Why was Trevor Cruel to Richard the Guy With the Broken Foot?

A few years back there was a fire in our neighborhood and Richard saved a bunch of people from their second floor buildings but in the process fell off a ladder and broke his foot.  The foot never healed correctly and Richard needs a cane and it is difficult for him to get in and out of houses especially in the winter when the streets are slippery.

Recently, Trevor whose father owns the liquor store and makes a lot of money started making fun of Richard.  “Nobody asked him to try to rescue people.  It’s his fault that his foot is messed up.  The rest of should not have to worry about making things easy for Richard.”  And he even imitated Richard’s ungainly walk.

I asked Carmela De Sousa why Trevor was so cruel to Richard.  “It’s not that much trouble to slow down and let Richard keep up with us.” I said “Why is Trevor making such a big deal?  Is Trevor right?  Is slowing down for Richard keeping our neighborhood from getting in timely fashion to where it wants to go?”

Carmela said “Trevor feels whenever anybody says “you should be kind to Richard” that it is a personal attack.  He hears that as “You Trevor are not what you should be.”  He is counter-attacking in his own minds — defending himself.   He feels bad about himself in some way and the fact that Richard got hurt by doing something good makes him feel worse.   It makes him popular with his friends who feel the same way.”

“So we should feel sorry for Trevor?” I asked Carmela.


“But that does mean that Trevor is not a bad guy?”

“No” said Carmela.  “Being so weak that other people’s goodness makes you specifically angry — that’s what being a bad guy is.”


When Do You Save Things from the Past?

Things meaning physical items but also ways of thought, friendships, habits, idea.  When do you need to preserve them and when should you discard them?

Two ways of thinking of progress through life: building a self and achieving freedom.

If you think you are building a self then you want the early blueprints.  Also your take on your past is a dimension of your self.  So if you what you have done with your life is construct a self, curate your past.

But if you think you are escaping from something and achieving freedom all that old stuff is just broken prison bars.  Who you are is not dependent upon the particular path you had to take (the hooks and crooks and stratagems you effectuated) to achieve freedom.

A person who escaped from a blue prison and a person who escaped from a green prison are not blue and green respectively.



Conversation with a New York City Cab Driver

Him: Do you know what my dream is?

Me: What.

Him: To play strip chess with a girl and when I win I fuck her.

Me: What if she wins?

Him: What?  I win.

Me: No but what if she wins?  She should get to do something like kill you or punch you in the face.

Him: It’s a fantasy.

Me: I know it’s a fantasy — I’m not expecting you to drop me off at the airport and then do that.  But a fantasy can still have logic.

Him: Okay.  If I win I fuck her if she wins she fucks me.


Nietzsche in Flatbush

We thought about Nietzsche differently in Flatbush

Than they did in the dritte Reich — I think

For us he was about the freedom to be weirdos

while for the members of the national social workers party

It was more about the collective will.  They really liked the will.

And the aesthetics of grabbing glory in the face of death

For us it was less about that, more an individual thing

Wandering through subway stations late at night

Forging our meaning for ourselves from the cold night

But who knows?  Maybe if we had had the opportunity

To stage parades and spectacles and conquer France

Some of us would have and who knows if some of those Nazis

Had been frozen by Hitler and then defrosted on Rugby road

In February, all alone, without a date, and somehow thrilled by panic

They wouldn’t have found the taste of amor fati

In lonely walks through Flatbush just like me.


a mother mouse

A mother mouse – her puppies nurse her
Lives in the wall of my old house
the blind kits – mouselings? – didn’t get myrrh
which would boot nothing for a mouse
She eats a piece of macaroni
I can say now the job was phony
My mother did my work for school
Gluing a glitter fleck like a jewel.
All-nibbling days you hold no terror
Turning our work to mothers milk
Better than killing those poor worms for silk!
Thank heaven for the amnesiac’s error
As little backward looking as a shark
Those nurslings hiding in the dark


The Mind-Body-Pilf-Skwel Problem

I used to be a graduate student instructor in a class for undergraduates on the philosophy of mind.  One of the problems we dealt with was whether there was an “inner” aspect of life which went beyond the purely material.  The idea was: imagine you’re talking to somebody who eats food, drinks water, fights, is amorous, talks about philosophy but he’s actually just a cunningly constructed robot who never feels pain or pleasure or joy or sorrow.  Inside he is a blank.  Like a zombie.

From this problem we got into something we called “the mind-body” problem.  The idea here is that there is something a conscious person has — a phenomenal experience — which somebody who acts the same way might lack.  The stuff that the conscious person has — a conscious mind — seems to sit uneasily into our descriptions of the world.  Our understanding is that the world is made of matter — but consciousness seems not to be observable the way matter is.

I knew some philosophers who said that the whole problem makes no sense.  Everything must in principle be observable.  So there could not be a whole realm of conscious experience which we couldn’t know about.

I think these philosophers were being over-optimistic.  Just because I don’t know about something and never will know about doesn’t mean it’s not real.  Julius Caesar never knew about me and never could, fated as he was to die on the Ides of March, 2000 years before my birth.  But I’m real.  So other people could indeed be having conscious experiences, and just because we can’t observe them doesn’t mean they couldn’t be real.

But lately I have become worried by another problem.  If another person’s body can hide a single dimension — conscious experience — or mind — what if it hides innumerable other dimensions too?  Heck, let’s not worry about innumerable.  What if the other person has not just a mind and a body, but also two other things: Pilf and Skwel.

What are Pilf and Skwel?  Pilf and Skwel are as different from mind and body as mind and body are from each other.    Some other people have Pilf and Skwel, some have one, and some have another.

If the mind-body problem is a real problem why isn’t the mind-body-pilf-skwel problem a real problem?

Maybe it is!