Guest Post: The Tyranny of Rule(s)

Guest Post: The Tyranny of Rule(s) January 11, 2016
Dear Ludwig

Blog Editor’s Note: Dear readers, all seven of you—On account of a confrontation this past week between myself and an indignant troll, I find myself in a county cell awaiting bail, which, I am confident, my family has nearly arranged.  I begged them to sell the Watteau for my sake.  The mixed news is that the troll remains in the hospital.  On the one hand, I feel badly for him.  The term “rabies” has been used, though I’m sure it’s only for lack of a better one.  On the other hand, I feel strangely pleased to have proven that I can not only enrage a person, via virtual print, but that I can draw blood in a much more literal fashion.  Because I am currently indisposed—I had to smuggle this introductory message out in a laundry truck—the post below is provided by a guest author, a sort of acquaintance-cum-annoyance who wanted to ensure that this blog did not lapse into irrelevance while I await both a court hearing and a report from the hospital lab that will have bearing on the court hearing.  I’m quite certain that a lapse into irrelevance would be an elevation of this blog’s stature, but my friend was quite insistent, and I felt that I could not refuse him this opportunity to speak to the world, on account of what I said to his mother, so many years ago.

La Patata Interna, Comandamenti, e Gati Mentali
by Lazarus Filament, guest blogger*

I remember like it was yesterday.  1947, it was, and Ludwig had invited me to Cambridge to take his place at high table.  He couldn’t stand the affair, you see.  Not because of the pomp, as everyone supposes, but because the table was too high.  The rite always felt to him as though he was peering over a fence into the neighbor’s yard.  He put me in his clothes and pushed me out the door, and I might have pulled it off if the jacket had fit a little better.  He was so small that, reaching for the boiled butter, I split my seams.

“Ludwig,” I railed, later, my hair and thoughts adrift in his flat, “why couldn’t you have told me that the boiled butter was only for show?”

He smiled that smile of his that looked so much like a grimace to those who did not know him.  The English, that smile said to me.  Pfft.

Indeed, I thought.  Exactly pfft.  Not mindful enough even to bake the potatoes, properly.  When I mentioned the dreadful quality of the spuds, Ludwig became thoughtful.  He brought the scotch and we talked deep into the decanter.  Our conversation began earnestly, but light.  It was the foil we said.  Shiny-side-in.

Soon, however, we surrendered this superficial critique, this teasing of the matter as though we were schoolboys, first encountering the heady matter of cooking tubers.  We grew loud, boisterous, in fact, inebriated by a passion to know the thing, and the frustration of knowing that we could not know it even as we spoke of it enflamed us.

At some point, as the late hours were growing wee, and we had long since left aside the pricking as the problem, Ludwig slammed a hand on the table, upsetting the decanter and the cat, whose startled noise sounded as though an lp record of our conversation had been scratched in just this spot.

“You cannot say the degrees!” he bellowed.

“Of course you can!” I shot back. “Four hundred and fifty.  Or whatever the sissy Celsius equivalent would be!”

“Do you mean the temperature or the rule?”

He was goading me, in the way that Ludwig could.

“But they’re the same thing—the temperature and the rule.  Scoff if you will, but set aside the rule for some esoteric notion of the impossibility of objectivity and you end up with a s*** potato.  Cambridge has made that plain enough.”

His face assumed the stony quality of a cathedral bust.  Silence fell.  The cat was totally not there.

“In the rule, dear friend,” he whispered, not using the words dear and friend in the customary manner, “you are the s*** potato.”

It seemed as though the world stood away from us, in silent fear for its safety.  He was right, I knew, and yet I refused.  How long we glared at each other over our long-night’s chess board of rhetoric, I do not know.  At some point, the cat returned and deposited some hair on my trouser leg.

“Curse you.” I spoke at Ludwig as much as at the cat.

Yes, the memory remains vivid.  The table was too high, and Ludwig too sure.  The boiled butter was a cruel joke on the imposter philosopher, and the potatoes came to the plate leathery.  The consequence was a torn jacket and the violent collapse of my hope for a private identity.

And that, readers, is why I wear socks and sandals, together.

*Lazarus Filament currently sits in the F. Preston Galworthy Chair in Peelings at Boise Customary College of Pocatello.  He is the author of Wait! I’m Not Ready! (Oxford, 1951) and Starch: A Postmodern Perplexity (Berkeley, 1962).  He is a former editor of The International Journal of Spudology.

**Image of dear Ludwig from

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