Sunday, February 04, 2007

Philosophical PTSD

Warning: What follows should be read in the spirit of a light-hearted joke and not as a serious report of my medical condition!

Recently, I realized that I must have been suffering from a PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). The definition of PTSD states that "the experience must involve actual or threatened death, serious physical injury, or a threat to physical and/or psychological integrity". My own experience has a lot to do with the last bit, namely "a threat to psychological integrity".

When I entered university, I came to know Ken Shiotani, who remains my best friend to this day. I used to hang out with him, walk on the campus, and discuss philosophically inclined problems as any bunch of aspiring young students would do.
Twenty something years later, Ken Shiotani is an independent philosopher, known in the Japanese scholastic community for his intractable but profoundly-sounding remarks.

In the sweet spring of life in which we were ignorant but angry young men, Shiotani was already a VERY intractable man. I would listen to him for hours on end, trying to decipher his intentions and meanings, ultimately in vain. He had a genius of saying things which were very non-trivial, sounding as if there was some truth hidden behind the intractability, but never assuring the listener of really having come to grips with the very foundation of what he was trying to say.

I have come to know many scholars since, but I have never met anyone like Shiotani. Bumping into him on the campus in the spring of the sweet age of eighteen was a very rare incident. Had I not met him, I would not have been exposed to the vintage intractability of his that I have somehow learned to take for granted.

Looking back, my experience is rather like that of a child growing up under the care of a unique parent. The child would not realize the specialness of the situation, and would tacitly assume that the world as a whole is something like his or her own actually quite unique experience.

Having had to somehow come to terms with his intractability has been the cause of my youthful and philosophical PTSD.

The other day I was having some drinks with Shiotani. I jokingly remarked to him that "I must be suffering from a PTSD because of you". I explained to him why I think so. He took his glasses off, and said, laughing, "and I have been actually thinking that at least you, of all people, would understand what I am saying!"

There began another chapter of our beautiful friendship.

Ken Shiotani having a go again at his "intractable lecturing" in a temple in Kyoto.

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