The pleasure of getting started

6:20/5:31/8:02, 68/90. Birthday of Sophie’s Choice author William Styron, an excessive drinker whose attempted sobriety at age 60 propelled him into temporary madness and the memoir Darkness Visible. He said “I like to stay up late at night and get drunk and sleep late. The afternoon is the only time I have left and I try to use it to the best advantage, with a hangover.” He said he didn’t enjoy writing.“I get a fine, warm feeling when I’m doing well, but that pleasure is pretty much negated by the pain of getting started each day.” WA

I love getting started each day, earlier than this, without a hangover. (But I have to say, the Tailgate Saison last night was great. So was the Good People Bearded Lady from Birmingham.) And I love thinking of myself as a self-starter. If I didn’t, maybe I wouldn’t feel bad when I slept too late and before you know it I’d have slipped into that bad habit again.

 I want to say Styron should have tried early-rising too, but that presumes free will. Is my pleasure in the dawn a choice of will, or a determined necessity? Schopenhauer said we can do what we will but cannot will what we will, and seems to have found consolation in the embrace of futility.

As an admirer of William James I’m a bit conflicted about this. I believe in free will, am charmed by the bootstrapping operation whereby depressive types make a show of pulling themselves off the mat and doing what needs to be done (“my first act of free will shall be to believe in free will and act on it” etc.), but also believe in letting people find consolation where they find it. Typically they find it in some un-evidenced religious doctrine, less typically in a philosophical judgment or perspective like determinism. If you’re a pluralist, you can’t be a reductionist.

But would anyone ever push or bootstrap towards a difficult goal without some sense of willful initiative? Are ambitious, accomplished determinists and fatalists disingenuous in denial of that? (Looking at you, Sam Harris.)

I’m now willing myself to strap on the Skechers and get out of here for an hour. Or so it seems.

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