Saturday, December 22, 2007

The mature student as elitist twerp


The solitary drinker has always been regarded as a peculiar creature, worse than a cripple or an onanist. He is lacking something: another person, other people.
--Ludwig Wittgenstein.
(Much underrated philosopher)

It was probably because I was a solitary drinker, yea, even an onanist! that I almost choked on my exam in Greek and Roman history at Trinity College, Toronto.

"Students of Dr. French's class in Greek and Roman History will answer Part B of this exam paper.
"Students of Dr. Weintraubs['s class in Philosophy will anwer Part A."

I was so screwed in the head from all the vodka that I was glad we were writing the exam in the open air of the now-demolished Varsity Stadium.
Student by night, reporter by day. I had just come back from submitting a written piece to the Toronto Star, where people on the elevator, sniffing my breath had said something like "Man, this elevator is really loaded."
Still "loaded", I undertook to write the exam.
But I was so nervous, so hung over, , that I answered both parts of the exam, the Classics part and the Philosophy part. I had taken Philosophy at another institution, Ryerson, and remembered enough of it to actually
have no diffuculty in answering Dr. Weintraub's questions as well as those of my "home room" prof.

This, of course, weakened my overall mark; but if I were to fail, bigod, I would at least show Dr. Weintraub (a prof I never had) that I knew something about philosophy.

So after the boring section on the reforms of Kleisthenes, following the real estate grabs of the tyrant Pisestrates
(much like the mischief of today) I went back, for some reason to the section on Philosophy 101, not realizing that I did not have to do this.
Nervousness and the hangover that screamed to God.

"What is a syllogism?"

Well, I'd spent a lot of time in the Air Force, and it was certainly a phrase I wanted to build some humour on.

But, straight. Think straight:
"A syllogism," I had answered, "is a trio of proposisitons. Viz,' Socrates is a man. Socrates is wise. Therefore, all men are wise.'"

Nah, that's Sophist logic-chopping. I had to try another way. Let's see now... "The whole is greater than the part; therefore all wholes are greater than the part."
This brought me back to barrack room humour. I could just imagine old Plato saying this, adding, perhaps, "Now bend over, kid."

Oh beware of us late bloomers. Donus nus. Sumus fornicatus. "Give it to us. We'll f*ck it up!."

It is small wonder that we mature students would get our degrees and then stumble from one disaster to another
because we never did get our basics down in high school, especially the math, which as graduates of Trinity, we would eventually have to teach. (Trinity was like high school but three times as hard).

But beyond high school, there was something else. There was Kierkegaard, and Wittgenstein.

Kierkegaard: The only thing between the way you are and nothingness is language.

Wittgenstein: But what are words? What are sentences? A sentence is a word picture. Let us now examine the picture.
Wittgenstein seemed to undermine language itself. And underneath it all-- nothingness. Sartre?

Well, I did know that Wittgenstaein, for all of his philosophy, was a pretty salty guy and a veteran of the army himself.
I liked his other quote:
"F*ck and live. Suck and die!"
Now that was closer to modern times, but it could not stand up today; maybe that's why Wittgenstein eventually withdrew the quote. Said he didn't write it. But I know that old Ludwig once had a homosexual lover and that sure has hell would have made him more thoughtful than he already was. But he did marry and have children.

But still, like many of us, something of a flake.

I began to wonder, as my hangover cleared up, what it actually was that separated a Bill Clinton, Rhodes Scholar from the the solitary scientist, the bookworm, who, usually a complete failure, suceeds nevertheless because no one was watching him down there among the fruit flies and the bunsen burners.
A Rhodes scholar somehow gets it. He take science as a continuing inquiry, always adding the new.
He gets into public life and is always ahead of the pack. There is something he instinctively knows about learning, about life.
Well, old Wittgenstein again. Figure and foreground. Perspective. Without it, you are back down there with the fruit flies--unless, of course you're Dr. Davi Suzuki.

I drew a C+ on that exam. Just enough to pass.

But I had discovered, somehow, the back of my brain.

Being and nothingnes.

I had to be.

I just had to be.

And if not, there was always the drinking, which worked every time, and in your euphoria you went back to the Romans. In vino, veritas.
It's just getting that paperwork. Without it, you are just a self-taught fool, who, more often than not, has a fool for a teacher.
If I failed at Trinity, I would just be another drinker and thoughtful masturbator.

