Thursday, June 28, 2007

Being and Nothingness

Can you see something that isn’t there more clearly than something that is?

If ever I’d had any doubts they’ve been utterly dispelled, as it’s become obvious that more people have noticed, and remarked on, the absence of my front tooth these past 2 months than its presence in the previous 40 years or so.

I’ve just booked a room in the community centre to run a Philosophy Evening Course this autumn, and was pondering Sartre’s idea that it is the nothing which defines the being. You could say the not-there is just as important as the is-there: the experience of the café is defined by the absence of the friend you were expecting to meet; life is defined by the nothingness before and after it; it is the hole that defines the polo mint.

Which leads me to the recent rediscovery of one of my favourite philosophy jokes, which never fails to have me guffawing loudly.

Jean Paul Sartre is sitting in a café, revising his latest draft of Being and Nothingness, when a waitress asks for his order. He says he’d like a coffee with no cream, to which she replies, “I am sorry, monsieur, we are all out of cream. Can I bring you a coffee with no milk?”

22 comments:

PI said...

I once was sitting in a restaurant in Paris opposite Sartre. He was with a tarty blonde with a black parting before it was fashionable. He was an unprepossessing looking little man with thick pebble glasses. Simone must have been in love with his brain cells. Not that I think looks are that important - but there are limits.

Restaurant Gal said...

Mood, nuance, "something in the air"--sometimes much easier to "see" than the reality playing our before you.

Okay, enough deep thought for this hour of the morning!

Mary Witzl said...

I am impressed with pi's Sartre sighting! Though I can imagine it must be a terrible burden being a famous person and always worrying about looking the part. How awful for someone to catch you with dirty socks and a cold, say, on your way to do the laundry.

That is a great joke, Kim, and I will be boring my family with it tonight, rest assured.

Restaurant Gal said...

Typo--meant playing OUT.

Remember, it's only 6:39 a.m. on my side of the Atlantic, and I'm on my first cup of coffee!

Kim Ayres said...

Pat - maybe he'd have been sexier with a missing front tooth...

Mary - those sightings of celebrities looking less than perfect are what keeps Heat Magazine going.

RG - is that coffee without cream, or without milk?

Fat Lazy Guy said...

Haha, very good :)

My favourite part of a doughnut is the hole ;)

Well, that was a blatant lie. Of course it's the chocolate part. :D

Carole said...

Satre must not have done a lot of housework. I can have the house in pristine condition for weeks and then leave a little laundry laying about and I hear, "Wow, we sure need to clean up this place!" Never once did I hear how nice and clean the house was during it's clean spell. If the dust accumulates, people write cute little remarks like, "Wash me." in it, but if it isn't there, I get nothing. If Satre would have been a janitor philosopher, he would have been famous for "being and somethingness."

Amy said...

A sarte siting by pi! I am so impressed. Being and not-being...here and not here...don't get me started. I am home with a sick kid; enough said. Good luck with the evening classes. I just spent the day with public high school teachers touring them through local religious sites. It is so rewarding to teach grown ups.

Eryl Shields said...

I often think my husband notices the lack of me more than me. For example on the weekends he spends the days reading the papers, playing computer games and sleeping. Often he goes out for a whole day to play paintball but if I'm going away for the weekend, as I am soon, he whines and phones me thirty times a day.

If there's lots of food in the house no one says great there's food but if I haven't shopped for a while everyone mentions that there is no food.

Satre may not have been pretty but he was damn smart.

Amy said...

Flat Stanley is a story about a boy who is flattened by his bulletin board (but otherwise fine). He realizes that there are some advantages to being flat including cheap travel by being mailed to exotic destinations in regular envelopes. So, E. is mailing Stanley to friends everywhere with a questionnaire about what he did when he visited, what he wore and how far he traveled to visit your fair city.

Interested? No worries.

BStrong said...

Things are more interesting to me when they’re absent. Nothing is preconceived, therefore I get to use my imagination and see it the way I want to.

Sayre said...

That joke was hilarious!!!

People often notice that SOMETHING is missing, but can't quite put their finger on it...

Z said...

A parallel is still a parallel in reverse, isn't it - I'm the opposite of Carole in that my family comment when the house is clean and tidy.

If you wave your partner off to work as usual, you think nothing of it. But if you know he'll not be home tonight, there is an instant lonely void.

Regarding your tooth, however, I think you are a victim of sexism. When I had an inconspicuous tooth crowned, the dentist fitted a temporary crown. When my husband had a front tooth done, he was left with a gap (no one noticed - he doesn't show his teeth when he smiles) in the interim. I don't think a woman would accept a gap or be expected to.

Kim Ayres said...

FLG - although I love chocolate, doughnuts work so much better with jam in the middle

Carole - When I once wrote "clean me" in the dust, later on I saw "you know whether the dusters are" had been added.

Amy - I couldn't possibly face teaching people who didn't want to be there. How high school teachers cope is beyond me.

Eryl - as the saying goes, "If you think nobody cares whether you're alive or dead, try missing a couple of mortgage payments"

BStrong - if I didn't already know you worked in marketing...

Sayre - especially if it's their finger that's missing...

Z - less to do with sexism and more to with NHS I think

savannah said...

we miss what we don't have...or do we want what we don't have? or do i need more coffee?

(i have no shame or sense..i'm sorry, people are being serious, right. sugar?)

ok, it's taken THREE attempts to post the above lunacy...should i have taken that as a sign?)

Mary Witzl said...

Maggie's comment-in-the-dust 'You know where the dusters are' made me laugh!

At a friend's house recently, I put a drink down on a small piece of furniture and our friend's husband frowned and commented that it was a disgrace how dusty the furniture was. This man and his wife both work, and he does not do a lick of housework. And yet he made it sound as though the disgrace was all hers. Ooh, I wish Maggie had been there; I gave it to him with both barrels, but I could have used some support.

Carole said...

I am going to start accumulating dust just so I can use that retort. Good stuff. And they say you can't teach an old dog new tricks.

Jeff said...

Kim

You always make me think which in turn makes my head hurt.

Cheers Mate.

Peace

Eolaí said...

I had a friend in Birmingham who used to use that joke to play with staff in fast food restaurants.

He would ask for a Cheeseburger without something they clearly didn't have, and every time the server would respond by telling him they didn't have that - so then he'd adjust his order by saying, ok, he'd just have it without the cheese.

It was very funny to watch but I could never do it myself.

And since they make money nowadays from selling doughnut holes, are they selling polo holes somewhere now too - like tic tacs?

PI said...

Mary W : please tell me you put your drink down on a coaster or mat. If it was a polished surface the husband may have been so upset he attacked his wife instead of his guest.
Its a generation thing:)

Kim Ayres said...

Savannah - more coffee. Always. More coffee.

Mary & Pat - if the dust was thick enough, it would create a protective coating and a coaster wouldn't be needed...

Carole - get out the camera and start keeping a photo diary of the surface in question. Record the dust level every couple of days and see how long until the messages start to appear and time how long it takes until someone finally cracks and grabs a duster.

I can see a whole new pastime coming on!

Jeff - you need to grease it with beer.

Eolai - it works until some smart arse charges you the full price for the cheesburger.

I went through a phase several years ago of travelling on the train a lot. I wasn't drinking caffeinated stuff at the time so would take my own fruit teabags and ask for a cup of hot water. Most of the time I would get it for free, but there was one trolley assistant who insisted she could only give me the water if she charged the full price of a cup of tea and left the tea bag on one side.

El-Branden Brazil said...

Dark matter.