Nov 16

The Philosophical Equivalent of Jazz

One of my profs today described pragmatism as the most American of philosophies — y’know, like the philosophical equivalent of Jazz. It gave me a flash of insight concerning a conversation I had when I was an undergrad.

cycladic idolIt was summer and I was on a plane returning from Israel after an archaeological dig. An Israeli seated next to me explained that he worked for Continental, the particular airline we were on at the time. In fact, as he took out a list of Continental “getaways” or some such, he explained that he spent his time putting together vacation packages like trips to the Caribbean by actually making said trips. Why I didn’t take the conversation in the direction of “how do I get in on this and what do I need to change my major to” I’ll never know. Instead, after I explained what I studied and how I spent my summer vacation, he pointed to the photo of a Cycladic idol next to the Greek islands vacation package and asked me what I thought about it. In particular, he wanted to know why the idols always had their arms bent and folded against their bellies like that. Of course after two whole semesters of majoring in classical archaeology and then my actually paying someone else to let me perform manual labor in the Mediterranean sun, I was fully qualified to comment.

I replied tentatively, “well I’m not sure, but it makes it rather solid and if the arms stuck out they would easily be broken off.” The rather burly man roared expressing his disappointment “oh, you Americans! You’re always so literal and practical in your views. No imagination!” Now, I’d like to add that by the time I graduated I had a more nuanced understanding of Geometric art (please don’t take back my degree now!). I can’t remember what my response was to his assessment of my interpretation, but I think knowing what I know now, it would’ve been perfectly reasonable for me to thrust my fist in the air and yell “U-S-A, U-S-A,” proudly.

I just remembered one reason I used to post here a bit more. It gives me a place to exorcise these random connections instead of my actually inflicting them on humans. (Only the interwebs were harmed in the venting of this rambling narrative.)

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