Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Philosopher Watching The Tides

Having fallen there unwittingly, I gathered a bit of moss, a harmless, bewildered stone. Vincent took it on himself to make me more aware of what was around me, at least at that level; he told me the histories of the sects and the lives of the individuals, the alliances and feuds, the realignments and splits, he filled me in on a host of different points of view, on systems colliding, theories breaking up, arguments bubbling over, and proliferating isms, budding and fissiparous, like minute vibrations. When I had mastered all these details I realized that it had not really got me anywhere at all. - Queneau

I completed Odile by Queneau a week ago and found satisfaction in its inchoate stance. Nothing of an absolute sort has been divined by me personally. It is an ongoing sifting and strolling. I read somewhere that Julian Barnes is our Montaigne. Puzzled initially, I grew fond of that description. I finished his collection Pulse two weeks ago and found it uneven. Maybe it was me. I read the following three years ago.

In 2006, at the Kiev zoo, a man lowered himself by rope into the island compound where the lions and tigers are kept. As he descended, he shouted across to the gawping crowds. One witness quoted him as saying, "Who believes in God will be unharmed by lions"; another, the more challenging, "God will save me, if He exists." The metaphysical provocateur reached the ground, took off his shoes, and walked towards the animals, whereupon an irritated lioness knocked him down, and bit through his carotid artery. - Julian Barnes

During that autumn of 2008 I read the above aloud to my friends Lloyd Wimp and Roger Baylor, both whom practically howled with laughter. Lloyd has since past. Roger and I don't speak as we were once accustomed. Perhaps that is the point of both passages.


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