If

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

Rudyard Kipling

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Reason Uber Alles

Here is a tale about Noumenal and Phenomenal. It starts with a thing that is its own thing — and that’s not cant — and is distinct from a thing that is known through the senses.

Which serendipitously introduces Phenomenal.

And immediately the experience they could have shared is quickly handed over to a German philosopher whose will-to-life is misunderstood as pessimistic but is in fact lighthearted and absurdist.

Actually, I came across this philosophical tale lampooned to my sickly tree this morning. It was titled: “The Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason.”

Having insufficient reason and tenfold fingers, I tore it down and let my daughter colour it in. She returned a half a minute later with a masterpiece. It was titled: “Adequately Unreasonable Until I Reach the Age of Reason.”

Then I drove to work in a terrible fug of the Critique of Pure Reason. I almost hit a standing pedestrian because of it and cursed, “Out of my way! Don’t you understand the universe is not a thoroughly understandable place, and with you stepping out into the road like that it’s getting even more confusing.”

She fingered me. I threw her an elementary matter. She replied in kind with a flash of flesh. I fancied it. But then a subject-object distinction struck me that I might be going along with the German Idealists!

Had I just be molested by a Cartesian tradition?

I wasn’t sure. But I longed to get my hands on those mammary glands.

Then I had one of those perennial philosophical reflections when one discovers not only one’s own essence but also the essence of the universe as a whole. (And I was sure Morrissey had written that.)

But back to the girl. Now she was, viz., unity, plurality, totality, reality, negation, limitation, substance, causality, reciprocity, possibility, actuality, and necessity.

I had had enough.

Vorstellung.

I pressed on the gas and that hypothesizing thing-in-itself as the cause of our sensations and which amounts to a constitutive application suddenly made me stop.

I unlocked the doors. Invited the girl in with a gesture that is a shared reality but regarded from different perspectives. Which translates as she punched me. I punched her back. Vis-à-vis. Or because one punch dispersed throughout space and time causally relates to another punch. Or in layman’s terms: One damn bad seed deserves another. She smarted. I smarted. We both kissed.

And that, I believe, is what Schopenhauer describes as the principle of self-consciousness.

And here my tale ends

The lingering velocity of desire

I should have been a philosopher, which is the idlest occupation in the world, I think, because the philosopher is involved in abstract thought. A lifetime of idleness in academia would have suited me. But since I didn’t go that path, I’ve chosen the next best thing as an idle occupation: writing. But, writing isn’t exactly idleness, either. To quote Will Self, and not myself: “There’s enormous tension between indolence and languor.”

By the Fly Will You Know Him

So, last night the big, boisterous, bellicose, brutish Bluebottle of Success came knocking. Unlike the other nighttime insects he refused to fly around the outside light or knock himself senseless at the door. No, he thumped on my door with his meaty legs. And, silly me, I let him in.

Reeling in, he stank of warm booze. His stiff, hairy abdomen glistened with unknown putrescence. His two wings were like shards of glass. He blinked one compound eye and a million reflections of me suddenly were wiped off the face of the Earth. (I even saw little clumps of shit clinging to his thick, bushy legs. )

Digging deep into his greasy abdomen he pulled out a sheet of immaculate white paper. One of his meaty legs languidly stroked the slick oily hairs on his bruised, blunt head. He emitted a phlegmy cough. In short, invective language, he wanted me to reel off my accomplishments. All I could think about was how big was the mound of shit this bluebottle walked over. I’m still working on it, I stammered. Not good enough for the brutish Bluebottle of Success. He wanted substantial evidence. He wanted something tangible, something juicy to pierce with his unctuous mouthparts.

I quickly tried explaining in a language I hoped he could understand. I told him that like a mosquito I had pierced skin but unlike the mosquito I was yet to taste blood. He simply snickered. It sounded like hard gall-bladder stones.

Try this then, I said. (Inside I was fluttering between composure and a sudden death-wish more like a moth than man.) I’m in the larvae stage still.

Now a big booming laugh filled the room in a pinguid miasma.

I’ still gathering like the ants, I implored.

More unctuous chortling followed by a bloated hissy fit.

I even tried being clever. I’m still rolling the shit like a scarab. I hoped he would sympathize. All I got was a sucking sound and my multiple reflections captured in his hollow eyes. He buzzed with impatience.

But I had nothing more to give.

Feeling nauseated not only by my own failure but also by his noxious odour, which was a cross between dead fish and moldy cheese, I did the next best thing. I lay prostrate on the floor and invited the Bluebottle of Success to clamber over me.

Even before his hairy, meaty, angular legs touched my horripilating skin — my wife arrived. She’d come downstairs to see who in hell I was talking to at such a late hour.

And thank god she did. Because as I was roused from my little slumber, I saw a big fat fly was sitting on my nose. With one deft swat, my wife killed it. Turning to me she said irritably, “Why do you allow such tiny irritations to rule you? All it takes is one sharp blow and they are eradicated!”

But she has always had a fine moral.

Cross-Country Sport

Today I went for my habitual walk beside the sea. With hindsight, it might not have been such a good idea. I collided with a cross-country skier.

I will say in my defense, though, that the glare off the snow was blinding, like snow Twizzlers in the eyes. I don’t know what the skier’s excuse was.

My first reaction was to lay down the law. Ask aloud what the hell’s going on. But then I hesitate. My first mistake. And then I notice she’s attractive. My second mistake.

And she’s wearing hip North Face to my tatty tweeds. Tight uber-cool pants to my baggy remnants of a bygone era. Her trendy shades reflect my nerdy reading glasses. Firm tits to my sagging testicles. Trendsetting pigtails to my receding hairline. She’s urban and young and I’m wishing I was and remembering that I never was.

At this point I really should have spoken up, given her some tongue, instead of just staring.

My hesitation was my downfall. I’ll never underestimate the young again.

She waxed my balls, made me strip, and create a snow angel in less time than it takes to say “creative class.” (Although I will say that the snow angel was my best work to date, even under duress.)

Afterwards, the sun glinted off her polished skies and with a chuckle, like the uploading of tunes to a flashy new iPod, she slushed off in the melting snow, letting gravity take her down a slope, her fancy black pants snug-fitting on her arse, her pigtails glistening like brandnew forks.

I gathered up my haberdashery (not clothing, since everything I wear can be turned into drapes, tablecothes, or the upholstery for Edwardian chairs), stiff and cold now, and trudged up a slippery incline.

When I reached the top, desperately trying to step back into my démodé trousers, I wondered if this encounter had sullied me or made me more sexually liberated.

The seldom seen, but heedless, kid