October 27, 2007

A Metaphysical String Theory

As a tool to ensure that the foundation and framing of a complicated addition that I'm building come out straight, I bought a length of nylon string. In my haste, however, I ripped the cardboard spool, and the rapid unraveling resulted in tangles.

From a purely practical standpoint, it would have been more rational to cut out the snarls, salvage shorter lengths, and buy a new length of ready-wound string. But seeing the mess as a consequence of my own poor judgment (in turn, a consequence of my foibles), I undertook to undo what I had done.

What a metaphor for philosophy is a jumbled mass of string! In its loops and self-bindings the thread seems as many separate thoughts, alike in some respects, but unreachable each from each, and he who would understand can only pick them apart, isolate the offshoots, and pull the cut end through hole after hole.

One quickly realizes, of course, that a string of any length is difficult to keep straight while being unwoven back and forth through other notions, so a secondary spool — an organizing belief, if you will — is necessary to keep that which has been sorted orderly. That belief may then be used as a shuttle in the unweaving of the weft from the warp (although both are ultimately the same).

Some shuttles will prove too small for the job. Some will have thorny appurtenances that catch and bind the string anew. And none will prove as suited to the job of holding the string as the original spool, so one must ever be ready to abandon even those holdings that have served the objective well for a time.

All shuttles and spools and even threads, be they what they may, are mere tools, in the end. And the pursuit of disentanglement is most rewarding in ways transcending the implements themselves.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:35 AM

October 8, 2007

For Those Who Don't Know

I work as a carpenter around fifty hours per week. Another thirty or so, I devote to activities related to my socio-political writing. The rest of my time, I spend with my wife and children. Once or twice a month, I use this cathartic space to entertain myself with language as I work periodic anxieties and lamentations around into meaning and hope. And yet, the likes of Christine — who wouldn't know me from Dostoevsky — feel no compunction about entering my online home, as it were, and declaring:

I have inadvertently stumbled upon your blog and started reading through it - here's a suggestion for you - instead of feeling sorry for yourself like the world has somehow done you wrong and that we all owe you something. Stop wasting so much time on your precious blog whining about it and get out there and make the life for yourself that you feel you are entitled to.

You are what's wrong with society - everyone is a victim and invited to the world wide pity party.

Suck it up and do something.

I suppose that in some worldviews, a hardworking and socially involved family man who now and then uses literary habits deliberately to work through unbidden morosities is what's wrong with society. Personally, I'm more concerned that folks who mistakenly believe they've a talent for decisive and life-redefining snap judgments (involving others' lives, of course) have a say in our nation's governance and in both their professional and private lives exert some sort of influence over other people.

Thank you, Christine. You've given me another depressing thought to overcome with words.

Posted by Justin Katz at 7:29 PM | Comments (2)