But not like Ludwig.
He had the paperwork.
But I suspect he was also also a drinker and masturbator. Had to be. He was a man.

Problems are sometimes resolved by humour.
"What did you get?" asked my editor at work.
"A 'C'".
"Ah well. It's a pass.
"Do you think it's going to make you write better?"
Ha.
The giggle of reason.
##

47 comments:

Donnetta Lee said...

To discover "being" and "nothingness" at the same time. Sounds pretty profound. IS pretty profound. We stumble across those moments in time somehow in spite of ourselves.

Donnetta

TomCat said...

Your C may have been beter that what the pResident of the US achieved. We cat't tell for sure. His grades are classified.

eric1313 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
eric1313 said...

No truer words...

Look out for us late bloomers

As Sun-Tzu understood, let the enemy act first, then from a seat of wisdom and knowing what it is your enemy holds as it's objective, you may act to counter or to out flank them.

Always, attacking puts the attacker at a disadvantage. A wise defender understands this, and understands the superiority is his to lose.

In war, in love, in life or writing, it is best to come late and come longest and loudest.

Did I just say what I think I said?

I am not about to hit publish...

eric1313 said...

Too late!

Now I leave my self open for the defender!

Gah! Argh!

ivan said...

Eric,
Yep. The way of the Samurai.
Always let the enemy make the first move, as in the art of war.
In art, as in writing, it seems the least talented are rewarded first.
I read somewhere theat the deeper talent is rewarded late, but the reward lasts much longer.

ivan said...

Dnnetta,

Yes, somewhere we start to discover the truth, and that "Sarter is smarter."

ivan said...

Tomcat,

Don't know what I would have done had I gone to Yale.
Probably couldn't have passed the "father's occupation and income" part.
Maybe Bush got a N, as in nepotism.

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
eric1313 said...

Ivan

Let the rewards come and let them last into twilight until the dark.

You never know, so keep writing as much as you can. It's a wild ride, and we never know how it will end up. But you have the creative drive and the fanclub!

Me? I need only my friends.

I just received an invite to meet up with my ex, Jessica, tonight, so maybe some magic will rekindle. God knows I deserve some good treatment after all the bullshit I've had flung at me.

Detroit is calling, holidays with the family as well as a date with old destiny in the form of a blue eyed-redhead. Be back in a few days.

Take care and write like the wind.

ivan said...

Tara,
I guess I too, was trying to say life is just as it is. Peter Mansbridge, our premier TV anchorman here, when asked about his educations, answered "Life."
And he's got the skill and savvy to be very, very good at his job.
Like most journalists, I suppose he left college or high school to do TV work and the man is a wizard.

As of "ate", my former wife had the most charming way of remembering out of our postal code here, which was a combination of letters and numbers:
L3Y 1P8.
She said, "I loved you for three years; one pie I ate." LOL.

ivan said...

Eric,
Nice how things turn around.

Your previous hard time with the lady reminds me once again of The Walking Man's Bogmen musicians:

[F] I know she's home
[R] Hello
[F] Hello, may I speak to Darlise please?
[R] She's not in right now
[F] Yeah, but that woman's never in, I mean can you just tell her
Freddie called
[R] Sure to
[F] Uh, uh, and one more thing. If she don't want to talk to me why
don't she just tell me herself. Why is she got to get her
roommate to do it?
[D,R] I'm sorry Freddie, this is Darlise. I didn't mean to leave you
hangin' on a string like I did.
[F] If you're seein' another -
[D] There's no other man Freddie, It's just that - I've got my *own*
home now, my *own* life, my *own* job! I'm a working woman!
[F] Yeah, just 'cause a man loses his job doesn't mean you got to go
dumpin' him on his ass!
[D] I can't talk any longer, I gotta go
[F] All right baby, I guess I'll talk to you later - at some point -
have a nice life - do what you want (click!)

