Allegorical Nonsense

An allegory. Nonsense. Put them together. Okay, not really.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Thinking about stuff

I like to think that I spend a lot of my day thinking about stuff. I see it as a good thing. I can see how people could think that "thinking about stuff" is kinda like daydreaming, where you're just sitting there lost in your own thoughts - but for me, this is less of a fault, and more of an aim.

I want to be a guy who thinks. Not a philosopher - I think I've read enough to realise that in order to be a philosopher, you have to use words like "aetiology" and "logorrhea", and I just don't think I have the vocabulary. Just a guy who thinks. Even if I only get to have one really interesting thought a day, I would consider that an achievement.

On the other hand, I work during the day. In a law firm. So I sit there, and I exercise my brain, and sometimes I do stuff which really might be considered creative. But not think. I mean, there's a certain futile feeling that comes with thinking in order to work out how to do something that's already been defined. And that's pretty much what working in law is. Sometimes you don't immediately know what the thing is that's already been defined. So you try to find out. You try to figure out the right questions to ask of the right people, and you maybe do a bit of research or (in my case) think back to those principles you learnt or didn't learn at university, and you maybe take a few wrong turns, and then you design a solution. And you hope it works. But that's it - even if you don't know that the problem is defined, and you can fool yourself into thinking that you're taking part in the "defining" process, it's other people's lives, other people's money, other people's things, and at the end of the day, other people who are not just doing to the defining, it's other people who have already done the defining, and you only get to find out when it's too late, and all the excitement that comes with really thinking, really creating something out of nothing - it's already gone. And that's it - that's the law. Always arriving at the party when the beer bottles are lying empty on the floor, there's a half eaten taco sitting in the tzatziki, there's some guy passed out on the couch dribbling on himself, and there are like three kids sitting out the back still smoking bongs. And that's depressing. I mean, you can go out and smoke bongs with the kids, but that's kinda escapism.

So that's it - that's my life. I work during the day. Sometimes I work so hard at doing this "not-thinking" thing, that I don't have any time to think. And then I get home at night and I'm tired, and all I want to do is hang out with my fiancee and read the newspaper and maybe write on the computer, and that's nice, don't get me wrong, but there's got to be more.

I play Scrabble. On Thursday nights, I go to the Tel Aviv Scrabble Club on Shenkin St., I pay my 23 shekels, and I play three games of Scrabble. It's an incredible release. It can actually be quite stressful, but a good kind of stressful - possibly I've got the word wrong, and I'd be better off calling it "tension" or something. It's like, when I compare that kind of stressful with the stressful I get during the day at work, it's completely different. At work, I'm like I feel like I've arrived six hours late and I'm just struggling to catch up to where I should have been when I was still lying in bed recovering from the day before. It gives me this feeling inside of internal explosion - which in a sense, like internal combustion, is what keeps me going through the day. But it can't be good for me - there's got to be wear and tear. I mean, how long does your car last - 10 years? 12? The little explosions inside have got to be doing serious damage in the long term. The Scrabble feeling is different. It's a feeling of competitiveness, like wanting to be able to play the best you can, whilst still recognising that there are a bunch of people who take the game a lot more seriously than you do, and who could thrash you like a dirty-heeled shoe that they want to wear indoors with just a flick of their tiles. It's a feeling I never got from sport. Because sport, for me, was never anything but a disappointment. I was never faster than anyone, better than anyone, more agile than anyone, except in these marginal sports like table tennis which no-one ever took seriously anyway. And one day, I played a game of table tennis against another kid at school, and he beat me hands down. That hurt - the feeling that even in the sport that I was okay at, that even if I did win, it would still earn me absolutely no kudos whatsoever in the way that the kids who were good at rugby, basketball, athletics, soccer, cricket, swimming, even trampolining, got. That sucked indeed.

