Does he think we are concentrating?
Does he think we are able to listen? Does he think we are taking
Does he think that what he
teaches has any relevance to us? Does he think what he says can enter our
souls? Does he think that he will shape us by what he says? Does he think
we will be formed in some way? Does he think we are capable of learning
a lesson? Of taking something in?
True, we must admit that there
is something interesting about him; that he is a figure of curiosity for us;
that his quirks are unusual; that he is a ‘case’. We must admit that we want to
see where it is all going, that there is a sense of gathering urgency to
his lectures, that the momentum is increasing, that something is coming to
climax, that, soon enough, it will reachits head.
He is about to make the final
descent in his bathysphere, he says. He’s about to plunge into the depths of
thought’s trench, of thought’s abyss.
How deep he has come! How far
down he has plummeted! He mustn’t think of the million-ton column of water
above him. He mustn’t think of the straining and groaning of his bathysphere,
or of the chance that the steel sphere will buckle and crack. A single drop of
water, should it breach the cabin, would shoot through his flesh and bone like
a bullet ...
But he thinks of only of
sinking yet further. Of the undersea darkness no searchlight can illuminate. Of
the creatures of thought’s depths, stranger than any yet seen.
strong enough for thought?, he wonders, as he is lowered further. Can he bear
thought – the pressure of thought?, he wonders. What will thinking do to him?
How will it change him? Will be ever be able to return to the surface? Will he
be capable of living a normal life?
thought worth it?, he wonders, as bubbles flood past his capsule. Did he have
any choice but to think? To be cursed by thought, by the capacity to think – by
the necessity of thought?
comes and goes by its own lights, by its own desires, which are inscrutable, he
says. Thought comes and goes as it pleases. It approaches. It denies itself:
who can say why?
are some who are touched by thought, caressed by it. There are those who
thought lifts up, whom thought presses upwards to the heavens. There are those
allowed to bloom in thought, who live
beyond themselves in thought, who live astral
lives, wandering through the heavens. But there are those, too, who have been deprived of thought, cast out from it.
By a flick of its wing, thought floats elsewhere; by a sudden gust, thought is
blown away from you.
you think thought cares about what it gives you? Do you think thought pays any
heed to us at all? Thought is a blinded eye, he says. Thought is a gaze that
does not see you.
are some who fear thought, fear
thought – the power of thought; who fear what thought does to them, what
thought makes them. There are some
who don’t even want to think, for
whom thought is assault and dispossession. There are some who seek
to hide from thought, as Adam hid in the thickets of paradise. There are some
who flee thought, like Jonah, who ran to the very ends of the earth. There are
some who place guns to their temples and press the trigger. There are some who
plead for exorcism, plead for lobotomy ...
there are those, too, who are reverent
about thought, who surround it with ceremonies, kinds of thought-prayers. They
regard thought as a gift from God, he says. But thought is also ravishment and
wildfire and destruction. You can no more pray to thought than to a volcano on
the brink of eruption; thought is as indifferent to the thinker as a tornado is
to the town it ravages.
happens – or it does not happen, his brother said. Thought comes – or it does
not come. You who were thought’s vessel, may soon become the husk of thought. You, who were once touched
by thought, are now its empty shell…
of premature thought.
The danger that thought will have come too early, that it will be torn from him
The danger that
he won’t be ready for thought, prepared for it. The danger that he hasn’t read
enough, studied enough.
that he lacks the appropriate discipline, that he hasn’t been hard enough on himself;
that he hasn’t pushed himself farther. The danger that he lacks an appropriate indiscipline – that he is not open
enough, free enough. The danger that he is too guarded to follow his intuition,
to go where thought wants him. The danger that thought is too wild for him,
that it dances ahead of him, into regions where he cannot follow.
that thought will leave him, that it will send him away. The danger that
thought will use him up and discard him. The danger that he is too weak to
stand thought, to survive it. The danger that thought will ravage him, like a
wild animal. The danger that thought will rip through his body. The danger that
it will tear through him, destroying him. The danger of thought’s indifference,
that it cares not for its receptacle. The danger of thought’s glory, that it
burns too bright for its vessel ...
