Of social contracts:
Play "I Spy" before you say "I Do" - a new tradition in Indian weddings.
A thin man in an ill-fitting suit, Singh works out of a crowded office around the corner from a muffler shop. An incense stick burns behind his desk. A sign in slightly fractured English warns the staff: "Walls Has Ears And Eyes Too. BE ALERT."
Singh has spent years honing his skills: disguise, surveillance, misdirection. With just a few minutes' notice, he can deploy teams nearly anywhere across the country.
Because in modern India, where centuries of arranged marriages are being replaced by unions based on love, emotion and anonymous Internet introductions, where would a wedding be without a private detective?
"Today, there's a need to check if people are telling the truth. And that is where we get involved," said Singh. "Does that boy really have an education? Is he really earning that big salary? Is that boy or girl running around?"
A groom-to-be may seem like a nice young man. He might come from a good family. But nearly two decades running his own agency, Hatfield Detectives, has taught Singh how little that can mean. So he spells out a warning, lingering over each word: "You don't know what that boy is doing with his time."
The detectives, though, are ready to find out.
Of the body:
Historian Tony Judt's excruciating account of living with Lou Gehrig's Disease.
I suffer from a motor neuron disorder, in my case a variant of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS): Lou Gehrig's disease. Motor neuron disorders are far from rare: Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and a variety of lesser diseases all come under that heading. What is distinctive about ALS—the least common of this family of neuro-muscular illnesses—is firstly that there is no loss of sensation (a mixed blessing) and secondly that there is no pain. In contrast to almost every other serious or deadly disease, one is thus left free to contemplate at leisure and in minimal discomfort the catastrophic progress of one's own deterioration.
In effect, ALS constitutes progressive imprisonment without parole. First you lose the use of a digit or two; then a limb; then and almost inevitably, all four. The muscles of the torso decline into near torpor, a practical problem from the digestive point of view but also life-threatening, in that breathing becomes at first difficult and eventually impossible without external assistance in the form of a tube-and-pump apparatus. In the more extreme variants of the disease, associated with dysfunction of the upper motor neurons (the rest of the body is driven by the so-called lower motor neurons), swallowing, speaking, and even controlling the jaw and head become impossible. I do not (yet) suffer from this aspect of the disease, or else I could not dictate this text.
By my present stage of decline, I am thus effectively quadriplegic.
Of the mind:
Raymond Geuss contemplates his day job - teaching philosophy. Could this gentleman benefit from repairing a motorcycle or two? [A] penitential domain of reason-mongering is an expression of true despair!
I have what I have always held to be a mildly discreditable day job, that of teaching philosophy at a university. I take it to be discreditable because about 85 percent of my time and energy is devoted to training aspiring young members of the commercial, administrative or governmental elite in the glib manipulation of words, theories and arguments. I thereby help to turn out the pliable, efficient, self-satisfied cadres that our economic and political system uses to produce the ideological carapace which protects it against criticism and change. I take my job to be only mildly discreditable, partly because I don’t think, finally, that this realm of words is in most cases much more than an epiphenomenon secreted by power relations which would otherwise express themselves with even greater and more dramatic directness. Partly, too, because 10 percent of the job is an open area within which it is possible that some of these young people might become minimally reflective about the world they live in and their place in it; in the best of cases they might come to be able and willing to work for some minimal mitigation of the cruder excesses of the pervading system of oppression under which we live. The remaining 5 percent of my job, by the way, what I would call the actual “philosophical” part, is almost invisible from the outside, totally unclassifiable in any schema known to me—and quantitatively, in any case, so insignificant that it can more or less be ignored.
So the experience I have of my everyday work environment is of a conformist, claustrophobic and repressive verbal universe, a penitential domain of reason-mongering in which hyperactivity in detail—the endlessly repeated shouts of “why,” the rebuttals, calls for “evidence,” qualifications and quibbles—stands in stark contrast to the immobility and self-referentiality of the structure as a whole. I suffer from recurrent bouts of nausea in the face of this densely woven tissue of “arguments,” most of which are nothing but blinds for something else altogether, generally something unsavory; and I feel an urgent need to exit from it altogether. Unsurprisingly, Plato had a name for people like me when I am in this mood: misovlogos, a hater of reasoning.
Of the existential kind:
Did you ever ponder that life itself may actually be a form of life sentence? Oh, well.
(the link to Raymond Geuss' essay in The Point magazine is via 3 Quarks Daily and to Tony Judt's essay from Leiter Reports)