Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Humpty Hump

The expression “looks like a plan” is part of the assault on language that has been led by “we’re on the same pagers.” The eminence grise behind this movement is an unassuming fellow with graying, curly hair who believes he was the first person who ever responded, “I can’t complain,” when asked how he was. Yes, there is always a verbal Adam who spouts these inanities for the very first time, just like there was someone who contracted the first case of Marburg’s from a monkey. “Looks like we have a plan” is a little like Marburg’s to the extent that it infects the unwitting recipient and tears his insides out. There may be a diegesis to a series of actions, but these actions do not constitute a plan. They represent a futile attempt to find some order in reality. With time and the contingencies of other actions in the world, any rumination about the future that might be termed a plan is likely to be disappointed.

Only the other day a thinker on these matters was on his way to his annual camp reunion/sing-along, which was held at a well-known Manhattan private school. The thinker had made contact with several old campmates and others who he thought might enjoy the event. It was like going on a dig.  The event held archeological interest and was the kind of thing that might be placed in a time capsule for future generations to enjoy.

Using logic and persuasion, he enacted what he thought to be a plan to meet up with a few childhood friends at the reunion. Under the current linguistic regime, he might have smugly announced, “Looks like a plan!” But the thinker in question is a follower of the Milesian school of pre-Socratic philosophy, having studied such well-known figures as Anaximander, Thales, and Heraclitus. He knew the world was in a constant state of flux, and hence immune to plans. He knew, in short, that it didn’t “look like a plan,” and that neither he nor his correspondents were “on the same page.” On the way to the function, he might have sighed and felt a moment’s yearning for the tidy security of his camp days, but he quickly realized that, all things considered, his life was great, and, to that effect, said aloud, “I really can’t complain.”  A regrettable lapse of discipline, to be sure.  “Hindsight is 20/20” is another favored homily amongst the “I can’t complain” crowd, but the thinker quickly realized that he must neither complain nor lament his imperfect foresight.  Then Humpty proceeded to fall to pieces and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty back together again.

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