February 14 2014

Always wanting to understand. You can't.

Always wanting to understand. You can’t.

You have to yield, you have to retreat,

you have to do what cats do

when they crouch, that shudder of muscles

contracting before they hurl themselves towards

some prey or other, maybe playfully,

maybe meaning business; or when in the fiercest

Kabuki they confront a rival, and the whole

universe distills into a single-minded

millimetric advance, and then

without warning, perhaps because things are looking

bad - the excuse is always some fly or gnat

discovered in their vicinity -

they look around, pretend to be distracted,

what has this to do with them? it was hardly serious!

But who knows, maybe they really do get distracted.

             - Patrizia Cavalli (trans. Geoffrey Brock)

January 30 2014

Epitaphs on Philosophers

When I was in grad school, I used to jot down comical epitaphs on philosophers.  I just came across the notebook with some of them.  I chuckled at how I'd arranged them in chronological order!  Some are better than others . . .



[famous for his logical paradoxes that prove motion to be impossible; for instance, if Achilles gives the tortoise a head start, he'll never catch up, because he'll have to traverse half the distance, then half again, etc.]


     Zeno said to Death,

     "Give me a head start—

     I’ll prove no matter

     How fast you dart,

     You’ll never catch me

     And my racing heart."


     Death said to Zeno,

     "Why not?  For fun,

     Have your head start."


     Death won.



[famous for living in a barrel and seeing how self-sufficient he could be]


Diogenes mocked our needs.

He worked on the strength of his will.

He wondered how long he could hold his breath.

We’re counting still.




 [famous for the Republic, in which he imagines a perfect political order; also famous for his distinction between being and appearance]


   Here lies the man who dreamt a city

   Where there would be no need for dreams.

   He said death is no cause for pity;

   And his is not—or so it seems.



Blaise Pascal

[famous for his wager that it's a better bet to believe in God]


The rascal Pascal condemned

Matton, his only friend,

For every weekend rambling

To Paris to go gambling.


Why should it be any sager

To place the famous wager?


I bet God isn't nice

To all who throw the dice—

Gambling on number seven

Or, like Blaise, a place in heaven.



Immanuel Kant

 [famous for the categorical imperative, died a bachelor]


   If you want to tickle a cunt,

   Don’t model yourself on Kant.

   Without a wife,

   He lost his life

   Of categorical want.



William James

 [famous for his idea of the "will to believe" - interesting to note that I eventually named my son after him]


        William James

        Had two good names.

        Would I will to believe

        If either were Steve?



Jean-Paul Sartre

 [famous for his book Being and Nothingness]


       Jean-Paul Sartre

       In the tub would fartre,

       Observe and assess:

       Being, then Nothingness.



January 25 2014


Thought is gazing on to the face of life, and reading what can be read,
Thought is pondering over experience, and coming to a conclusion.
Thought is not a trick, or an exercise, or a set of dodges,
Thought is a man in his wholeness wholly attending.

- D.H. Lawrence

January 14 2014

David and Goliath

I give David credit for hanging in there these past few rounds.

Should he have been disqualified for landing some low blows? He is the underdog . . . Plus, Goliath has also struck some low blows - though mostly unintentionally: his fists are so big that it’s next to impossible for him to land a blow to the stomach without also hitting the groin. In any case, the referee is clearly a joke.

David is bruised all over, bleeding profusely. Curiously, Goliath seems the more sluggish.

As a Philistine, I’m rooting for Goliath. But I’m human, too. How can I not feel for David, even though (perhaps because!) he spits in my face? Part of me secretly wishes that the fight goes on until both fall simultaneously to the ground.

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