“Each individual can in his little circle participate in this leveling, but it is an abstract process, and leveling is abstraction conquering individuality.”
-Søren Aabye Kierkegaard
(Leveling in the process of suppressing individuality to the point where the individual’s uniqueness becomes non-existent and nothing meaningful in his existence can be affirmed. It is a form of Nihilism, which is the philosophical position that values do not exist but rather are falsely created, of which metaphysical nihilism is also a part. Metaphysical Nihilism in the theory that states that there might have been no objects at all, that is, that there is a possible world in which there are no objects at all—or at least no concrete objects.)
There had been a pair of eyes, once, that had preached metaphysical nihilism; blue-green, with flecks of warm autumnal gold. There had been, of course, a face that those eyes were a part of, hands that had moved to punctuate the conversation, legs that had crossed elegantly on the settee. But what did metaphysical nihilism care for such things? The eyes, more specifically, their expressions, were, in her opinion, the least physical of all of the parts of the body; so they were allowed, she supposed, on that other realm where nothing but abstract thought existed.
There were worlds, complements to each other, where on one existed the mass of finite things, and on the other, (which was in essence, a possibility; in and of itself merely an abstraction) after these finite things had been taken away, where there existed nothing physical. The eyes blinked twice in rapid succession and continued, saying that there were a number of concrete things in this world—but that they were finite concrete things, and that taking one away required no necessary replacement; take enough away— take everything away— and all you possessed were the universals— strikingly similar conceptual pattern in human beings that were consistent across cultures; members of the realm that existed outside the physical: the metaphysical.
She had glanced down at her hand then, briefly, and the sight of it had strangely tugged at her heart: it had looked to her so solid with its slender fingers and brown skin (Imagine a world without it! Would the idea of it ever be so solid, so slender?), that the eyes had seemed to her suspect in that instant, malevolent. But she had continued to listen.
There were of course arguments that there would always be concrete things; the world itself, for one, was concrete, and could not be subtracted. There had been those who had said that abstract thought occurred as a consequence of physical objects: could numbers exist without things to add them up? The eyes then had had the look of someone hastening through these arguments to the contrary, and had continued, in the same breath, that though these arguments were of course to be considered, it was the idea as a whole, without this pockmarked surface, that must be paid attention to.
She had walked home that evening, and had thought of what it all meant. On its surface, it could very well be something she might possibly come to crave: that sterility that announced the death of chaos, of everything she knew; that ether where no sound travelled, indeed, where there were no vocal cords to bring it into existence; that realm where greed, death, evil—and yes, even good—existed as merely abstractions with nothing that could turn them into tangible realities.
Was that where it had all started? Yes, she seems now to recall: that is how it started.
It had begun as a thought—merely interesting in the moment of its first conception— turning into an obsession: a microcosm of the idea, without its pockmarked surface, brought into existence solely by her, solely in her. It had appealed to her then because of circumstances perhaps: the chaos that had characterized her childhood, that continued to characterize her adult life. There were too many physical realities, the very ones she had mentioned earlier (greed, death, evil, good: a chant that she had been arbitrarily assigned) that she had had—and continued to have—to contend with— reality as she had come to understand it after twenty years of living it; reality that had seemed to her then so distasteful it had caused her to wrinkle her nose. Sterility, in that moment, was what she finally understood she craved; where dimensions, at least—the height, width and breadth of things, so mundane they was almost comical—would be reduced to merely the conceptions of them as 5, 2, and 3.
What was there to do? She herself owned a finite number of objects, perhaps she could start by giving them away. This she did. But it wasn’t nearly enough: She herself existed as a gritty reality. This was perhaps when the long hours spent in complete isolation began. It was simple, she realized—close your eyes for long enough and in time you hear yourself as nothing but disembodied thought. You are, then, merely the basic concepts that everything has in common. This realization served to transfigure those long hours spent in isolation—at that point merely semi-colons in her daily routine (1,2,3, and then she could move on to the next thing) into something bigger: the very text.
Close your eyes for long enough and the gritty reality is then defeated. The grimy surface is wiped at so furiously it falls away. We ourselves are, in our little circles and at that point, merely abstractions.