Saturday, 7 March 2020

Q: Why is a duck? A: Because one of its feet are both the same. by Bill Kirton


For this blog to make sense I need first of all to set out my religious or spiritual beliefs.  That's easy.  I don't have any. I care about people but I have no time for the artificial systems they’ve created. I'm not knocking any specific religion but anything which peddles the idea of delayed gratification makes me angry.  When people are suffering in this life, why make it even worse by promising that the next one will be better? I realize that most people reading this will disagree with such a position and probably not even have read this far.  But, however it appears, it's not my intention to alienate them or get into religious debate.  I recognize their right to their own opinions, and that their beliefs are as valid for them as my absence of belief is for me.  This is just the background for the main point I want to make.

This is an absurd triangle. It’s said to be an ‘Illustration of a mathematical proof by contradiction’. Don’t worry, I’m not going to try to explain it because I don’t know what it means either.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Absurd_triangle.svg

For me life is absurd – hugely enjoyable but absurd. (And, except for the ‘enjoyable’ bit, the political shenanigans of recent years seem to confirm that opinion.) I’ve said in other blogs, perhaps in different ways, that life, in fact, has no purpose, point, direction. This ‘now’ in which I’m tapping these words out on these keys, has no link with the ‘now’ when you’re reading them.  Like every other ‘now’, those nows are contingent, self-contained.  There are those who find such a position impossible; they need to feel that they’re part of a continuum, following a path towards a destination. They assume that life without meaning is unbearable, empty. In an interview, the actor Stephen Rea spoke of being directed by Samuel Beckett in Endgame and being given ‘two groundbreaking notes’. He’d asked Beckett what a particular line meant and Beckett’s reply was: ‘Don’t think about meaning, think about rhythm’.

Accepting that ‘meaning’ is a construct, an arbitrary notion of how processes work – or even that there are such things as ‘processes’ at all – helps me see just how precious it is, how lucky I am to have benefited from the accident of birth and how I intend to make the most of it. A melody or a sunset or a kiss doesn’t have to have ‘meaning’ to make it pleasurable.

But wait a minute, activities such as sports or the arts do have meaning. They follow their own rules, have conclusions, resolutions – they have the good, old-fashioned beginnings, middles and endings. Each painting, symphony, play, novel sets out its themes, its contrasts, then plays them out against or with one another. And of all of them, it’s the written word which brings it all closest to ‘reality’. (No, I’m not comparing and contrasting the different art forms and creating a league table, it’s just that the constituent parts of literature – words – are so definite and relate specifically, directly, to our everyday world in a way that musical notes or brush strokes don’t.) And, thanks to that, they give us the illusion of structure, meaning.


Depending on your own position on all this, it may seem self-evident (or rubbish). My main point, however, is that when we’re creating our fictions we’re taking a time-out from arbitrariness and contingency and, in a corny way, cheating them. We’re making a wee universe in which rules are obeyed, sins are punished (or not) and the final full stop comes where we choose to put it, not at some arbitrary point as we’re crossing the road or eating a pretzel or lying oblivious to the probings of the surgeon’s scalpel. Taken to its logical conclusion, this implies that our best shots at ‘reality’ are the fictions we enjoy as readers and writers. What a pity that life doesn’t imitate art.

9 comments:

Jan Needle said...

That's all very well, Bill, but I still need to know who Mr Albert is/was. I asked Sam Beckett once, but he was dead.
In addition to which. who the FF is clarabenet?

Sandra Horn said...

I agree totally, Bill (I think). There is a strange, if transient, comfort in pie in the sky when you die, karma, etc. even when we know it's all my eye and Betty Whatsit, though. Hmm.

Bill Kirton said...

Jan, Sandra, thanks for your tolerance.
Clara, go away.

Eden Baylee said...

Hi Bill,

I still love the non-sensical duck joke! And life is absurd. The more I live the less I know.

How the hell does that make sense? :D

e

Greta said...

Your religious or spiritual beliefs are the same as mine, Bill. Seems once again we are in violent agreement. Perhaps we should start a cult?

Bill Kirton said...

Eden, it's not a joke; it's a fact.
Greta, anywhere you'll lead, I'll follow.

Enid Richemont said...

On the principal of not giving air time to the trolls, cb isn't a person but an electronic nuisance which can't always be zapped by the moderator, who also has a life. Ignore it.

julia jones said...

Thanks for this -- realise that what I have written for today is perhaps a version of something similar. Maybe that's why I like biography. I like the nerdish checking of dates and facts against the published stories NOT to catch people out in their reshaping of experience but to observe the process

Have you read Jan de Hartog?

Umberto Tosi said...

You've articulated my own - sometimes scrambled - existentialist philosophy to a T - so well, clearly.