How the Philosopher Argued His Rising

By Bob Litton

“This is patently absurd; but whoever wishes to become a philosopher must learn not to be frightened by absurdities.”
— Bertrand Russell

What time is it? The hands on that clock must be awry. In this dim light, they seem to say ten after five, but it feels like two-thirty. Where are my promised eight hours? With age is supposed to come more sleep, not less. Is this the penalty I pay for my prodigal, promiscuous youth?

Perhaps if I turn over on my side I can catch another three dreams, if this pillow will only agree to remain puffed up just right, which it never does. The damn anarchist! An old man, a bed and a pillow — those are supposed to be the appropriate triad for healthy slumber. But my brain agitates like a washing machine after six hours — not demonstrating its fitness, only pointing out the reductio ad absurdum of mind over body. Was it five or ten minutes I thought through that? No matter: The biological clock and my daily habits have won. Oh, to be a lackadaisical lad again!

But why not rebel? I’m not too old to assert my right to reverse the Natural Order, am I? One’s blood does have to be running rapidly to be hot, does it not? Should I take a needle and a thermometer to test the heat of my blood? O, don’t be such a dunce, you dunderhead! You can’t get enough blood that way to measure its warmth, and you couldn’t do it anyway with a thermometer. What instrument would it require? I’ll have to pursue that line of inquiry someday…soon.

What would be soon? In a few hours? A few days? Next month? Just before death? Well now, that depends on how much time Lachesis has left me, which I don’t know. Could it be as soon as I get out of this bed? Why don’t I experiment and see?

All I have to do first is move my legs over a little so that they are stretched out beyond the bed’s side. But which side? On that side is the window and the rising sun with its bright light, which will blind my eyes. On this other side is my chiffonier, which I am always bumping into. On the other hand, it is the chiffonier that holds my underwear and socks. There must be at least fifteen steps from the window side to the chiffonier side, so logically I will be saving energy and time by getting out bed on the chiffonier side. Ah, if only cosmological questions were as easily and quickly resolved as that one!

Okay, now my legs are stretched over the correct side of the bed. The question that remains is which foot should I lower first into its house slipper. This is a matter of momentous importance because I am left-handed, therefore one would think I should be left-footed, too. But, that is not the case; I most often do things with my right foot — like kick a soccer ball — that I would never think of doing with my left foot. There must be some congenital discordance within my bodily frame that causes such a disparity. For the moment, though, to help me decide, I’ll concentrate on that old wives’ tale and the Latin for “left” — sinister — “ominous”, “malevolent”, to help me avoid using my left limbs…at least first. There you go, right foot, you’re in there; now to insert the left foot. Aha, experiment accomplished!

Now for my robe there hanging on the door. At a 45-degree angle, it shouldn’t require much thrust to arrive at that point. But I must do it gracefully, for G=SDBTP… (Grace equals the Shortest Distance Between Two Points), as my old theology professor taught me. Hells’ bells, but I miss that old codger! Grand little old man who could swing a bat as artfully as he could swig a beer! Too bad he had to go the way he did, trying to dash between those two on-coming cars that last carousal night of ours. Guess he forgot his own Grace formula at the crucial moment. Aha, standing now and into my robe I go….

Going where? Ablutions, daily ritual of ablutions. Too bad being dirty and unkempt failed to remain a tradition! There was that Spanish mystic…what was his name?…Ah, yes! Saint Ignatius Loyola, who, in turning away from his fastidious past, discontinued combing his hair and trimming his nails. And what of Liza Doolittle, horrified by the sight of bath water? People didn’t always bathe every day; they used to do it only once a week at the most. Our brains are radicalized by our noses, I say, declaring foul smells where there are no foul smells…no smells at all! It’s all a trick of the brain, the same instrument that wouldn’t let me sleep much last night, always roiling!

I rebel! I will go out as I am. No, wait a minute here, professor; you’re still in your bathrobe. You have to put on some clothes. Society won’t accept anything less. But are others to dictate what I wear or if I wear anything? Now we’re into the dichotomies of courage versus cowardice, the group versus the individual. “To be or not to be.” “Do I dare…hmmm…with a bald spot in the middle of my hair?” Something like that. I know: I’ll go out not naked, just in my bathrobe. My students will understand. It’ll be a good show-and-tell lesson in civil disobedience…. But no law will be broken; it’ll be only an infraction of social convention. How is that a lesson in civil disobedience? We’re not on civil disobedience now anyway; we’re smack dab in the middle of constitutional governing!

Oh, to hell with it! Got to give this tap water time to heat up.


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