26. Essay: On the thing itself

Are we still able to consider the thing itself? Being for the sake of being; thinking for the sake of thinking; moving for the sake of moving? Do we go to a concert for the sake of entertainment? To enjoy music; a crowd; togetherness. In our non-working time; often called spare time or free time we often seek enjoyment. But is enjoyment the goal for all things we do in our spare time? Entertainment is the supposed goal of free time as consumers as nobody wishes to suffer; a topic for another time. While we tolerate suffering during working hours as we must, we avoid it in the time we ordain as free time which makes the working time bounded, imprisoned time. The thing itself however is not concerned with these ideas of time and worth, rather it is about considering a thing as the thing it is. Consider the purchase of chocolate. Buying chocolate is often framed as a guilty pleasure; we buy it because of a craving for a sweet thing; we ‘rationalize’ our act of buying. Does this mean buying a snack for the sake of buying and eating a snack not enough? Are we too often concerned with justifying things in terms of health, goodness, purpose and so on. Now even the kindergarten piano teachers hand out certificates. Learning piano for the sake of learning piano is not enough. There has to be an extra incentive, we play piano because it relaxes us; it provides entertainment;  it makes us smarter; we earn certificates; appear cultured; acquire the admiration of other people. The intrinsic activity no longer exists, the thing for itself cannot be in our world in which all is reduced to utility.

Our world is awash with meaning which makes us feel we have to justify; categorize everything we do. We do a thing for the sake of something else, the good does not exist anymore, and beauty has died with it. We do not maintain a clean and prospering nature for the sake of itself but for our own benefit; economy; health; and so on, rather than simply because it is in itself a thing that is good. Time is either wasted or well used as all things become economical, even videogames the things that exist purely for the sake playing, or one might say wasting time; have become a thing to do for something else. We play videogames in order to get achievements; to relax, reduce stress; to stop thinking and so on. We do not attend university for the thing itself, that is achieving knowledge of the self but for acquiring a certain status on the marketplace of employment. We do not read for the sake of reading but read to gain something from the novel, inspiration, relaxation, and so on. If we do not gain these things from the thing that we are doing we discard them and look for the next high.

But don’t we always do something for the sake of something else? We play piano for the sake of getting better at piano; we exercise to gain certain benefits. This is an intrinsic worth. The piano is the thing itself which we wish to get better at, there is no extrinsic motivation, the certificate, the admiration and so on. Similarly, we can read a book for the sake of the book itself, or do exercise for the sake of doing exercise. These carry with it a certain (perhaps old fashioned) notion of the good. Now there is nothing wrong with doing something for something else, as, if we all valued the activity in itself then perhaps nothing would get done. Now however it seems that most if not all our activities are valued for the sake of something else. Can we look at a painting anymore without thinking about its monetary value anymore; the materials; the age and so on? Everything is imbued with representation and the absolute art has all but disappeared. Art has to be explained through booklets and plaques rather than being seen in a category of themselves. The frame of the painting has become more important than the painting itself.

Doing a thing for itself should be enough. We do not need any ulterior motives or explanations. Satisfying our nature is a beautiful thing in itself. To live in accordance with what we desire and to stop when we have had our fill, or in accordance with the mean.  Can we learn to enjoy the beauty of the moment, the thing in itself without considering external factors? Can we still live in a space without wasted time or time well spend? Time as being without conditions, no matter what action we are performing. Not for the sake of wellness; mindfulness; getting better; healthier, or reducing stress with the eventual aim to improve productivity. Rather try to simply be. I hope we still can which is why I am writing this, perhaps for the sake of writing but also secretly for the sake of being read. It is difficult for everyone to do the thing for the sake of itself. Or is reading intrinsic in writing as is listening is when playing music. But do I listen when I play. Do I read when I write. Do I listen when I talk?

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