Monday, July 29, 2013

A snark for Mr. Biswas

The late, great Strother Martin (probably one of the Heiddeger Martins from Heidelberg, back in the old country) once noted, in a similar situation involving some other dunderheads messing about with the law, phenomenology and life’s problems in general, that what we have here is a failure to communicate.

But how to illustrate such a situation without in turn failing to communicate one’s own self? How can we avoid the relentless, downward spiral of miscommunication, and distrust which so plagues modern youth?

Such logical intricacies were a sort of busman’s holiday for a certain class of Hindu (and Buddhist) philosophers and sages of yore whose otherwise innocuous turbans concealed brains possessed with a fiendish capacity for splitting hairs. The very antithesis of the plain-talking Strother Martin, these learned gentlemen delighted in concocting the metaphysical equivalent of the blazing hot curries on which they subsisted; arguments possessed of such piquancy that they were often disguised as bland, easy-to-swallow parables lest they frighten the kiddies or scare the livestock.

The most famous of such parables describes the misguided attempt by a group of blind brahmins to describe what an elephant is like through touch alone. One brahmin, grasping the trunk, thinks the elephant is rope-like, the other hugs a leg and finds the elephant to be tree-like, and so on until you, the befuddled reader trapped in your occidental web of illusion, get the point and purchase another round of curry for the house.

Needless to say, this illusion business (better known as maya in the finer sort of new — and old — deli) is further compounded by this artist with the addition of a really top-knotch epistemological corker: the multivalent confusion generated by having everyone concerned being the same person.

In such a case, when observer and observed are one and the same, one can truly say that anything anyone might have to say about anything will be best classified as everyone speaking at once and hence no one knowing what is said (pauses to wipe forehead with a tea-dampened dosa). Or as a certain neologizing German thinkwallah might have put it, what we have here is a failure to überselbstzeichnungangstgemachen.

Stay tuned, tolerant reader, for next week’s exciting, hijacked episode of Lewis Carroll’s Hunting of the Snark … or something like that …

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