Suddenly a woman leaves me - I've got no job - a machine relieved me
Suddenly I've lost my piece of pie
I'm now in mourning and I wear all blue
That's the color you wear when the dead one's *you*
Suddenly I am living in a lie
My woman's off with some other guy

[Nostalgic, pensive F ] I can remember the first time I saw her. She
was hangin' out in one of those singles bars. Wearin' a really fancy
dress - drinkin' a really expensive mixed drink - smokin' one of those
Marlboro 100's with the big fancy plastic filters on the end. Made
her look like she had class, least I thought so. But then suddenly
the bitch left me - all of a sudden like something suddenly

Suddenly I'm on my own
I don't hear no rings on the telephone
And all the rings I've given her have been returned

I cling to clothes she used to wear
Then I try them on and style my hair
Suddenly I could never be as fine as she
I've got her eyes - but I sure don't have her teeth

[F] I can remember when we would take walks around the public pool -
and the way she would look at me - and the way she would do this
whistle and how I would feel - I'm gonna try and show you what it was
like (whistling)

Suddenly I found myself drinking from the lowest shelf
And all of a sudden I just could not believe my eyes
There goes some guy walkin' down the street wearing my tie

[F] Suddenly I'm not gonna let another man take my woman. Not even
death can do us part. Because when I'm an angel, I'm gonna come down
from heaven and I'm gonna buy her a brand new Cadillac. I'm gonna buy
her a brand new Cadillac!!

Let me tell you why - let me tell everybody why - Because in the 50's
it was pompadours - and in the 60's it was peace - in the 70's -
bellbottoms - I don't know why - in the 80's Ronald Reagan - BMW's -
sushi - back home we used that for fertilizer - but in the 90's LOVE -
love is the new fad - I love you - good God almighty I love you Ya da
da da da da da da da da da da....

Suddenly I have found myself alive

!!! GET Bogmen - Suddenly ringtones !!!

ivan said...

...And have an unforgettable Christmas with friends and family, Eric!

eric1313 said...

Ha! That was some entertaining reading, Ivan. I commend you for typing all that out.

Yep, shortest trip ever. My car's engine caught fire and I hitch hiked home. Seriously. I'm fucked. Looks like I'll be moving to Arkansas, since the donkey job up here will pay beans, and down there, I'll work for my best friend and make two to four hundred a day.

Besides, nothing is keeping me here anymore. Change is calling me and I'll embrace it and find out it it has a sister.

ivan said...

Eric,
You are psychic for sure...I had a lot of trouble cutting and pasting that. Blogger kept reproducing not only the "song", but my entire blog that came before...a peculiarity matched only by my refusal to be scotched by a stupid adding machine, i.e., the computer.

On your poor car catching fire on poor you. Friggin' decisions made on a full moon.
I'd suggest you stay put till Chrismas is over, at least.
Once the damn moon wanes, it'll all ge clearer to you.
I am a little bit spooked over here myself...Recall all the times I decided to cut and run on a full moon. Lunacy. Always the wrong move.
Think about the donkey job in Detroit....A bird in the hand...
Fok. I've got my own bird in my own hand while the furies howl all around, and it didn't do me any good at all to watch that Predator movie with Arnold Schwarznegger.
You gotta marry a rich woman--like tomorrow. Her plan might be better than yours.
Joyce Carey: "Your plan is no good.
When are we going to learn that God's plan is better?"
And as my Ukraiinan ucle might say, "No money, no funny."
Something seens out to get us all.
It's name is poverty, and, as the commies might say, the only thing worth writing about.
Hang on to something solid and let the disaster glance off you.
Knock on arborite, or at least hang onto the arborite, white-knuckled.
This will pass.

eric1313 said...

I will pick up a rich one.

www.grossepointsingles.com

I'll find a rich girl their for sure!

ivan said...

Ah some of those girls have undercover tendencies.

My experience has been that they usually come accompanied by the Scarlet Pimpernell.
More often than not, a pimp. LOL.

Save your money and go to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. They love writers over there and just a few lines of your poetry might act as a pretty good pany remover.

...In my own experience, I had found so many American divorcees in San Miguel that I almost had to beat them off with a stick.
Or stick them off with a beat.

Nowadays, as in the campfire song, "The font of my passion is now a waterspout." Egad.
I must say, however that last week was the semi-annual event of my erection, and for this, at least, I was glad.

the walking man said...

The solitary drinker has always been regarded as a peculiar creature, worse than a cripple or an onanist. He is lacking something: another person, other people.


Rule 1 only drink with your friends

Rule 2 you will always drink alone.

Peace

mark

ivan said...

