When I think of the difficult conceptual problems still rampant in the world, I feel as if only a properly managed insanity can lead to a breakthrough. When I say conceptual problems, I am referring to the enigmas of consciousness, measurement problem in quantum mechanics, the second law of thermodynamics, the foundations of the semantics, all these intriguing but seemingly intractable (and possibly related) problems that have ridiculed all the effort that the humanity has made so far.
When I was an undergraduate, I made friends with Ken Shiotani, now a "philosopher-at-large", (meaning, in this particular usage, that he does not belong to any university, institution, etc.; he is not paid for his "phisolophizing"). I and Shiotani would discuss these difficult things walking along the Sumida river, drinking beer, persevering a cold night air in a park. At that time, we were quite young and ignorant, but our aspirations were astronomical.
One day, Shiotani drew up a metaphor. He would like to be the "protoamphibian" who "put his leg out of water" for the first time in history. There are heaps of things that the human mind has not had access to yet, and he would like to be the first one to do it. After many years of dormancy, I think he is still aspiring to that.
Another Shiotani quote stayed with me. I think it was one of these days when I was wont to hang out with him in Tokyo bars and Izakayas. After speaking wishfully of his friends who was "climbing the ladders" smoothly and becoming authors and associate professors, Shiotani sighed and said thus.
"I don't want to be a star myself. I would rather like to be the dark void in which all these constellations shine".
He is that kind of person. Practical things are too small for him (not in a physical sense, although is quite massive!)
A few years ago, I went to Taketomi Island off Ishigaki island in the southern Okinawa district with Shiotani and other friends, where we discussed things for many hours. Another soul mate of mine, Takashi Ikegami was with us. We wanted to be teenagers in our thoughts and hearts again, basically.
Here's a shot of Shiotani (lying like a whale in the front) and Ikegami (in a pondering posture in the back) on the beach.
Ken Shiotani (front) and Takashi Ikegami (back) on the beach in Taketomi Island.
We haven't given up yet. We would like to manage insanity in a proper way somehow.