The Salmon of Doubt
A happy little surprise greeted at home this evening - a gift certificate to a sporting good store. My prize for my 2nd place age group placing in Sunday's 5K. I must have misread the results after the race. But alas, no running since then, the left adductor has felt brittle. Maybe tomorrow.
I'm thrilled to have discovered Douglas Adams. And I'm appalled that I missed the boat on him in the early 80's when "Hitchhiker" was all the rage. I was in college and working at a bookstore at the time; copies of Hitchhiker were flying off the shelves. It was a TV series and I watched it occasionally, lightly amused, but having not read any of it, I never appreciated Adams. What a dolt I was! Though I should just be thankful I suppose, as I now get to appreciate him fresh, unlike his veteran fans.
Douglas Adams and Richard Dawkins, one of my favorite writers/thinkers, were actually mutual fans and, because of that, great friends (Dawkins wrote Adams a fan letter after reading Adams' Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, twice in a row.) Adams introduced Dawkins to the woman who would become his wife (Lalla Ward, an actress who appeared in Doctor Who). And Dawkins delivered a eulogy for Adams after his untimely death (heart attack) at 49 in 2001.
I've been listening to The Salmon of Doubt on audio. Absolutely delightful! Published posthumously, from the hard drive of Adams' Mac. The reader, Simon Jones, who played Bridey in Brideshead Revisited, is perfect. I adore that particular variety of English accent. I've always been slightly fascinated at the variety of British accents
— from John Lennon (agreeable) to the BBC (dreadful) — I wonder if anyone's cataloged them. Anyway, if you're not familiar with this book/CD, please check it out; you will want to thank me for bringing it to your attention.
This is what Adams said to me this morning on my drive to work (channeling through Simon Jones) about Pierre Menard, Author of The Quixote, a very short piece by Jorges Borges, who I'm really only familiar with because of a one page piece which has always tickled me called Borges and I. So I went to the bookstore straight away at lunch to check it out, it's only six pages. I'm not nearly erudite enough to appreciate the piece right way, but once I waded through the initial section, it was quite engaging. Basically a literary criticism of a fictitious author (re) writing Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote, from scratch, word for word, literally, but from a contemporary point of view rather than from a 1602 point of view. Very clever.
But in the process of browsing, I came across a Borges essay entitled The Nothingness of Personality. Jesus Christ, where the hell was this when I really needed it — when I was seven or eight years old! I've been contemplating and working out the details of nothingness, free will, determinism, god, consciousness, the self, and existence feverishly since then. This quote, actually attributed to Schopenhaur:
An infinite time has run its course before my birth; what was I throughout all that time? Metaphysically, the answer might perhaps be: I was always I; that is, all who during that time said I, were in fact I.
This quote made me very happy indeed. I've never heard this expressed quite this way, in exactly the way I've been feeling it for many many years. I will suppress my urge prattle on and on about. Either you get it or you don't.