It’s been two long months since we handed our manuscript to Oxford, and I think I’m finally starting to appreciate what we’ve done and how much effort it really took. There hasn’t been much rest…after shutting off the machine for a couple of weeks, I got back to work on a paper I just delivered at the University at Buffalo (Capen Lecture Series). Jorge Gracia invited me to speak about the way in which the search for identity in Mexican philosophy influenced the writing of Mexican philosophical history—so I tried doing just that (here’s the paper). I don’t know if I succeeded in convincing Jorge of anything, but I can brag about having the opportunity to try. Next, I’m writing a piece on Zea and Bondy for the Cambridge History of Philosophy series. After that, though, the focus will change a bit. It will be a more applied project dealing with Mexican philosophy and Narco Culture (here’s a paper I just published on that). Then, I got some unfinished business with Uranga and his De quien es la filosofia? that I want to tackle. Then I’ll get lost, if I’m not already.
Today, here’s a story my grandfather told me when I was 7 years old: I was tending to my cows in the sierra east of Villa Mendoza, Michoacan. I had been doing so for about 12 days. On the last day, the wind and the rain picked up. I had been sleeping under the stars, wrapped in a blanket by an enormous Fresno tree. With the rain pouring down, I made a shack out of weeds beneath the tree. There I would spend the night. I lit a cigarette and got lost in the sound of rain the leaves. I heard footsteps and out of the darkness my compadre Tomas appeared. He was wet. I was happy to see him. I asked him where he was heading. He said he was going south. I didn’t bother to ask him why he was here or why he was here at night. The question didn’t enter my head. I did notice he was worried, so I asked him, compa, que le preocupa? He said he didn’t get a chance before he left to deliver a litter of milk to the widow Marta back in town. He liked to do as he promised–complir con sus deberes–and this, simply, bothered him to no end. But he couldn’t go back. He asked if I could deliver the milk on his behalf. I gladly said yes: claro que si, compa! I invited him to stay the night under my shack and we both fell asleep. When I awoke, he was gone. I gathered my animals and we made our way back into town. Once there, I milked a cow and took the milk to the widow. I told her that my compa Tomas had asked me to bring this milk to her, that he’d forgotten to do so before he left town, and I’d promised him the night before to do it for him. The blood drained from her face. She said, yes, he had promised her a litter of milk and thank me for bringing it, but asked me if I was sure about when I had this conversation with Tomas, since my compa had died 7 days before. In fact, he had been buried the previous evening. She had been there. She saw the body. I didn’t get scared or curious about the whole thing; as a matter of fact, a deep sense of peace came over me–and happiness–since I had spend one more night with my compadre. And besides, this wasn’t the first time I’d spent time with the dead, and it wouldn’t be the last. So, Carlitos, I tell you this because it’s important: always keep your word–siempre cumple con tus deberes. And there the story ended.
I’ve had this story echoing in my head quite a bit as of late. What I find interesting about it is not the Kantian lesson it contains, but my grandfather’s implicit assumptions about death; a pretheoretical understanding that death is there–being, presence, as the night sky or the rain. There is no anxiety about being-toward-death or about the destruction of alll my future possibilities; since death is already an accomplishment. I know much has been written about this (I have written about this), but I’ve always wondered what my grandfather would’ve said about it–how he would’ve philosophized about death. cas