Eating a perfectly ripe apple, crisp and sweet and tangy. A pear is more sensual, subtle in taste. It is a thing of porticos, colonnades, patios dripping with wisteria; pears belong to a subtle world where one pauses to taste because there is a reason to do so. So much of the world is an apple that bursts on the tongue all sugar and tang, crunch crunch gone. But a pear slips into the mouth, soft and a little gritty, the moment deep with meaning. It promises a world that will reveal its secrets if only we pay attention.
I know far too much about the woman across the aisle. I noticed her just a couple of days ago. She’s a student named Angela. She was walking by my seat and the hand she used to hold onto the bar – right at my eye level so I wasn’t visually eavesdropping or anything – had her student id card. Angela has really nice taste, I want to ask her where she got her tote. It has soft, muted colors and big flower print and looks both young and mature at the same time, which is perfectly appropriate for Angela, a college student who is mature enough to want to go to Turkey.
Yesterday she was reading a travel guide to Turkey, today a Turkish language book. It’s the book I used when I took Turkish years ago. I took it because I studied linguistics in college and Turkish has a cool feature: infixes. These are like suffixes and prefixes, but they go inside the word. In English we look for -ed and -ing at the ends of words and re- and un- and the beginning, adjusting our sense of time or direction accordingly. In Turkish, you look for that modifying information in the center of a word.
I took the class with my friend Clare, another linguaphile because it was being offered at the Piedmont Adult School, lasted only a few weeks and cost less than $50. This was before Clare got sick. I would pick Clare up at the train station and we’d drive up the hill to the high school where the class was held. One day, Clare didn’t show – that’s not when she got sick, she got sick many years later – and instead of going on to the class, I went home.
I hate it when people don’t show up for things we are supposed to do together. It makes me wonder if I exist. So I went home, but it turns out Clare was just kept late at work. She managed to get to class, taking two buses and was shocked when I wasn’t there. This was before cell phones, so she had to take three buses to get home to call me and asked where I was. I felt so bad. Even now, I wish I’d gone to class that day and trusted that my friend would have had a perfectly good reason for being late and would need a ride home.
Even with the infixes, I didn’t last with Turkish longer than the class. I’ve never been all that interested in Turkey except for the Trojan war. For a long time I wanted to know what Turkish Delight was because Edmund in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe liked it so much he was seduced by the White Witch. That must be really good stuff, I thought. But it isn’t all that good, certainly not good enough to betray Aslan for some. Edmund was a chump.
Angela was on Lesson 2 and the day before she’d been reading a tourist guide to Turkey so it seemed like she was more interested in actually going to Turkey rather than just learning about the infixes. And as I was trying to see what Lesson 2 had been about, I noticed a small wound on her inner arm. It wasn’t long, but it had been deep enough to need a stitch. What had Angela been doing that she got stabbed in the arm? What wounds do we inflict on ourselves unknowingly? If I knew her, I’d email Anglela this link to photos of Turkey that someone posted just today on an email list. .
Coming up against a thing after deciding to do something.
In that moment between the experience of a desire and the initiation of action to bring about that desire.
When in that moment, something rises up, billows into existence that is a pressing in, a threat that makes the desirous body flinch, pull in, retract. That which rises is the daunt.
Domptous beast that ranges between me and the world.
To press in, bear upon, constrain, obstruct. There is a bluntness to the effect as it comes from all points at once, distributed across the whole of being. It forces back against the desire.
Domare, dominate, tame. The ferocious desire is met with constraint. This is the Devil’s work. The one who rattles the chains we have bound ourselves with.
This daunt paces ready for my next desire.
Joaquin Sorolla Bastida. From a postcard I found at the local library bookshop. Self-portraiture has it’s challenges. Here the artist paints himself wearing gloves and an overcoat – like he’s waiting for his date to finish up before they leave for the show. The artist is painting himself in transit. He could be anyone, but his white gloves show no sign of paint splatters.
The basic argument: If I say “think of the greatest thing EVAR” you know what I mean. It’s obvious. And what’s greater than something you can think of? Something that actually exists! So the greatest thing ever must exist in physical reality. Otherwise it wouldn’t be as great as the thing we’re thinking when someone says “think of the greatest thing EVAR”.
I went with my own translation of the big Latin construction Anselm uses to name g*d: quo maius cogitari non potest. The translation I kept coming across is “that than which nothing greater can be thought”. I hate relative clauses used in this way. It strikes me as one of those serpentine constructions used to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition because English should be like Latin and aren’t we all so learnéd and scholarly. I can certainly see that rhetorically, it’s sometimes necessary to complicate the term you’re using to name g*d (whatever that is), but every time I read this phrasing I have to stop and work out whether the “that” is acting as a pronoun or a conjugation, and what the “than” is referring to, and which thing the “which” is standing in for. It’s annoying. So I started substituting the phrase “the greatest thing EVAR” and that speeded things up.
When Anselm introduces his name for g*d (quo maius cogitari non potest, “greatest thing EVAR”) he says this phrase’s meaning is obvious. That just means the language game we’re using to understand the phrase hasn’t been mucked up with reflection and critical thinking. But just because language allows us to form the phrase “greatest thing EVAR” doesn’t mean it refers to any particular thing. We just hear “thing” and assume we know what things are. We also assume that one of the qualities a thing can have is “being great” because we can say “that’s great!” And then we assume that the quality of greatness can have magnitude because we can say “greater” and “greatest”. But those thoughts are all just games the mind can play with language. There doesn’t have to be any actual physical reference.
There’s also a really big if in Anselm’s argument. He just claims that reality is greater than whatever you’re thinking without going into why we should accept that premise. We just have to accept the premise that reality is greater than whatever we can think of for the argument to work because if reality isn’t necessarily greater than the greatest thing you can think of, then the greatest think you can think of could be the greatest thing EVAR. And if we’re going to define God as the greatest thing EVAR (quo maius cogitari non potest) this opens up the possibility that your thought is God.
On the other hand, if reality is always greater, than what you’re thinking is the greatest can’t be unless the greatest thing EVAR doesn’t actually exist in reality. And if it doesn’t exist, that means that every shitty thing that actually exists must be greater than the thing you’re thinking of. If the greatest thing EVAR does exist in reality, than it’s greater than whatever your think is the greatest. So obviously you’re not trying very hard.
If God exists, he’s probably sick of this recursive thinking by now. At least that’s how I’m imagining him.
And then there’s the whole problem of the Devil. No matter how horrible a thing I think of is, I imagine it would be worse if it were more horrible than the greatest thing is great. And whatever that worse thing is, it would definitely be worse if it actually existed. So apparently it must actually exist.
Did I mention I just saw the Red Wedding episode of Game of Thrones?