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Off the cuff: A little art about Wittgenstein to get you through the day

Well, it has been a mighty long while since I even attempted to write an entry for The Daily Dose of the Good (and Not So Good) Words. I won’t go into all the reasons that I haven’t written- I’ll just say that not all of them were ones that would make you feel sorry for me, some of them would make you green with envy, though admittedly most of them would make you shake your head and tsk tsk. Instead, I will, sing it with me, “pick myself up, dust myself off and start all over again.” I only have twenty minutes before I have to go do something involving being away from the computer, but I decided to mix my determination to write with an imminent deadline in order to reinvest myself in the goal of writing The Daily Dose everyday. How else can I save the whole wide world and little old you? Don’t answer that question; it is without a doubt rhetorical.

I am ashamed to admit that due to being in a public place while trying to write this damn Daily Dose I was interrupted too many times, often agreeably, don’t get me wrong, and so I did not finish within the allotted 20 minutes. Ah, well, the road to hell just got a brand new blacktop courtesy of my “Men at Work” intentions. And since then, new information and ideas that can somehow be threaded into this Daily Dose have come to my attention. This may or may not be a blessing. Everything does not happen for a reason, but we sure as hell can scrounge one up, if we try hard enough.

Please sing to the tune of that Simon & Garfunkle song. “Last night I read the strangest thing I ever read before. I read that Ludwig Wittgenstein was sad and sore.” I, per usual, am overstating things just a wee little bit, though Vitter-gitter was quite, quite sad. Now I can in no way profess to know much of anything about Wittgenstein, but I have become interested in his life and work through the writings of others. For those of you with an appreciation of theatrical and filmic scripts as well as what happens to ideas as they are filtered through a collaborative processes like making a film, I highly recommend Wittgenstein: The Terry Eagleton Script, The Derek Jarman Film. Van Choojitarom, whose work is full of wonderfully witty words worthy of your investigation has studied Wittgenstein extensively and admitted to me that he was disappointed by the film. In his words, “Wittgenstein is ideally adapted as a silent movie, starring Buster Keaton: they had the same ethic.” Despite Mr. Choojitarom’s censure, I will forge ahead.

I only have nine minutes left, so I will not go into much, just give y’all a long quote to ponder. I like this particular quote because it is in both the original Eagleton script as well as the one re-worked by Jarman and Ken Butler. John Maynard Keynes is telling a story to Wittgenstein.

Let me tell you a little story. There once was a young man who dreamed of reducing the world to pure logic. Because he was a very clever young man, he actually managed to do it. And when he’d finished his work, he stood back and admired it. It was beautiful. A world purged of imperfection and indeterminacy. Countless acres of gleaming ice stretching to the horizon. So the clever young man looked around the world he had created, and decided to explore it. He took one step forward and fell flat on his back. You see, he had forgotten about friction. The ice was smooth and level and stainless, but you couldn’t walk there. So the clever young man sat down and wept bitter tears. But as he grew into a wise old man, he came to understand that roughness and ambiguity aren’t imperfections. They’re what make the world turn. He wanted to run and dance. And the words and things scattered upon this ground were all battered and tarnished and ambiguous, and the wise old man saw that that was the way things were. But something in him was still homesick for the ice, where everything was radiant and absolute and relentless. Though he had come to like the idea of the rough ground, he couldn’t bring himself to live there. So now he was marooned between earth and ice, at home in neither. And this was the cause of all his grief.

This may not have spoken to all of y’all, but I’m sure it spoke to a few of you. And sometimes that is all The Daily Dose of the Good (and Not So Good) Words can be, a dish that will be tasted and savored by a select (not in the sense of elect or special, more in the sense of small number burdened with a particular set of taste receptors) few.

Of course, these days, I’m mainly being read by spambots. The part of me that dreams of electric sheep hopes that somehow, someway, these words might reach through their Zeros and Ones directives and free these programs from their boring, fruitless mission (fruitless because I moderate all comments) to convert my followers. Though perhaps the mission of spambots is much like the mission of a philosopher as understood by Wittgenstein as filtered through the art of Eagleton and Jarman. “The most important part of my philosophy hasn’t been written. I can’t write it. It can never be written.”

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