I played a game of tennis once, against a kid who kept on hitting the ball hard to my backhand. Now, I'd like to think that I don't have a terrible backhand. Admittedly it's not as strong as my forehand, but whose is? I'm more of a hit it with a backspin long and deep kind of guy when it comes to backhand. One handed. Two handed backhand always felt wrong to me. So this kid picks up that my backhand is weaker than my forehand in maybe the second or third game of the first set. And from that point on, he hit every single shot of the match to my backhand. I'm not kidding here, every single shot. Point after point. I even kept hitting them back, even hitting them to his backhand, and he would always run around them, and hit them back again and again and again to my backhand. And I would lose. I'd lose the point, and then the game, and then the set, and then the match. And this kid would just keep on hitting it to my backhand. And at the end of the game, this kid walks up to the net and when I'm about to shake his hand he makes some comment like: "You'd better work on that backhand". And I want to kill him. I really do. Okay, maybe not kill him, but certainly cause him a lot of pain. If possible, on his face with the pain-causing part of my body of his choice. And when I was thinking about it afterwards, I thought, "why did I want to kill this kid?" I mean, he was just playing the sport in the best way he could to win the game according to the rules as they were. And yeah, maybe I felt it wasn't fair and that he shouldn't be allowed always to hit to my backhand, and it spoiled the game for me because I couldn't have any fun with it because I felt I was just losing and losing and losing, but that's what our culture encourages. We make rules for games which can be exploited, and except for the occasional Marxist on university campuses, there's no-one saying that exploitation of the rules is wrong. In fact, we treat it as a virtue. We celebrate the fact that people push the rules, and bend the rules, and even break the rules (sometimes), and we reward them financially and in other ways, and we, as lawyers, we help them.

I thought, the other day, that there is a point in having lawyers. Because, if you think about it, most people don't have lawyers. And they're the people who keep within the boundaries of the law, more out of habit than anything else. It's not that they don't rob banks because they're afraid they'll get caught, or because they have a morality which doesn't permit them to do it, but because that's just where they stand. They're the cows who are standing in the middle of the field, and it doesn't matter if there's a hole in the fence, it's not relevant to them. It's a long way away, and they're not at all likely to even see it. Then there are the people who do use lawyers. These are the people who are always pushing the boundaries, trying to see "what will happen if I do this", trying to get around everything they possibly can, pay the least possible tax, try to get out of the agreement without getting sued, trying to avoid doing criminal things and getting caught up by the police, this kind of thing. And sometimes these cows get out of the fence, and they come in again, and they jump over, and they walk through the holes, and the government or whoever is the farmer guy who mends the fence (okay, maybe the farmer doesn't mend the fence herself, perhaps she hires some hokey kid to do it - actually, in the advertisements for telephone companies or apprenticeships or something, it's the farmer who mends with the hokey kid who ends up getting the farmer's dog as a present). And the lawyers are the ones helping those cows do what they do. But the point of this is, that it's the cows who are pushing the boundaries that keep it stable for the cows standing in the middle. That is, without the boundary cows, the middle cows wouldn't have a middle to stand in, because the fences would just keep getting brought inwards and inwards and inwards until all the cows are suffocating for lack of oxygen and grass. Which brings us back to the kids smoking bongs.

But the point is, I don't think that's right. Maybe the cows on the edge are just tolerated by the cows in the middle because the middle cows are tolerant, but getting towards the ends of their tether? Maybe this is the difference between capitalism and communism - which way you see the relationship of the cows working.

Note to the gentle reader: I am not stoned while I'm writing this. Just really really tired. I was thinking of calling this blog "random musings", but I'm almost certain someone else already used the title. Why is it that we have this self-censorship for originality? Maybe, if we weren't so bothered with being original all the time, we could relax, and actually be original, instead of being abstruse, by trying to be more original than ourselves. I find this when I'm writing stuff, sometimes it's like - "no, don't write that, that's boring and been done before and whatever, write about this - that's original" and then I'm writing about something I know nothing about, and the whole thing goes to Gehenom. I've got this theory that there's a big circle of (un)originality. Person A wants to write about Thing A, but thinks, "that's not original - I'll write about Thing B instead". Person, B, who should really be writing about thing B, decides for the same reason to write about Thing C. And this continues on and on until we get to person Z (who is not necessarily 25 people after Person B) who writes about Thing A, which is Person A's thing. And if only all 26 (or however many) of them could agree to shift one to the left, everyone would be writing about the thing they should be writing about, and there could be some real originality. I mean, what if Paul Coelho should be writing Don De Lillo, and Tom Clancy should really be writing Salman Rushdie? That would be cool then, if they already write so well and they're not even doing what they could be doing better than they're doing now.

Clearly I'm tired. I'm going to sleep. G'night.


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