Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Poor Tom's Philosophy

-- By Tom Phillips

Poor Tom's a-cold.  Thus spoke Edgar, the hero of "King Lear," disguised as a naked beggar on the moor, adopted by the homeless King as "my philosopher."  Come in, Tom, and philosophize.

For 50 years, Poor Tom wandered on the moor, trying to understand an idea that others seemed to handle effortlessly.  They call it irony.  Somehow Tom felt irony was the key to his philosophy, but he couldn't quite grasp it.  What is it?

About 30 years ago, the earnest jester Kierkegaard offered a clue -- trying to picture irony, he wrote, is like trying to picture a dwarf wearing a hat that makes him invisible.

Thirty years later, Tom had something like a fever dream in which such a picture appeared, or at least the idea of a picture.  Irony is not something in itself, he dreamed, but the distance or disparity between things.  One can experience a gap without making it into a thing.  The dwarf is invisible because it doesn't exist, but it has outlines, therefore a shape, therefore an effect, because it is bordered by actual phenomena.  He leaped out of bed.  Eureka!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Sleaze Disease

--  by Tom Phillips

Last night dreamed I was late for a job -- a fiddling gig -- but was detained by a doctor who said he had to examine me.  Agitated, I submitted.  He wrapped a blood-pressure sleeve around my arm and squeezed.  He poked and gazed.  And then he sat me down for The Talk.

-- Young man, he said, I won't mince words;  you are suffering from a fatal disease.  It's named after the doctor who discovered it, Dr. Walter Sleaze.  The Sleaze Disease.  It's probably a good time to schedule that trip to Europe.

I tried to take it like a man.

-- How long do I have, doc?

-- Three or four years.  But it's hard to tell.  Sometimes it can go on for twenty years.

Even while asleep, it did not escape my attention that this life span was approximately that of any 75-year-old man.  But what the hell is the Sleaze Disease?