The Telephone

“If anyone should think he has solved the problem of life and feel like telling himself that everything is quite easy now, he can see that he is wrong just by recalling that there was a time when this “solution” had not been discovered; but it must have been possible to live then too and the solution which has now been discovered seems fortuitous in relation to how things were then. And it is the same in the study of logic. If there were a “solution” to the problems of logic (philosophy) we should only need to caution ourselves that there was a time when they had not been solved (and even at that time people must have known how to live and think).”  

 —Ludwig Wittgenstein

One of only a handful of men whose inner and outer worlds were, as surely as anyone can be sure of anything from the past, never at odds, Wittgenstein came to me in a dream last night. He didn’t say or do anything– he was just there– perhaps a bit more confused than I about his sudden appearance. I was sorry to have to leave him behind, as it was a positively empty, happy dream. So, when I awoke I went searching for him in the next best place to my subconscious: the internet. Andrei Codrescu, as he has on a couple of occasions before, gave me just what I needed. A disjointed, totally sentimental compilation of random quotes taken from “Problems of Life,” accompanied by some exquisite photos of equally disjointed subject matters. Here, serendipitously, I found the thought at the top of this post. It’s one I’ve often borrowed when entrenched in discussions which threaten to delve a little more deeply into philosophy than I normally see it fit to tread.

Of course, what he’s talking about is much larger than the trains of thought I followed, but I couldn’t help thinking about how the psychology of mankind changed with the invention of the telephone.

  There was a time when your husband got on the horse and rode out of town, promising to return within seven days. On the sixth night you’d probably begin experiencing some anxiety? On the seventh, worry? And what about the eighth? How would you feel on the eighth night, with no neighing within earshot? Or perhaps you’d know enough to prepare yourself the first day for the possibility that he won’t return? Would hope carry you through? Or would you be desensitized by life enough to not be moved by it at all? I wonder. I wonder about the first man who called his wife’s cell phone five minutes after she left the house for work. The first one. I wonder what we gained or what we lost when we suddenly were given the tool, the gift, the opportunity to always know where our loved ones are. This must have changed us! One day you’re on your knees for a safe return and the moon and sun revolve around separations of all forms, the next, an entire piece of who you are and an aspect of what makes your life your life is plucked away– did not the collective heart of man sigh one very loud, weary sigh? And what came to take the place of this age-old weight? For, surely, something occupies it now!

It was a quiet day at the bookstore today. 




Posted by Aida


Filed under Excuse me. I have a Question., The Other Day at Portrait...

4 responses to “The Telephone

  1. Lucia

    These are the kinds of people who manage independent bookstores. Just something to consider next time Big Box or Online Behemoth tempts you with their discounts…

    Thanks, Aida, for keeping us, well, us.

  2. Lilly

    First and foremost: What Lucia Said. Multiplied by a thousand, Aida.

    I think of how it must have been to be Emily Dickinson, knowing how the cycle of communication in those days had a deep lag time — sending off a creation, the anxiety of it, turning the work over and over in your mind, second-guessing yourself for days, or thinking that a poem is perfect, but wondering if others will find it so. Waiting in her house to hear the fate of a poem she mailed off to someone… waiting to hear what the recipient thought, what their “judgement” would be… the eternity of waiting, and then a response.

  3. Donna DeLacy

    I think I know what has replaced it, just a different version of the same. It’s a cell phone that doesn’t pick up. A loved one who let’s the call go to message time after time. No phone call returned. Is that not the husband who doesn’t return on the eighth night?
    Along the same lines my family of origin would have missed so many adventures because of gone wrong meeting-up arrangements that went hay-wire and left one car unable to communicate to the other, “We’re going to be late” or worse “We missed the highway, we’re going ahead to Atlanta. See you at Grandma’s house.” Our family has several of these great old stories of mix-ups and being lost. The most famous being a 3 day trek from Texas to Florida where one family filled car never found the other until they finally checked in to the same hotel at the final destination.
    Today it’s almost impossible to get lost, get off the path, or experience crazy spontaneous adventures. Our lives are controlled by calls and texts and GPS.

  4. BJ

    Dude…. the rhythm of your words- pure magic

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