Legacy is Impersonal

New York - Times Square - July 1977

The barista knows my name. I am surprised. I shouldn’t be. Name plus order always go together when serving the coffee. It’s part of the order. And it’s part of my after-gym routine.

I hate giving the impression I am a creature of habit. I want to tell her that I have tried the other drinks. They’re too sweet for me.

And somethings are best turned into habits, like brushing your teeth, or going to the gym.

I have seen her name only once or twice, she has face that smiles at rest. I try to read her name-tag to thank her personally. It’s hiding behind the coffee machine.

I choose a spot. I can hear her tell her colleague that they’d had a busy morning. He replies that it ebbs and flows with the weather. The place had been almost empty when the snowy-rain was being blown around.

The place is calm now. There are two high-schoolers sitting side-by-side, ear buds plugged in to expensive phones, typing on expensive laptops and drinking expensive drinks. The cautious one has pink protective covers on the electronics. Children of the privileged.

Student day at the coffee shop? I hear two complaining about an assignment on Sartre’s view of freewill. I understand their pain. I suspect that my view may have something in common with his argument and that I don’t agree with it. If only I could be sure I understood it.

A lack of freewill versus a sense of agency. I am happy living with it as a paradox. Like general relativity and quantum mechanics. Some think they have the answer. I’ll stick to Fitzgerald’s definition of intelligence.

I don’t get the internet philosopher’s argument against the illusion of agency. It’s ironic. He’s spent a lot of time fashioning an argument, making it as convincing as possible. He wants to be an agent for change. He’s working within the illusion. It’s a question begging paradox.

Worse, his going on about how everything is the result of an inevitable chain of reactions going back to the big bang sounds like a non-religious religion, a predetermined destiny. The flipping of the religious apology for freewill in the context of an omniscient god.

Time, fast time, slow time. How slow is time at the event horizon? My intuition tells me that the theory of everything will need to breakup time into components. I have no idea what I am talking about.

I am spending a lot of time playing with philosophy. It’s my escape from outrage. I react quickly and cool down slowly.

All the internet folks have learned that click-bait is better with outrage than straight. A top five list will get users to click, an offensive top five list gets engagement, shares. Stirred and shaken, social-media gold. It takes effort to avoid getting entangled.

I am explaining myself to myself. As if I am preparing my defense. Strange subjects to script.

I don’t (I avoid) attacking the guy in power. I criticize the behaviour. Actions are subject to objective analysis. I admit that sometimes some of the actions make, even if only partial, sense and I am uncomfortable with that.

I’m mincing my words. Give me a generalization and I want to poke a hole in it.

This religion is fundamentally flawed because … . Regardless, it is practices that should be criticized. All the major religions have eliminated stuff that doesn’t fit with modern morals. And extremists come from every set of beliefs. Nihilistic anarchists may no longer be in fashion but they have existed and could make a comeback.

“Some of my best friends are … .” I know there’s a proper logical argument for refuting the some-of-my-friends line. “And my second ex-wife is an Anti-Semite.” My answer packs more punch and it’s fun to see their reaction when they realise why that is relevant. It’s even more fun if I have to explain it to them.

“Pan-Pon.” The kid’s sound effects breaks my reverie. The father laughs. There’s a story-told behind the police siren noises.“Grab me a piece of cake too.” Cross-shop coördination. There’s no way this family’s visit was going to go unnoticed.

Funny how the longer I muse, the more I sink into my chair. I straighten myself and take a sip of my coffee. One of the women behind me notices. She lowers the volume. She suspects me eavesdropping. I decided not to when I was sitting down. Her friend speaks too quietly and her half of the conversation is not interesting.

I spot a third expensive laptop. Fancy computers for fancy coffee. I guess that is what draws me here even if I only have pen and paper.

A couple, matching orders, come sit next to me. Fancy tea and cheesecake. He’s mirroring her. The boring conversationalist is doing another I-agree-but. I had hoped for more. More conversations.

I’m alone with my thoughts. I’d like to have someone, a better informed echo, to have an unpretentious conversation with. A discussion to clarify my thoughts without having to know the exact percentage of grey hairs in my navel.

I miss the talks I had with my xenophobic libertarian friend. His beliefs stopped short of making conversation impossible. I’d switch subjects when the motivated reasoning got tiring. I’d announce it. Our gentlemen’s agreement.

Once he asked me why I enjoyed talking to him when our values are so different. “Because it’s intelligent and not kitchen-talk.” He moved his family back to his home town.

My perfect conversation partner doesn’t exist. Probably.

I like to reduce ideas to simple catch phrases. Kant is a socialist, Hobbes a cynic. Sartre’s answer to life is a search for purpose, Camus thinks it’s all absurd, and, lacking the desire to think about it too deeply, I am happy with it being for genetic survival.

Legacy. I don’t understand the drive. Not emotionally. “I was here” isn’t my thing. My ego runs better on “I am here.” If I am not there to witness, profit from it, what’s the point of making it my purpose. It’s just a way of giving it extra meaning. My ego gets nothing out of it.

The only purpose I see in legacy is what it can bring to help future generations, making the world a better place for the continuation of the genetic pool. The most primal of urges, survival on a grand scale. One way or another, the size of the footprint I leave will be selected for its usefulness to the genetic line that goes all the way back to the first organism. I like how Nagel puts it. What seems so important today will be meaningless in a million years. It doesn’t make it less meaningful in the moment. What is is. Why get attached to finding a grander meaning for it.

I take a sip of milk-foam.

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