Decomposing Wisdom

A: “Tolstoy? Is our world stochastic in its workings?”

B: “If i knew what that meant i might offer up a reply.”

A: “Well, it’s just that I was reading about this professor in America who made headline news for turning the concept of the humble CV on its head.”

B: “And what does this have to do with the world being stochastic?”

A: “By highlighting his failures over his successes, the prof wanted to show not only that failure is experienced in the average life far more often that success, but also that you might as well pick any old event from your life at random for all the good it does in predicting what kind of person you are and what kind of life you’ve had. That’s what he meant by stochastic.”

B: “Meaning I’m going to be remembered not for Anna Karenina but for the stunted crop of carrots I grew in the the spring of nineteen hundred and four?”

A:”Why not? One’s as valid as the other.”

B: “A man cannot live on a diet of words, and words alone, i suppose.”

A: “So, Tolstoy, does nothing exist beyond probability? Are our lives reducible to happenstance? All we live for is randomly determined from variables we don’t even pick up on? God! How depressing if that’s the case.”

B: “As luck would have it, I discussed this very thing in my recent collection of Meditations from Moscow.”

A: “Recent? With all due respect, you’ve been pushing up the daisies for the past hundred years. You’re only here today because I invoked your spirit. Called you up from the dead.”

B: “Well, I never. Been that long, has it? A man can lose track of time when he’s dead.”

A: “A man can lose a whole lot more than time when he’s dead. His healthy complexion, for one. I have to say, you’ve looked better.”

B: “As I was saying, before I started decomposing, I broached this topic a number of times in my literary canon. See my wisdom as a crutch, if you like, to help you through the worst that unpredictability has to offer.”

(clears throat ready to theatrically quote, even though the throat Tolstoy is clearing is clearly no longer a throat in any substantial sense).

A man on a thousand-mile walk has to forget his goal and say to himself every morning, ‘Today I’m going to cover twenty-five miles and rest up and sleep.’

That was a line from War & Peace, if anyone still reads it these days.”

A: “By that I presume you mean that any great undertaking, like life itself, is overwhelming unless taken in short disciplined bursts. Are you saying that we need to simplify the complex? To break something huge into smaller parts in order to answer it?”

B: “Precisely. I wrote in Bethink Yourselves that the two greatest warriors are patience and time. Time and time only will reveal what the moment won’t. Patience will cure the illness of not knowing.”

A: “But why do I feel only disappointment? All around me others post their success, and then a successful academic comes out and states that taking a random sample of anyone’s life is more likely to fall on failure than success. The difference between this happening and that happening, you could decide by spinning a roulette wheel. All this damned effort for nothing.”

B: “Whether every minute of your life unfolds by accident or design, or a combination of the two, or neither, is hardly the point, young man. Why all this need to know? Nighttime always comes whether or not you believe you control the day.”

A: “But Tolstoy, if predicting the course of our lives is all just one big crapshoot, then what’s the freaking point of natural justice? I’ve had a lifetime hearing ‘you make your own luck’, ‘it’s up to you.’ Obviously, it’s not.”

B: “Suffering from the pangs of anxiety, I see. Your controlling tendencies getting the better of you? Relax, comrade. Rejoice in knowing that we can only know that we know nothing. I wrote that in War & Peace, too. Socrates will back me up on this one: that recognizing this truth is the highest form of human wisdom. Accepting it will liberate the torturing of the soul and deny the dishonesty of the intellect.”

…Now go in peace, and know that none of this matters. I’ve death to get back to before eternity ends.”

A: “If you say so, Tolstoy. Say hi to the ancestors for me.”

B: “Ah! And one more thing before I return to the other side. If it’s the content of a CV that’s bothering you – do I extol my successes? Or do I play them down and instead admit my failures? that kind of jazz – join the other ninety-nine percent in doing what they do.”

A: “What would that be?”

B: “BULLSHIT the bosses. Tell the bourgeoisie what they want to hear. Their empire of lies is bound to crumble, anyway.”

A: “I gather you weren’t around to meet the Bolsheviks, Tolstoy?”

B: “?!!”

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s