I read the words of thinkers and sometimes I read Shakespeare’s tragedies, namely Hamlet. I read Hamlet during respite from the words of thinkers and the ideas in my own mind. I don’t read fiction or the histories, which are largely the same. I’d rather read the words of pure thinkers, for thought is a condition of itself and only itself whereas fiction and history are conditions of the surrounding narrative that outlives them. Stories live forever in one form or another but pure thought is fleeting and demands to be captured. Descartes, for example, laid in his bed staring at the ceiling and its junction of two walls, stricken at once by candlelight with an idea he simply had to write down, an idea that had nothing to do with narrative, nothing whatever to do with the world he lived in, the political and religious turmoil, civil strife, disease and natural cataclysms, his own agonizing chronic pain, no, his walls and his ceiling spoke to him in coded heresy and mathematical jargon and he rose, wraithlike, hobbling to the desk by candlelight in his robe to compose an unprecedented system of geometric coordinates, timeless and practical, the system rich in—what seemed to him—a veiled utility.
This is of course not to say there’s no merit in narrative or fiction or history, especially the great works, no, but I prefer to cultivate the garden in my mind with the purest of the pure, the foundations of all thought, a trail that of course leads to culture, innovation, social hierarchy, paradigm, transcendence, what have you. Ideas that form the building blocks of all culture and sociography. But Shakespeare is different. I am haunted by Hamlet, for reasons I know not. I’m connected to the text without having seen the great tragedy performed, without having a friend like Horatio, without a father living or dead to honor.