Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Hodges on the Knot at the End of the Thread

Dear Bill,

Let me add to the intertextual complexity of this thread's tangled web:

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

Now, down to business. You wrote:

"I neither knit nor sew, but if I were to sew, I would be sure to knot the end of my thread. (Get the allusion, Jeff?) If it's 'purls' of political wisdom you desire, go here and read the perspicuous posts of this rather enigmatic individual."

Are you talkin' to me? Are YOU talkin' to Me? You must be 'cause there's no one else around. [You mean I have only one reader?] Allusions. Yeah, I still got 'em. I'm not totally dis-allusioned yet. Sounds like Thoreau. I checked. Yeah, it is:

Henry David Thoreau, Walden, Chapter 18, Conclusion:

No face which we can give to a matter will stead us so well at last as the truth. This alone wears well. For the most part, we are not where we are, but in a false position. Through an infinity of our natures, we suppose a case, and put ourselves into it, and hence
are in two cases at the same time, and it is doubly difficult to get out. In sane moments we regard only the facts, the case that is. Say what you have to say, not what you ought. Any truth is better than
make-believe. Tom Hyde, the tinker, standing on the gallows, was asked if he had anything to say. "Tell the tailors," said he, "to remember to make a knot in their thread before they take the first stitch." His
companion's prayer is forgotten.

Hmmm . . . forgotten, yes, but I find myself wondering what the companion prayed.

[Actually, I was thinking of Kierkegaard's remark, somewhere in his Journal, where he compares philosophizing without dogma to sewing without a knot at the end of one's thread. Not that I endorse Kierkegaard's view. His remark invites the retort: To philosophize with dogma is not to philosophize at all. But this is a long story. In any case, your Thoreau quotation fits well enough to earn you a gallon of Kim-Chee if I ever land in Seoul.]

Thanks for reminding me of Thoreau. I know that I need to re-read Walden sometime. It's one of those Western literary masterpieces that -- like Paradise Lost -- is a wonderful synthesis of the aesthetic and the intellectual. But I need to perfect my Sanscrit first.

Speaking of perfection (if you don't mind my catena-like reasoning), you've spoken of asceticism as part of your disciplined approach to transcendence. Yet, there is a sense in which your appreciation of
nature is sensuous. You go deeply into nature to transcend it, I suppose. The saguaro cactus that beckons to something beyond.

Why is Cactus Ed different? Or Big Hominid? They focus on the sensuousness (or sensuality?) of sex but perhaps seek through that the transcendent. Maybe these two are not the best examples. Take Tantric practices, instead. The use of sex for transcendence. Is that misguided? Is there a telos that brings some means towards transcendence but not others?

[I can't speak for the Big Ho, but I doubt that old Cactus Ed viewed sexuality as a spiritual path along Tantric lines. The Tantra is a hard row to hoe. Coitus reservatus (as distinct from coitus interruptus) can be practiced for months on end -- not in one session of course: you catch my drift -- but it is very easy to lapse into ordinary coitus. The fact that old Cactus Ed sired up a passel of kids suggests that he was not big on coitus reservatus.]

Now back to sowing:

So ...

I s'pose you know
it's best to sow
than be a lazy so-and-so.

When I say sow,
I don't mean sew.

If I meant sow,
I'd tell you so.

It's just, you know,
you have to sow
to be in dough.

Don't you think so?

Although of those
who sew and sew,
I s'pose also
it's also so.

A beer on me if you track this one down. But you gotta
come to Seoul to collect.



P.S. 'Purls" of wisdom? Does this mean that the URL is persistant?

[You're a poet; you know it; you hope you don't blow it. Do you distinguish persistence from persistance?]

Assistant Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges [Ph.D., History, U.C. Berkeley]
Department of English Language and Literature
Korea University
136-701 Anam-dong, Seongbuk-gu
South Korea