I was much enamored of the King Arthur legend as a boy. One of my favorite books was The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White, first published in 1938 and later incorporated into White’s full scale retelling of the legend, The Once and Future King [readers of my Autobiography may recall that I took the title of Book Three from White’s novel.] The Sword in the Stone tells the story of Arthur’s youth and preparation for kingship. As White imagines it, the young Arthur [nicknamed Wart] is taken in hand by the wizard Merlin, who, since he lives backwards in time, is aware that Wart is destined to become king. In order to be a good king, Wart must learn to see the world in many ways, so Merlin changes him into an eagle, an ant, and a badger, among other animals, each of which has a distinctive characterological strength. Merlin even turns Wart into a mountain so that he can see the world from the immensely long temporal perspective in which change takes place over eons. [Tolkien employs a somewhat analogous trick in his representation of the language of the Ents.]
As I was walking this morning – up to Contrescarp along rue Descartes, down rue Mouffetard, up again to Place d’Italie, back down Avenue des Gobelins, and home along rue Monge –I found myself thinking of that episode as a metaphor for the difference between being a philosopher and being a blogger. Although even as a philosopher I do not really view things sub specie aeternitatis, I do try to stand back from the quicksilver changes of the moment and achieve what I might call a Rocky Mountain or Himalayan point of view. But as a blogger, I am virtually compelled to attend to the moment, reacting – and of course having an opinion about – the events of the past twenty-four hours.
This morning, surfing the Web, I find that a young White woman heading up the Spokane, Washington branch of the NAACP has misrepresented herself as African-American. I also learn that tomorrow Jeb Bush will at long last formally announce his candidacy for the Republican Presidential nomination. Each of these news items falls within one or another of the areas in which I claim to have, if not expertise, at least strong opinions, but I cannot for the life of me think of anything witty or arresting, let alone profound, to say about either of them. I have already explained the origin of the clown car trope to my overseas readers, so that disposes of the Bush story, and there really is no deeper meaning to the NAACP curiosity.
Sometimes I envy the wife of a New England whaling captain who would write a letter, give it to a ship about to sail, and hope that at some point in the next year and a half the letter would be passed by bosun’s chair to the ship carrying her husband. She could really take her time thinking of something to say.