Archive for the Wilfredo Category

The Progress of Memory

Posted in Wilfredo on May 15, 2011 by mothstache

My mental abilities are in decline. In theory this can motivate a swifter recovery, as the danger is very real that I will soon be incompetent to continue therapy. Indeed, I have trouble remembering what we’ve already hammered out. I chew over old questions, wasting precious time, and I’ve caught myself letting fresh questions slip, under the murky pretext of half-remembered answers. My psychotherapist, taking pity on my state, has donated me two Analyst’s Notebooks. When a question comes up, I open a ticket in the “Questions” notebook. If the previous question was number 343, for example, I write, on the next line, “344.” Over the course of the day, as I ruminate, if I come to complete resolution (and it’s extremely important that such resolution be utterly unshakeable, or the entire procedure would be annulled) I write the same number in my “Answers” notebook, thus closing the ticket. In this way I have been spared much doubt. If I am in remiss, I do penance; if not, I enjoy a clean conscience. At first it was extremely easy to verify my status. I leafed through the first notebook and, if I didn’t know off the top of my head whether “344” had been settled, I scanned for it in the second notebook. It’s true that on occasion several new doubts would arise in me over the course of the process of verifying; these I would write as incrementing letters, “a,” “b,” “c,” on to “aa,” “bb,” etc., on a disposable slip of paper and afterwards transfer them into the “Questions” notebook, often to find that the same tickets had already been opened under lower ordinals. When that was the case, I closed the duplicates immediately, putting off all other thoughts for the brief duration of this simple task. But for longer tasks, as when, though I have reason to think a ticket has been resolved, it is not forthcoming in the “Answer” notebook, I have much need of these auxiliary slips, since certainly so much repressed material is unearthed simply by association as I scan through the reams of my case-history.



Posted in Wilfredo on November 7, 2010 by mothstache

There were once two composers of opera.  They were both fat men and met while eating, during their time at the conservatory.  In their later life each encountered personal and professional difficulty.  One lost his wife in a train crash, the other was divorced.  Each had a son whom for their own reasons they could hardly look in the eye.  Where music goes, the first found himself increasingly incapable of comprehending his own compositions.  Every note he had written seemed senseless or arbitrary and they became difficult for him to remember, like strings of consonants without visible order, or faces strangely lit and glimpsed only for a moment (indeed he could barely remember what his son looked like; or his deceased wife.)  The other, meanwhile, rarely listened to his old work; as for the new he hated it.  Every phrase was a rug with wrinkles and every wrinkle he tugged distended the rest; he descended each night into frenzies of correction, pursuing to the point of self-torture every fevered detail until finally he had to slam the cover down across the keys, glaring, for half an hour afterward, at his obscene reflection in the ebony.  In the end, though, he completed a comedic opera about a pig who is made a composer by royal error.  The pig’s overblown coloratura sent roars of laughter through Vienna.  His colleague, on the other hand, wrote a comedy about a farmer whose cow begins to speak, but unfortunately (for the cow) only in the most splendid and ornate Latin.


Posted in Wilfredo on August 19, 2010 by mothstache

A year ago I wrote (in this context): “The philosopher puts all his eggs in every basket.”  I had a different idea of philosophy then.  Now I would say: people will try to pass off their eggs on whoever seems wise.  The philosopher is busy taking these eggs out of his basket.  Because he is constantly putting eggs back into their baskets, it will seem to people like the philosopher lays eggs.  In fact he hasn’t had the time for knowledge of eggs–the philosopher is expert only in baskets.  Not knowing better, maybe he’ll even share in the popular prejudice; the result (I remember this passage more distinctly than the rest of Anne Frank):

But her girl friend’s cat had kittens and they came out of the cat, then she thought that the cat lays eggs like a chicken, and then goes and sits on the brood, and that mothers who are having a baby go upstairs a few days earlier, lay an egg and sit on it, when the baby comes the mothers are still a bit weak from all the squatting. Eva wanted to have a baby too and so she took a woolen shawl, laid it on the ground so that the egg could drop into it and then squatted down and began to push. She tried clucking but no egg came out. In the end after all that long squatting something did come out of her but not an egg, a little sausage. (Diary of a Young Girl)


Posted in Wilfredo on August 12, 2010 by mothstache

Pizarro, apparently, once demanded of the Muisca the location of El Dorado.  They answered him the way they answered all the others, pointing Northeast.  Pizarro set off East; three years later, returning from the North, he had mapped the basin.  He asked them again, this time to point it out on the map.

Posted in Wilfredo on August 3, 2010 by mothstache

That the accusation, “You don’t know what you’re doing!” means more than it literally says is proved by the pointlessness of such a reaction: “And what am I doing exactly?”  The first might answer: “Not-doing.”

Though there is an opposite use, the second person of “They know not what they do.”

Retranslation of Odyssey 17:290-330

Posted in Wilfredo on July 27, 2010 by mothstache

(I cut out a couple lines from the original and the rest is more an adaptation of the Loeb edition than a translation, though various points I did go through Perseus looking up most of the words.  But often I liked what Loeb picked because I wouldn’t have ever tried it, like “had no joy of him”)

On the other side of the yard
from the grubby beggar who was talking
about benched ships and his grumbling stomach
up went the ears of the dog lying there who now peeked out
and furrowed his head,
Argos, his
stouthearted Odysseus’s, who bred him himself,
but for a long time had no joy of him.
In the past, the young men picked him out
for wild goats and deer and rabbits; but
now he lay in the deep banks of manure
that waited by the doors to be distributed
to Odysseus’s wide lands.  The dog Argos lay there,
full of dog ticks.  But now, when
he became aware of Odysseus, he wagged
and lowered his ears, he didn’t
have the strength to go nearer.
Across the yard, Odysseus looked
aside and abducted a tear
from the left of his nose,
and asked loud to Eumaeus (who was unaware),
It’s odd to see, Eumaeus,
this dog in the dung.  This fine dog,
what a frame! Does he run fast or is he
all looks?
The swineherd Eumaeus answered, This
is too much the dog of a man who died far away.
If he were in build and at work like he was
when Odysseus left for Troy, you’d gape
in wonder at how quick and strong he is.
But now his master is lost;
and this one is
untended by the numb slaves.
With that, they entered the hall to join the fine suitors.
But as for the dog Argos, black death received him
once he had seen Odysseus in the twentieth year.

Word of the Day

Posted in Wilfredo on October 29, 2009 by mothstache

Despite, as a noun.