Walker Percy Wednesday 160


An unvarying element in the situation is a pointing at by context. There must occur a preliminary meeting of minds and a mutually intended subject before anything can be said at all. The context may vary all the way from a literal pointing-by-finger and naming in the aboriginal naming act, to the pointing context of the poem which specifies the area where the metaphor is to be applied. There is a reciprocal relationship between the selectivity of the pointing and the univocity of the metaphor: The clearer the context and the more unmistakable the pointing, the greater latitude allowed the analogy ofthe metaphor. The aboriginal naming act is, in this sense, the most obscure and the most creative of metaphors; no modern poem was ever as obscure as Miss Sullivan’s naming water water for Helen Keller. A perfectly definite something is only the most tenuous analogical similarities.*

Given the situation of naming and hearing, there can only be one of three issues to an act of pointing at and naming. What is said will either be old, that is, something we already know and know quite overtly; or something new, and if it is utterly new, I can only experience bafflement; or new-old, that is, something that I had privately experienced but which was not available to me because it had never been formulated and rendered intersubjective. Metaphor is the true maker of language. The creative relationship of inscape, the distinctive reality as it is apprehended, and the distanced metaphor is illustrated by Hopkins’s nature metaphors. His favorite pursuit in the nature journals is the application of striking (sometimes strained) like-yet-unlike metaphors to nature inscapes. There are some pleasing effects. A bolt of lightning is

a straight stroke, broad like a stroke with chalk and liquid, as if the blade of an oar just stripped open a ribbon scar in smooth water and it caught the light.

* The old debate, started in the Cratylus, goes on as lively as ever: what is the relation between the name and the thing, between the word green and the color green, between slice and slice, tree and tree? Most linguists would probably say there is no relation, that the name is purely an arbitrary convention (except in a few cases like boom), that any seeming resemblance is false onomatopoeia (no matter how much you might imagine that slice resembles and hence expresses the act of slicing, it really does not).

But here again, do likeness and unlikeness exhaust the possibilities?

Apparently not. Curtius remarks that “despite all change, a conservative instinct is discernible in language. All the peoples of our family from the Ganges to the Atlantic designate the notion of standing by the phonetic group sta-; in all of them the notion of flowing is linked with the group plu, with only slight modifications. This cannot be an accident. Assuredly the same notion has remained associated with the same sounds through all the millennia, because the peoples felt a certain inner connection between the two, i.e. , because of an instinct to express this notion by these particular sounds. The assertion that the oldest words presuppose some relation between sounds and the representations they designate has often been ridiculed. It is difficult, however, to explain the origin of language without such assumptions.”

It is this “inner connection” which concerns us. The sounds plu and sta, which could hardly be more different fro m the acts of flowing and standing, must nevertheless exhibit some mysterious connection which the mind fastens upon, a connection which, since it is not a kind of univocal likeness, must be a kind of analogy.

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In Our Time

Melvyn Bragg hosts In Our Time: it’s reassuring that there are still some intelligent and sober mainstream radio programmes around. Though Bragg ain’t no Bryan Magee (few, if any, can match him) Bragg’s series could nonetheless be a useful supplement. Remember kiddies, even if you are formally enrolled on a university course, in essence the burden of getting an education is still an autodidactic experience — unless of course you have given over your mind to robotically assimilate and regurgitate your activist professor’s whingeing off-the-peg worldview, thereby compromising your intellectual and moral integrity, and consigning yourself to being mere cannon fodder. Some of the episodes that caught my eye include: The categorical imperativeThe Republic, Hannah Arendt, Animal Farm, Zeno’s Paradoxes, sovereigntyTristan and Iseult, utilitarianism, Josephus, The Wealth of NationsThucydides, phenomenology, truth, The Trial, the philosophy of solitude, Berkeley, the trinity, The Symposium, complexity, ordinary language philosophy, Pascal, Montaigne, epicureanism, Russell, the ontological argument, scepticism, game theory, Neo-Platonism, Moses Mendelssohn, Erasmus, Hume, the cogito, freewill, Maimonides, logic, Burke, The Varieties of religion Experience, Schopenhauer, Aquinas, logical positivism, The Consolations of Philosophy, probability, Kierkegaard, Camus, Socrates, Ockham’s razor, SpinozaPopper, Mill, The Oxford Movement, Don Quixote — and many more episodes besides.


Stax Country

Prima facie, I think this should make for an interesting listen despite the dissenting voice of Hal Horowitz. Another Horowitz (Steve) in Pop Matters and Joseph Ryle in The Recoup think otherwise. Reasonable disagreement amongst reasonable people . . .


India meets NOLA

As a Brit living in North America if ever there were a cuisine that I have regular cravings for it is Indian, Indian long-since becoming the national cuisine, a most welcome antidote to the grimness of the then-British cuisine of the early ’70s. Inevitably, there is so much schlock out there or if one goes to a supposedly high-end restaurant, the flavours have still been severely muted for “gringo”. Finally, there is an Indian restaurant in NOLA that is garnering some excellent reviews — Saffron NOLA. Note, their deployment of the word “evolution” in effect says that “cultural appropriation” fundamentalist fuckwits really are pissing in the wind. The food scene in N.O. is distinctively driven by a threefold inextricably linked dynamic: (a) food is an active highly qualic non-utilitarian cultural pillar to everyone’s daily life; (b) it is hyper-competitive not only because of (a) but because of the relatively small geographical proximity; and (c) because of (a) and (b) cuisines in NOLA partake in a conversation with each other in an adventurous way (Saffron’s cocktails a case in point). Saffron also provides a vital N.O. “morning after” Sunday brunch. I look forward to eating there: aside from the not so standard accoutrements (truffle naan!/I don’t see chutneys, pickles and papadums listed), what caught me eye was:



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Here are a selection of reviews:


Theology + Geometry: A Gentleman’s Worldview 4

Classic from issue 16. So far as I’m concerned the most important item from The Chap Manifesto is number 8: “THOU SHALT NEVER WEAR PLIMSOLLS WHEN NOT DOING SPORT. Nor even when doing sport. Which you shouldn’t be doing anyway. Except cricket”. (In common parlance, those hideous and disposable artificial fibered walking billboards known as trainers, in great part sweatshop manufactured, ubiquitous even amongst anti-capitalistic regressives). Anyway, back to larynxial decoration: I’m pleased to report that my wonderful friend and collaborator is of The Splendid variety which he assures me is worn primarily for tactical reasons to outwit bureaucraps.

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