Mark,
Why is that so right-on?
I think I remember you quote here from the past. I think it was Omar Khayam--or did Josie send it in...?
You know not from whence you came, or where you are going.
So drink.
But there is another logos, the need to stay with and support your family, no matter what.
I married rich, so I just kept drinking.
And drinking.
Raise a glass of Stroh's beer to ya and Merry Christmas on this full moon.
There is enough snow left here in the rain to keep Christmas white.
Or else it will be a green one, but a green Christmas in Canada is rare.
And to my friends of other faiths, a Merry Ho Ho.

ivan said...

Mark,
Why is that so right-on?
I think I remember you quote here from the past. I think it was Omar Khayam--or did Josie send it in...?
You know not from whence you came, or where you are going.
So drink.
But there is another logos, the need to stay with and support your family, no matter what.
I married rich, so I just kept drinking.
And drinking.
Raise a glass of Stroh's beer to ya and Merry Christmas on this full moon.
There is enough snow left here in the rain to keep Christmas white.
Or else it will be a green one, but a green Christmas in Canada is rare.
And to my friends of other faiths, a Merry Ho Ho.

ivan said...

Whoops.
Blogger's got the burps agin.

Josie said...

Gosh, there's always a party at Ivan's place. :-) Get out the good stuff.

Cheers,
Josie

ivan said...

Josie,

Yeah, I've been drinking with Blogger, but all of a sudden, everybody seems here.
Oh, blessed relief on Christmas Eve. I will have been the night of the full moon, and I would have probably gone quite mad on the way to my older sister's in Hamilton.
As it is now, Older Sister is having Christmas dinner right on
Canadian Christmas, afternoon. (we gave up being Orthodox). That's the 25th, of course, a day after the full moon.
I will be sane, and hopefully, good company.
Merry Chrismas again, Josie.
Looks good.

Middle Ditch said...

Just passing by to wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year. until then.

ivan said...

Thanks Monique.

I tried to comment on your blog, but Google gave me the burps again.

Ivan

t said...

Love and life has left a bitter taste in my mouth. I have tried I have thought, and no answer do i get.

ivan said...

Uh, was it old Perry Como?

"And love will come and tap you on the shoulder some starlit night...;

"Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket..."

Oooh. That's hot!

eric1313 said...

Merry Christmas, Ivan.

Let's toast;

to the words that live in our hearts.

May they never leave us
in our moment of dire need.

(which is every day for a writer!)

Got the smirnoff right here.

Clink!

ivan said...

Eric,

I know the place you are talking about.

And Na Zdrovya!

And Khrystos Razhdayetsia.

Merry Christmas!

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ivan said...

Hm.

Reminds me of what E. A. Monroe had said in Dave's "blabber" blog,
out of New Jersey.
He sometimes gets as amany a 300 responses a day, and Liz had said she gets lost in a crowd.

Ah well. I am a witch doctor, MD of the rain forest.
I will attempt to cure your agoraphobia.
I swer on some days, after ingesting enough mushrooms, that I see wood nymphs.

eric1313 said...

Mazal Tov!

I believe I'll just comment via email from now on.

I don't want to crowd anyone with my evil presence.

As Tony Montana said in the movie Scarface

"look at the bad guy"

Peace out.

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ivan said...

Hey, c'mon guys, I am just as familiar with Moses Maimonides as
The Book of John.
And it's hardly Oy oy Mazel tov as I see people leaving the comment space here.
So let's all me mensches and maedeles and cut out the bullshit.

Tara, I am just a face behind a screen.
And Eric, comment and debate in this blog space would be sorely lacking if you were to leave.

All this sturm und drang over the sribblings of a nearly seventy-year-old coffin dodger is making me want to scratch my head.
Everybody gets an A. :)

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ea monroe said...

Ahoy, matey, up thar in the riggin'! Merry Christmas Eve, Ivan!

Eric, if you don't like Arkansas you can always trek over the state line to Oklahoma. Okies will treat you right, plus it's a little closer to Ivan's San Miguel!

Liz

ivan said...

Old Newfie expression from the guy up there in the riggin':

"Snap 'er again. It's got me by the balls!"
Lard Liftin' Jeezus!

...OOps. Gotta watch the bit of sacrilege on an important night like tonight.

ivan said...

Liz,

I'd better set the alarm clock tonight. My tippling might lead me to miss Santa Claus altogether.
...And that would be a disaster, for withouth Santa Claus this Chrismas, I won't be able to live.

Big Santa fan over here.
He always comes through.

Merry Chrismas Eve to you as well, and have a Merry Ho Ho tomorrow.

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