As Kate comes near the end of writing Silence: A Literary History, I find myself looking at 53 years of index card notes and mulling over a silence question of my own. There are a number of notes that I think are good, but might be better without their final sentences or paragraphs. These are cases where I present a situation and then spell out the moral explicitly. My older self now wonders, might it have been better if I had left that un-spelled out?
But it’s never a simple call. I dislike aphorisms that are slickly minimalist: it is my aim to be a philosopher, not a poet. Omitting all hints as to the point I am attempting to convey would be going too far.
Of course the poets must think about this issue all the time, and Robert Frost with his rural wisdoms was an interesting case. “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…,” I like to imagine he mused, is a great start. Now then, should I really spell out “I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference,” or is that too heavy-handed?
[14 October 2022]
I have marveled that although my life is far past half-way done, this doesn’t bother me much, which seemed irrational. But I’ve also argued, in connection with Pascal’s wager, that we are decoupled from our past and future selves by decreasing weight functions: that the present value of a pound of pleasure a year from now is only a few ounces.
I still hold to this view, and it explains the ice cream effect. If I assess my stage of life by integrating from birth to death without a weight function, then yes, I am 75% finished. With a weight function in there, however, the early and late years drop away. And that is why, throughout life, until near the end, as long as one is healthy, it can feel like the middle.
Living in the here-and-now is like driving at night with headlights shining on the road. A hazard ahead is nearly invisible until you get quite close.
[14 October 2022]
The other day on Holywell Street, I backed up without looking properly and put a couple of pedestrians at risk. This was bad driving. I was at fault.
The man gestured to me to lower my window and yelled at me about my bad driving. He was completely right, and I tried to tell him that I agreed and was deeply sorry. However, he was too mad, and he stalked off without hearing my apology.
And then boy was I mad too.
[4 October 2022]
The New York Times points out on the front page today that “Recently, Britain lost its place as the world’s fifth-largest economy to India.”
What an odd statement — not mentioning that India’s population is 20 times greater.
[5 October 2022]
At the Queen’s Lane Coffee House just now I decided to pay for my cappuccino with coins. The server said that was fine, but when I handed them to her, she turned the 20p coin over and around with some curiosity. Evidently she did not recognize it.
[3 October 2022]