Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hoi Polloi

Hoi Polloi is a Greek term that translates very roughly into English. The most straightforward translation is, "The Ignorant Masses." Other possible translations include "Pig-smell Small-brains," "The Great Unwashed," "Stupidy Stupids," etc., etc.

It was used often by the ancient Greek philosophers to describe the ordinary, everyday, mediocre in every way man. A man who was especially virtuous or vicious was not a member of the Hoi Polloi. Nor could a man who was especially wealthy or especially poor fit into this category. The Hoi Polloi were the mottled men; the sometimes-fail, sometimes-succeed, quick to cower but sometimes surprising in courage, highly opinionated and largely unstudied men of Greece.

The Hoi Polloi matter to me because I was informed by one of my philosophy proffessors of my Junior year that, quote, "I might be interested in them." At the time I didn't know who the Hoi Polloi were, and fancied that they might be some intensely serious, incredibly studious, extremely knowledgeable and super-secret group of collegiate philosophers that I was meant to join due to my analytical abilities and my, cough, obvious philosophical nature.

She had a good laugh when I came in the next class and reported to her that I had taken a look at what the Hoi Polloi had to offer and decided that it just wasn't for me. Some other kids in the class had a good laugh. I hope you're having a good laugh reading this - she got me right where it counts, and it was hilarious.

Of course, I got her back before the end of the semester, but it took awhile and that's another story. (Ask me about prime matter some time...she was all about this stuff, which of necessity is imaginary and does not exist. Ha!)

Anyway, I quietly attempted to free myself from any association with the Hoi Polloi thensforth, but it was not to be. This philosophy teacher found it particularly amusing to bring it up whenever I had gotten a question wrong ("Oh, Monty, I'm sorry...you must have gotten that from the Hoi Polloi") or didn't raise my hand when she opened the class up for debate ("I'm surprised the Hoi Polloi have nothing to say about this, Monty!"). She was a cunning and clever creature, and I couldn't escape her. The more I tried to evade association, the more she pressed the issue, until I gave up and began all my answers with, "The Hoi Polloi submit that"...etc., etc.

Looking back, I find that she and I had a lot of laughs together and that she did, in fact, have respect for what I had to say and went out of her way to get me to talk when I was silent (which, I acknowledge, was not often). But I also look back on my attempts to disassociate with the Hoi Polloi, and laugh a bit more.

You see, Aristotle believed that all philosophical wisdom was to be had through experience. I have often told friends of my first acquaintance with Aristotle. My first week of class, I found out that Aristotle believed that the study of Philosophy should be reserved for those who had already lived out a significant portion of their lives. What was I to say to that?! I was angry with my teacher, and brought it up first thing the next class. "Aristotle, your hero, says that Philosophy is wasted on the youth. So why are we studying it?"

His answer? "Good question." He then proceeded to ignore me.

Years later, I have found the answer on my own. Knowledge can be acquired naturally through only 2 ways. 1st and foremost in the realm of learning is personal experience. 2nd, and truly secondary, is education. Education does bring knowledge, but the teacher must have the ability to impart that knowledge on a student that is receptive. Since I have been labled by one friend as the Rebel with Many Causes, my receptivity has been - how shall we say it? Poor.

Which brings me all the way back to the Hoi Polloi. You see, it is these Hoi Polloi who do most of the real-life experiencing out there. I just finished watching The Perfect Storm. It's a movie about fishermen, people who make up the very core of the Hoi Polloi. Men have fished the sea for thousands of years - for as long as man has existed, he's fished. And many of my favorite poems speak of the sea, of the catch. My Viking ancestors crossed the sea to England, to France, and eventually to America. Christ himself was a fisherman. And yet I know nothing of the sea or of fishing.

How can I be a philosopher without these experiences? How can I argue about the soul's immortality when I know nothing of death? How can I convince an impoverished mother to spare the life of her child when I have never known hunger or thirst?

I accept that education can cure some ignorance in my mind and in the minds of others. I know that rationality, in and of itself, can serve the young man as well as the experiences of the elder, if it is the right young man.

But I am not that right young man. Not yet, at least. To know the value of money, I must sweat. To know the value of life, I must life far more than I have. To know true fear, I need to encounter something truly fearsome! Philosophical knowledge of courage can serve me no good if I face nothing that gives me the opportunity to be courageous!

It is with and among the Hoi Polloi that Monty will find his answers. Thoughts and arguments can only bring me, and you, so far. At some point, you have to sail out into the deep waters, get dirty, and come back smelling like fish and knowing what it is to live and to die and to bleed and the sweat and to fear and to fight and to breathe. If the fancy-pants philosophers won't talk to you then 'cause you've dirtied your hands, guess what?

That's a sign that they're not real philosophers.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Why I'm Always Barefoot

For little boys, Barefootedness is close to Godliness. Romping about with pristine white shoes through the muck and the grime in the back yard doesn't bother little boys at all, but it makes their mothers insane. So for simple peace of mind (and to ensure rompage is not replaced with time in a corner), every smart little boy (who is blessed with a back yard to romp in in the first place) learns quickly that going barefoot is almost always preferable to going shod.

