Mudpies and Fishfrys (Installment #2)
He is walking around on many a college campus. He is sipping on many a Venti Mochacchino at the local Starbucks. He is finding repose and shade under many a willow tree. At the moment, these are vague definitives which define many a person and/or personality. And so I persevere… He wears the grey woolen socks adorned with the presupposing orange stripe around the top. The visage of his hostings is due to the shabby (artificially weather beaten) sandals attached to his feet. This often than not bearded bloke, sporting Lennon-esque lenses, appears to be a throwback from the 1960’s decade of debacle and debauchery. In one of his hands he carries a tattered copy of Heidegger’s Being and Time. Apparently still not yet apparent. And so I continue… To intellectually fence with this fellow is to frequently fend off a flock of follies, as it is with many foes of this age. Yet, with this particular type of person, sophistical questions are continually raised which darken and hoodwink the atmosphere of what should be productive argumentation and discussion. It is as if a great cloud of dust emanates from the mouth of this intellectual babe forcing one to close one’s eyes in defense. And when the eyes are reopened and the dust has settled, the head of the lowbrow is still pointed to the heavens (at a 45 degree angle from the line of sight) with his chin firmly placed betwixt his thumb and pointer finger with the rest of his hand assuming the form of a fist. I’ve always wondered (not imitating the aforementioned “heavens glare/nothing’s there” formation mind you) what in the Sam Hill is he staring at? It is as if he is looking into the great beyond and into the land of great profundity only beknownst to him. What is not known to him is that his experience is delusionary. A chimera of epic proportion. A state of dementia at best. The madness is manifested in the sophistical yet far from sophisticated question that is asked by the individual non compos mentis. “But do we really exist?” is an example of such a question. The fact that this question is asked in a haughty aire and in search for a reaction of wonder from the listener rather than for it’s proper end renders it vacuitous. “The best works of art are utterly unconcerned with pleasing” (Goethe). The discerning mind realizes that the query is not stupendous but in fact stupid, often causing a state of stupor in many a conversation. The inquisitor flees from true philosophical questioning, imprisoning himself “within the narrow scope of what is ‘usable’ – precisely because he chases after novelty, and desperately, obsessedly, tries to effect and surprise by thought and expression and thus to contribute to a certain form of ‘higher entertainment'” (In Defense of Philosophy, Josef Pieper). Prima facie, this wiseacre, guilty of tomfoolery, looks to be wise and not a fool at all. Upon closer examination one realizes he has erred in judgment. The infamous ignoramous with his copy of Heidegger and his sophism stands small next to a young child with his copy of the latest Curious George (the great philosophical monkey) adventure with a genuine sweet tooth for knowledge. The child, in saying that “George is friends with the Man in the Yellow Hat”, is making a “pure philosophical statement worthy of Plato or Aquinas” (Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton). Perhaps the ignoramous, instead of staring into nothingness and in pursuing kudos, should cast his eyes down upon the child and take a lesson from the true purity of inquisition.