There are Japanese soldiers
who, not knowing World War II had ended, lived for decades in the jungle,
taking every measure to avoid detection, erasing their footprints in the
undergrowth, and living on rats and toads, refusing to surrender.
must be our example, he says. Thought has ended. Philosophy has ended. And we
must live on in logic, refusing to surrender.
Once upon a time, there were thinkers at Cambridge, Wittgenstein
says. Real thinkers. They strode around the philosophical landscape like
Titans. They threw the boulders of thought around, made war on each other,
bellowed in the frosty air.
There were once disputes at Cambridge. There were once enmities between
dons. This one wouldn’t speak to that one; this one would leave the room when
the other entered; this one would denounce the theories of the other in his
lectures, and have his theories denounced in turn. There were once schools of
thought, in dispute, but circling around the same problems. There were once
disputes about methodology. About legitimacy. There were old rivalries between Cambridge colleges, and between Cambridge
in general and Oxford in general, and between Cambridge and Oxford
as such, and the rest of the world. But it’s all smiles now, Wittgenstein says.
All, hello, hello. All co-operation and amiability. All soft skills and placation.
Oh, the dons are busy, he
knows that. The dons are busy in their Centres and Institutes. The dons are fully occupied bidding for funding. The
dons are busy fighting for money in internal markets. The dons are seeking
research monies. The dons are bidding for E.U. investment funds. The dons are
looking for corporate sponsorship!
The dons are busy! More busy
than anyone! The dons are launching spin-off companies. The dons are busy on
the new campus – the business campus. They’re courting venture capitalists over
lunch. The dons are seeking business partners across south-east Asia. The dons are looking to export the Cambridge brand! They’re
opening a replica of the campus in deepest Shanghai!
really, the don has become only a parody
of a don, he says. The don is no longer part of anything. The don lives only in
the performance of donnishness. In a kind of fakery. In a sense, that
only makes the don all the more powerful, he says. That makes the don all the
more anxious to hold onto the illusion.
The desire to save our Wittgenstein. The desire
to hook our arms in his and walk him to safety. The desire to lead him out of
this winter into spring. The desire to lead him into the English summer. To
show him the larks. To walk through woods of celandines. Through the
commonwealth of nature. Through the council of all created things ...
He harms everyone he comes across, he says. He
is a baleful influence, he says. Can he honestly say that he hasn’t harmed us,
his students, in innumerable ways?, he says. Can he honestly say that he hasn’t
sent us utterly off-course?
dons know how it will end, he says. The dons can see the future, he says.
will blow out his brains on the English lawn, that’s what they know. He will
make a real mess on the English lawn, yes, the Dons are quite certain of it.
The lawnkeepers will be extra busy that morning when he dashes out his head on
the English lawn, he says. They’ll have to rake out bits of his skull from the
grass of the English lawn, he says. The birds will pick at bits of his brain on
the English lawn, he says.
The forensic team will set up one of their investigation
tents to comb remove every last bit of shattered skull from the English lawn,
Easter. The Logik
will become a kind of weather, he says. A kind of atmosphere. You will pass
through the Logik as through light
morning mist, he says. The Logik will
settle on you, like Saharan desert dust is sometimes deposited on cars. The Logik will fall like heavy drops of rain
that bead the dust.
Easter. The Logik
will no longer be his book, he says. The Logik
will belong to everyone, he says, though everyone will have forgotten how to
read. Only there will be no need to read, he says. Or reading will be the same
thing as looking, as hearing.
he says. He can see it in us. We are waiting for his teachings to have finally
made sense. We want to know where we have been, where we have travelled. Will
the road we have travelled at last appear as a road, and not as an aimless