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And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.

(Luke, 1 vs 18 – 20)

And so Zacharias was made dumb, for a while. Luke has an appreciation for silence; “But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart”. Perhaps, over time, Zacharias also came to appreciate silence. His muteness came to seem, not a divine punishment but a sign of esoteric knowledge. Perhaps Gabriel could have said “I shall prove this truth: you will not be able to speak of it.” Silence here is the seal and just as, before drinking, one may check the bottle is well-sealed, so with real knowledge – you will be prevented from speaking of it; first you drink, then the bottle is sealed; and by the seal you know the vintage.


Das große Problem, um welches sich alles dreht, was ich schreibe, ist: Ist, a priori, eine Ordnung in der Welt, und wenn ja, worin besteht sie?

Du siehst in die Nebelwolke und kannst dir dabei einreden, das Ziel sei schon nahe. Aber der Nebel zerrinnt, und das Ziel ist noch nicht in Sicht!

The great problem around which everything that I write turns is: Is there an order in the world a priori, and if so what does it consist in?

You are looking into fog and for that reason persuade yourself that the goal is already close. But the fog disperses and the goal is not yet in sight.

(Wittgenstein´s journals, 1 June 1915, tr. Anscombe)

Sondern man spricht, vielleicht unbewußt, in Wirklichkeit die alte Sprache, spricht sie aber in einer Art und Wiese, die der neuern Welt, darum aber nicht notwendigerweise ihrem Geschmacke, angehört.

No, you are really speaking the old language, perhaps without realising it, but you are speaking it in a way that is appropriate to the modern world, without on that account necessarily being in accordance with its taste.

(Wittgenstein’s journals, 1947, tr. Peter Winch)

…from Tolkien’s letters, dated 9 – 10 January 1965:

I am neither disturbed (nor surprised) at the limitations of my ‘fame’. There are lots of people in Oxford who have never heard of me, let alone of my books. But I can repay many of them with equal ignorance: neither wilful nor contemptuous, simply accidental. An amusing incident occurred in November, when I went as a courtesy to hear the last lecture of this series of his given by the Professor of Poetry: Robert Graves (a remarkable creature, entertaining, likeable, odd, bonnet full of wild bees, half-German, half-Irish, very tall, must have looked like Siegfried/Sigurd in his youth, but an Ass). It was the most ludicrously bad lecture I have ever heard. After it he introduced me to a pleasant young woman who had attended it: well but quietly dressed, easy and agreeable, and we got on quite well. But Graves started to laugh; and he said: ‘it is obvious neither of you has ever heard of the other before’. Quite true. And I had not supposed that the lady would ever have heard of me. Her name was Ava Gardner, but it still meant nothing, till people more aware of the world informed me that she was a film-star of some magnitude, and that the press of pressmen and storm of flash-bulbs on the steps of the Schools were not directed at Graves (and cert. not at me) but at her…

i’ve been ill all this week, probably made worse by my trying to work through it. It is possible to teach while shivering like a Dickensian orphan and reeling and staggering like a Dostoevskian drunk, but it means i take longer to recover. i’ve also lost all interest in blogging. The idea of writing for an audience seems weird and a little perverted. However, i hope i shall recover the will to blog in time, as i hope i shall recover relatively normal health.

i’ve been reading Tolkien’s letters for the first time, with pleasure. Some fine samples:

29 November 1943

My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs) – or to ‘unconstitutional’ Monarchy. I would arrest anybody who uses the word State (in any sense other than the inanimate realm of England and its inhabitants, a thing that has neither power, rights nor mind); and after a chance of recantation, execute them if they remained obstinate! If we could get back to personal names, it would do a lot of good. Government is an abstract noun meaning the art and process of governing and it should be an offence to write it with a capital G or so as to refer to people. If people were in the habit of referring to ‘King George’s council, Winston and his gang’, it would go a long way to clearing thought, and reducing the frightful landslide into Theyocracy.

9 December 1943

I wonder (if we survive this war) if there will be any niche, even of sufferance, left for reactionary back numbers like me (and you). The bigger things get the smaller and duller or flatter the globe gets. It is getting to be all one blasted little provincial suburb. When they have introduced American sanitation, morale-pep, feminism, and mass production throughout the Near East, Middle East, Far East, U.S.S.R., the Pampas, el Gran Chaco, the Danubian Basin, Equatorial Africa, Hither Further and Inner Mumbo-Land, Gondhwanaland, Lhasa, and the villages of darkest Berkshire, how happy we shall be. At any rate it ought to cut down travel. There will be nowhere to go. So people will (I opine) go all the faster. Col. Knox says 1/8 of the world’s population speaks ‘English’ and that is the biggest language group. If true, damn shame – say I. May the curse of Babel strike all their tongues till they can only say ‘baa baa’. It would mean much the same. I think I shall have to refuse to speak anything but Old Mercian.

An excellent chap.

If it looks like a dobermann kicking you in the bollocks, sounds like a dobermann kicking you in the bollocks, and feels like a dobermann kicking you in the bollocks, then it probably is a dobermann kicking you in the bollocks.

Another everyday tale from back home. Such scum are the norm in England now; i call them “children of Blair”, those raised during the New Labour years. In Germany this kind of thing would be exceptional, in England it’s just normal. The sooner the Great Cull begins the better.

Einen Satz, den wir jemals werden bilden können, hätten wir auch jetzt gleich bilden können.

If a sentence were ever going to be constructable it would already be constructable.

Wittgenstein´s journals, 21 November 1916

Great series of youtube clips of Frank Wilson riding the bus. Here, he engages in argument with a young thug, and beats him down without mercy or regret. Best line of Frank’s: “I seen tough guys like you and I slapped the shit out of them”. It seems the argument was originally to do with Wallace Stevens but it quickly escalated:

Truly, he does the man dance. This spawned an amusing remix of Busta Rhymes’ “Call the Ambulance”:

and this peculiar and wonderful tribute:

and this splendid Dr Johnson like video essay by David Spates, on the folly of attacking bearded white men:

Best line: “It’s all fun and games till the 150-year-old white man beats your ass in front of everyone on the bus”.

Well, Frank’s a bit younger but i feel confident he could still do the man dance.

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