask with force how to live earnestly? Without question, the philosopher assures her, the words that would come to her would be all heart-centered: heartedness, wholeheartedness, heartily, heartfully. He makes his promise and she gambles.

Then thanksgiving, she says and means.