Monday, March 11, 2013

Another Kind of Cliff

We've all been there. You're talking to an acquaintance, maybe even a friend of some degree. The conversation hums along from the weather, that inevitable point of departure, to the ills and maybe even delights of the day. Then it happens: he says something not foolish or wrong, per se, but unintelligible. Of course what you'd really like at that point is to stop and think, only he's still babbling and so you're still following, hoping everything will click. Only it doesn't.

Eventually he solicits your opinion and you take a mulligan: "That was interesting. What was it you said about the foot of the bullfrog?" This buys you a few more minutes and now you listen ever more finely, all of your intellectual gears and cogs whirring to process every permutation of the variables. You exhaust yourself with periphrastic gymnastics in the hope of finding some golden angle at which the thoughts make sense, but no, none exists. His thought is an impermeable, inscrutable monad, a frabjous ode to absurdity.

We can only learn to love such thoughts and the minds that make them. We can't examine them too closely lest like Wile E. we plummet from the mesa. I find the key to escape lies in elevation and escalation: elevate their question to an imponderable and make an equally incomprehensible statement with which to leave. For example, "You know there was a good article in The Times about that a few weeks ago. They did a study at Columbia, I think. Big scandal. Anyway, I'm going to have a postprandial nip and then try to pick up a cape before the haberdasher closes." It's a fun opportunity to get creative. 

Remember, the fool jokes to amuse others, the wise man jokes to amuse himself. 

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