I had to drive to the city yesterday for my bimonthly medical review of the lab work related to my kidney condition (which I’m pleased to report remains stable). The attending nurse there, who hails from the Caribbean, described me as “rootsy”. “Rootsy” seems to be Caribbean slang for someone rooted, anchored, grounded, down to earth, centred as contrasted with flighty, fanciful, or given to “putting on airs”, as we say.
“Rootsy”, I thought, was a very engaging word, because it corresponds to the meaning “rad” or “radical” in its original sense (Latin radix meaning “root”, hence “radish”), and so to a sense of, and attunement towards, origin. And since Steve Lavendusky had mentioned in a recent comment that he was reading Simone Weil, and Simone Weil is the author of the notable book The Need for Roots, I thought it was all quite serendipitous because my thinking lately has been focussed on how best to represent Jean Gebser’s notion of Origin as “ever-present”.
In a world awash today in nihilistic intent, it is worth turning to Nietzsche — the philosopher of nihilism nonpariel. He was that above all else, really. He knew nihilism intimately from his own “stare into the abyss”, and he knew nihilism as the worthiest of all worthy opponents. The struggle with nihilism honed the human spirit, and compelled it to transcend itself. Anything truly worthwhile and everlasting — the treasures of darkness — were won from the struggle with nihilism. Probably, this is one of the chief lessons Jean Gebser took away from his study of Nietzsche. The fruit of Nietzsche’s own struggle with nihilism is summed up pithily in one memorable saying: “what does not kill me makes me stronger.”
There is a copy of Stephen McKenna’s translation of Plotinus’s The Enneads available online, and in includes his student Porphyry’s “Life of Plotinus”, which in itself is a fascinating read because of its depiction of intellectual life and the intellectual outlook in the 2nd and 3rd centuries of the Greco-Roman world. And in the life of Plotinus, and the meaning “philosophy” for the ancients, we see something of the grandeur of the mental structure of consciousness, of authentic Reason as it was understood by the ancients, and of philosophy as an heroic quest for emancipation. Proud Reason, proudly reasoning.