The philosopher is a character who turns up in various forms in my books. Here's his appearance in Tower, written some time in 2009. It seems particularly relevant to me now.
Meeting the Philosopher
MC turned to look into a male face with cheek bones far too visible under the taught flesh of his cheeks. There was an un-satisfied look on the face, as if he had expected somebody else.
“Sorry, do I know you?”
“No, no, of course you don’t, no. You wouldn’t know me MC, but I know you. Or I know about you.”
“Who are you? Why the disappointed look on your face?” The man was taken aback for a moment unsure of how to take MC’s comment, finally he smiled.
“Oh, no, this is just my face. I’m Irons, unlike most of the men here I am not a scientist, you see, I am a philosopher. We are by our nature disappointed, part of the job.”
“Why would a philosopher be interested in a science convention.”
“Two reasons, MC. First is that I do have a passing interest in science and secondly I had hoped you would be here.”
Irons scratched his face with deliberate strokes of his long, bony index finger. MC cringed visibly but Irons gave no reaction, he looked like MC as if through a one-way mirror, as if he was a fish in an aquarium.
“So, here I am.”
“Yes, yes, there you are. I see that. You’re not what I expected, you know.”
“What were you expecting?”
“Well, if I can take some of your time. To explain my theory, or at least part of it, if I could take your time to do so, I could perhaps make myself clearer.”
“Sure. What’s your theory?”
“My theory is that every man has his energy to expend and that those who achieve so much in such a short time, like you, I hope you don’t mind me saying that is the case. You don’t, I understand, appreciate empty flattery.”
“Go on. I don’t mind.”
The man was becoming more animated now, a red glow introduced itself to his face, and alleviating the pallor and making him seem much more human. He coughed before continuing, excited by such willing ears.
“Well, it is, or perhaps now was, my theory that in doing such great works your energy would be expended. The story of your seclusion in your tower, I had attributed it to the fact you had run out of fuel, as it were. The good die young, you understand.”
“Kind of. So you expected what? A walking dead man.”
“Yes. I suppose I did, but it is obvious that this is not the case. May I ask then, why did you lock yourself in your tower? Why did you waste all that time you could have been achieving something.”
“Well, I suppose, power to do something doesn’t necessarily mean that I want to do it.”
“You lost your direction. Tell me, how do you lose something like that?”
“The greatest of inspirations are also the most fickle.”
Irons grinned again, nodding knowingly.
“And I thought my profession was full of obfuscators. I take it you mean you did it all for a woman. So the question is if you are anything without the inspiration.”
“Yes, I suppose it is. You know, I never really looked at it like that before.”
“Ah, that is my job, I might talk a lot, I mean, I am a philosopher. But our job is to see things from another direction.”
“So, what should I do?”
“Philosophy does not produce good answers MC, just good questions. Speaking of which, I suppose, here is another one. What other sources of inspiration are there? If that is truly the only thing holding you back, I wonder if we now, the two of us together I mean, here, I wonder if we can’t think of something. As an exercise.”
“It sounds like you already know where this conversation is going to end Irons.”
“Very perceptive, yes, of course, it’s an exercise in futility isn’t it. Rivalry, I was going to say. You need to find an equal.”
“It’s more destructive like that though, the beauty of how it was before is that I was doing everything to make somebody happy. If it was just to get one up over somebody else, well, you see what I mean.”
Irons nodded. “I was going to say that too. It sounds like you have everything good invested in one thing, maybe that part was unwise. In history great people have found purpose in serving nations, causes, less fickle things. Do you have anything like that?”
MC shook his head. “No, I don’t.”
“It starts with a word, MC.”
“What do you mean, it starts with a word?”
“I mean, your cause. You make one yourself, I know by looking at you, you have things you consider right. You have your own view of the world but right now it’s just your own, that is to say, it’s just inside you and you refuse to fight for yourself.”
MC scratched his chin, not fully following the old man. “So?”
“Externalize those ideals MC, turn them into something you can be inspired by. I think that would be best, from my perspective.”
“I’m not sure what you mean, Irons.”
“Maybe it’ll come to you later, but it’s the obvious philosophical solution. I must leave you now MC, I don’t want to wear out my welcome with you. I know I talk too much, you probably have so many more people to meet here. I suspect almost everyone here has an appointment.”
Irons shook MC’s hand. “It all begins with a word MC.”
MC nodded. “Thank you.”
Irons slinked back into the crowd, leaving MC to piece together the puzzle his words had left in his mind.