One might ask, "Well...why would having mud all over one's bare feet make a mother happier than mud all over one's shoes?" The response to this is that feet come free with the child; shoes cost extra. Feet covered in mud are easily washed off with a hose; little white shoes that mother bought especially for little footsies to make them look cuter do not easily wash off with a hose. In fact, as every little boy knows well, they are "RUINED!!!"

Now, I am no longer a little boy (to my great dismay...oh, to have my dogs and woods and fields and adventures back...I'd give most anything), but many of you know that I still go about barefoot as often as I feel I can. Obviously, that is not as often as I like but more often than others like, but hey - life is all about compromise, right? (Wrong should be your very deep-seated answer, btw.) But above and beyond my whimsical desire to return to childhood, and my dislike for paying money for shoes that wear out quickly when God gave me a free pair of feet that harden and toughen the more you use them (seriously, isn't that awesome?), there is an entirely different, much more sinister reason that I go about barefoot so often. A darkly perplexing problem, a disturbing reoccurence that, despite my best efforts, will not cease. I can't beat it. I can't win. No matter what I do, I always lose.

I am speaking, of course, of the top drawer of my dresser. The top drawer of my dresser eats my socks.

And underwear, but for the purposes of this post we will focus on socks.

As I was saying, it EATS them. Consumes them. Digests them and spits them back out in the form of stains on my shorts, wrinkles in my shirts, and the appearance of xtra-large and extremely unfashionable articles of clothing in my other drawers. Horrible, I know.

I have fought this top drawer for years now. Battles unceasing. I have made, not one, but several trips to Wal-mart...each year for sock replenishment, and what happens? They, too, are consumed. At least the drawer cannot be said to be racist; white, black, red and all the other colored socks of the earth fall to the maw. All shapes and sizes, too. At the end of any particular ravaging, I return to find only the remnants: unmatched, unwearable, and hiding under the other clothes.

I do not tell you this so you can organize a Socks for Monty campaign. Alas, it would be in vain. Do not send shipments of ultra-thick, last-you-a-lifetime, carbon-fiber socks. They, too, would dissappear. I tell you only so that you might understand my own adult barefootedness. Do not judge me, my fellow men. Do not scorn me or reject me; do not lump me with monkeys and barbarians in your mind (excepting those ways which actually make me out to be more manly or rugged - you are encouraged, in those cases, to indeed lump me with monkeys and barbarians). I ask of you, really, only 2 things.


Love me...and try not to dwell on the fact that I have no underwear, either.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Nature of Blogging (First Post!!)

If writing is an art, than blogging must be the equivalent of doodling in a notebook. I mean, some girls can DOODLE, and it looks awesome...but it's still a doodle.

This in no way is an attack on doodling. Every artist sketches; none paint masterpieces without practice. Doodling is the child's first step towards the Louvre.

So that makes this my first step towards...the New York Times? Blah.

Blogging is to be an experience of accompaniment. Blogging norm dictates that I go out, experience something worth writing about, write it in such a way that is is infinitely exaggerated for the amusement, entertainment, or education of my readers, and then proclaim it's publishment across the electronic framework of the internet.

I think that the trick to blogging is to just friggin' blog and then come back AFTER you publish it and say, "Damn! Why did I write that? What is going on with my punctuation? And WHY did I make such a stupid comparison!" And then during the next blog, give attention to the mistakes made and avoid them for the immediate future. If I try to go back and fix things as I write them, post by measly post, I find that there are several unwanted effects:

1. I make my post, and my blog, seem way more important than it actually is.
2. I therefore become very concerned with the quality of that which I am writing.
3. I find myself shooting down topic after potential topic, and
4. I end up not publishing anything.

So there shall be no more examination of posts during the writing process. I have always made it my habit to write things from top to bottom as a sort of whole cloth; the idea of writing a paper piecemeal is foreign to me, and seems extremely artificial. I write what I know, and as all of what I know is always and inevitably interconnected and interdependent, it makes no sense to me to attempt to write things piecemeal. All at once or nothing at all!

I had to write something as a first post - I figured "On the Nature of Blogging" would constitute an appropriate topic. As I have already sworn not to go back and erase crap that I have written, I guess this is what we've settled on.

But since this is probably very, very boring, I will give my audience some hope. You know, the stuff that whispers to you, "The lecture will end soon and then you can go eat chocolate!!" Yeah, that. The hope is this.

1. I will blog about VERY SERIOUS MATTERS. Like how the drawer where I put my socks and underwear...seems to eat my socks and underwear. It's very, very serious. I will have pictures!!

2. Seriously though, I'll blog about how my sister told me today that she doesn't like Shakespeare or Edgar Allen Poe and doesn't understand why I read them. James' response was: "Well, why do you breath, Monty? Or eat? Or FRIGGIN' EXIST!??!"

3. Ok, really and truly, I want to blog about how the past generation of Americans have screwed our generation, and how I find myself more loyal to my age group than I am to America. Do you share that loyalty? And isn't that a wierd thing? I found that I have a certain distaste for men and women around 15 to 40 years older than me. I don't like them. I automatically blame them for many of our own generation's fallenness. And blogging, I am sure, will only reveal more nasty thoughts on my part. So if you want to defend your parents and their generation, come onnnnn back!

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