"Finding the Happy Ending" appeared in Grub Street.
This version of "Ducati Vasectomy", which appeared in zone 3, includes the logical formulate that are missing from the version below.
"Behold I Tell You a Mystery" appeared in Stone Canoe.
published on the Hamilton College FB page (so not really published, I guess)
“Suppose that you came as an explorer into an unknown country with a language quite strange to you. In what circumstances would you say that the people in that country gave orders, understood them, obeyed them, rebelled against them, and so on? The common behavior of mankind is the system of reference by means of which we interpret an unknown language.” (Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 206).
I have two rules, which I remind my cat of over and over, but that he seems unwilling to follow: “No one is allowed to lick themselves when they are on my bed,” and “No one may scratch themselves so energetically that they shake the bed.” When he does either of these things (which he does just about every night once I fall asleep) I remind him of the rules. But he just keeps licking, or scratching, or both, and I have to remove him from the bed so that I can go back to sleep.
I don’t understand this: I have no problem following those rules. I never lick myself at all, so a fortiori I never lick myself while on my bed. Nor do I ever scratch myself so much that I shake the bed. And it’s not like he can’t follow rules. For instance, the rule about cats not being allowed to use the credit card or the remote control? He follows those rules, as far as I can tell. The rule about cats not being up on countertops seems like a rule he follows while we’re around, but I suspect he violates it at night, after I’ve kicked him out of my room.
published on the Hamilton College Philosophy Department Facebook page--an homage to the students on the HC Streaking Team
As I was sitting in the Commons Dining Hall on Halloween, eating lunch with some of my faculty friends, I heard the roar and cheers that generally signal the appearance of the College’s (unofficial) streaking team. As I began to get up to get some soup, I found myself looking straight at a naked woman who wore a mask with pink and silver feathers on it, sneakers, and a backpack.
She was followed by several more naked people—all pinkish colored from the cold of late October; all wearing masks; all jogging rather slowly, winding their way between the tables in Commons. I sat down again abruptly, to get out of the way. They turned to their right, and continued to move through the dining hall. Some of the diners looked away; most of us cheered.
Once they’d left, and we’d settled back into eating lunch, another colleague of ours came over to our table. He’s new to campus, and we began a discussion of the streaking team—how it used to have more students in it (its membership has now fallen to about 10); how they streak on the first day it snows, and on the first day of warm weather in spring, and pretty much any other time that seems to demand a show of nakedness.
My lunchtable friends and I think that this is a healthy and innocent thing for our students to do. Our new colleague agreed, but said, “I hear they do it for accepted students’ day. That would be OK, except there are young children on campus for that event, visiting with their parents and siblings.” He didn’t seem to feel compelled to explain why children shouldn’t see naked people (rather comically arrayed, I’ll point out, in masks, sometimes with accessories like feather boas). He seemed to think it was obvious that children shouldn’t see naked people, even if the naked people look quite comical and innocent.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I was born that way. Naked, that is. And so was my daughter. I see myself naked pretty much every day. I have ever since I was a child. My cat is naked all day long. He greets me, totally starkers, each morning. The truth is, nowadays I look better with clothes on, as do most people my age (I’m 52).
My faculty colleagues and I joked at one point that in order to put pressure on the college administration to do things that we thought they ought to do, we should threaten to put together a faculty streaking team. I can see the reason for not wanting children to see that—it would be an aesthetic violation. But young people, though they inhabit a variety of bodies, are still actually quite lovely—there is something about their youthfulness and health that one can appreciate in a way that isn’t creepy.
So why does it seem so obvious to some people that small children shouldn’t see our streaking team? One possibility is that the naked body is, in our Judeo-Christian tradition, something to be ashamed of—something to be covered and not displayed. If this is the assumption that supports the idea that small children should not see naked people, then it has some clear problems. Do we really want children to think of their bodies as objects of shame? I don’t think we do, so I suspect this is not the issue. And, indeed, we might see the streakers as pointing out the absurdity of the idea that nudity is shameful.
Perhaps the idea is this: what separates us from other animals (such as my cat) is that we do not just walk around naked—that part of what is essential to our humanness is the fact that we adorn ourselves, clothe ourselves, and avoid being seen in such intimate ways. But, of course, one can look at a body as a body—as representing beauty of a sort that is hidden by our clothing. It is, in some ways, uniquely democratic—clothing often marks class differences, or is a way of communicating our personalities, our individuality. And particularly when the streakers hide their faces, there is a sense of a lack of individuality—we see 10 bodies bouncing, jiggling, and moving through the room like a long, mobile work of art.
Again, this might be the point of the display: we are all the same, in many ways, once you take our clothes off. Some of us are fatter; some of us jigglier, or we jiggle in different places; some of us have skin like crêpe paper; some of us are the picture of youthful health. We are all bodies, every single one of us.
My suspicion, though, is that there is a sense that nakedness is always sexualized, always a form of sexual titillation. To this, all I can say is: take a look at the streakers next time they run by you. I suspect that you will find that you can look at them, running through the dining hall, along the paths of the college, their feather boas and masks catching the wind, their backpacks slung over both shoulders in a style favored by hikers and nerds.
I suspect that you can look at them and see not a sexualized body, but young bodies in motion, daring themselves to run through the snow and cold, past their professors and the deans and the college president, on their way to something beyond this college campus, this little place where we encourage them to be bold, to challenge convention, to take chances.
https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/a-journey-with-rorty-1986-2017/ ("A Journey With Rorty, published in the Los Angeles Review of Books)
https://aeon.co/essays/why-remember-and-be-sad-when-you-could-happily-forget (Aeon Magazine, On Forgetting)
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