Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Mr Creosote


I was advised yesterday by cousin Mary to enjoy my birthday “without indulging in too much cake”. I replied ‘Please explain to me the concept of "too much cake", I admit to never having been a student of philosophy.’ 

She kindly replied ‘it might be more accurate to speak of physiology rather than philosophy in this instance! When your shirt-buttons start popping and you feel you may be "bursting at the seams", you have certainly had "too much cake"’

I was grateful for the reply but, alas, it did not satisfy me. The symptoms she described were, in my view, evidence of clothing of the wrong size or an inadequate metabolism.

Most of us are unable to devote much time to deep reflection on the essence of existence, being more driven to concentrate on those activities essential to survival – foraging for sustenance, getting the required daily 11 hours sleep, correcting errors on twitter and watching “Only Connect”. However, the current suspension of test cricket, the IPL and Super Rugby allows me a few moments of reflection.

On a similar theme to the cake conundrum above, I confess to being troubled by the simplistic “glass half full/half empty” explanation of the difference between optimists and pessimists (I have always favoured the third option, that of engineering, which posits the case that the glass is the wrong size).  Facts of which we are not informed include the size, location and contents of the receptacle.  If one were thirsty and the glass was to hand and contained some nourishing, thirst-quenching substance, then it might be safe to say that the position of seeing the glass half full was an optimistic one. Alternatively, if the glass contained a highly radioactive substance then the size of the glass and its proximity would be factors in determining degrees of optimism/pessimism.

It is not in my nature to bemoan the shortcomings of this creation. I am sure that the next upgrade, or version 2, will eliminate sweet potatoes, capitalism, carrot cake, reality tv, misanthropy, the cult of celebrity, racism and Ikea. We should not be too hard on God for his oversights, particularly if she only had seven days to complete the task. (This of course raises the troubling question of who it was who was powerful enough to set ridiculous deadlines that constrained an omnipotent being – Mary, see what your edict has unearthed?)

I hope that this helps.



29 comments:

Dave said...

Actually she completed the task in 6 days. On the 7th she rested. I've always assumed it wasn't a deadline, merely how long the task took.

Vicus Scurra said...

Assumptions are the enemy of reason.
Were there teabreaks during creation, any sleep?
Coming round here telling half a story.

Professor Bainbridge said...

You couldn't have had a teabreak until the third day when plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds were created. It does raise the issue of whether the tea plants were ready to be picked and whether there were any containers in which the tea could be brewed. Sleep would be OK though, I think.

Vicus Scurra said...

Although your comments are helpful and compliant with logic, is it not bizarre to find a further example of a supreme being constrained by the limits of his own creation? I mean, what is the bloody point of being omnipotent if you can't have a cup of tea when you want one. Sure, you've got to have light first or you couldn't tell how much sugar you were putting in, but it begins to look like a further example of poor design. I hope he gets it right next time - David Gower should never have been dropped from the England team when he was, ffs.

Professor Bainbridge said...

I'm afraid, sir,you remind me of St Augustine, or to be more precise, the response of the saint when asked what God was doing before the Creation viz 'preparing Hell for people who ask difficult questions.'

Professor Bainbridge said...

I acknowledge that you are understandably concerned about God's omnipotence and the difficulties this presents to sensible (and sensitive) people like yourself when trying to reconcile it with the accidents of corporeal existence but I have a more immediate problem. I want to leave the house through the back gate of my garden. However I can't work out how I will be able to walk to the end of my garden, when in order to do so, according to Zeno of Elea, I have to cover half its length first and then half the length of the remainder, half the length of half the remainder and so on infinitely. I can get very close but never actually reach the end. Any help you can give will be gratefully received. And sooner rather than later as I have to get to Sainsburys before it closes.

Vicus Scurra said...

You remind me of St Augustine, in that you have the intellect of a Hippo.
Go out of the front door.

Professor Bainbridge said...

I can only reply with reference to the following:
https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=sound+of+a+hippo&&view=detail&mid=D102997E7F0419752BBBD102997E7F0419752BBB&rvsmid=FF9B98EF615A0513B599FF9B98EF615A0513B599&FORM=VDQVAP

Vicus Scurra said...

Unless I missed my guess, that was not actually St Augustine.

Professor Bainbridge said...

Well spotted. As it happens he is there watching but outside the range of the video camera.

Vicus Scurra said...

Returning to the matter of your friend Zeno (does everyone in your circle have an exotic name?). You are not obliged measure your progress in halfs. Try thirds.
Zeno's position is faulty if he/she imagines that you are limited to moving only half as far as your previous step, then someone needs to apprise him/her that God moves in mysterious ways, and your ways are positively bizarre. Zeno should go back to Ikea.
I feel some sympathy for old Zeno, devoting his life to expounding paradoxes. Some of us are blessed enough to have a multitude of activities with which to fritter away existence.

Professor Bainbridge said...

First of all, I don't know how seriously to take your refutation of Zeno's position. I think it was you who once told me that all people from Leicester are liars. I wished at the time you hadn't because I now no longer know whether or not they are, because you being a liar means that these people must not be but then that would include you.
Secondly, it won't matter what fraction my progress is measured in. It will always be impossible for my destination to be reached whether that be my front door, back door, Waitrose, IKEA, Elea or Miletus. I think that if the government had been more savvy about the Stay At Home policy they could have publicised Zeno's paradox widely so that people realised that in fact any plan to move away from home would be demonstrably fruitless.
I think you should also bear in mind that God has the same predicament (i.e. arriving anywhere) albeit for the more recherche (sic) reason that he/she has already arrived.

Vicus Scurra said...

Let us examine Zeno's position shall we? And he can only have one position because he has proved that it is not possible to move. By extrapolating your example of only getting to your garden gate or the foot of your stairs or wherever by passing the halfway point and then increasingly diminishing halfway points thereafter, we can see that he can never get to the halfway point, because first he will have to get half way to the half way point and this applies to any movement in any direction. He has effectively proved that he doesn't exist because his father's sperm would never reach his mother's egg. So my advice would be to leave the bastard at home while you go to the shops (they are still open, but you have missed this morning's allotted hour for the elderly (and in your case befuddled).
If you are convinced by Zeno's position, then you stay where you are, sweetie; I am off to eat some cake. I will tell you what it was like later. If I manage to get back to you in order to tell you, then that will be a proof of the failure of Zeno's argument, and you will be then free to move yourself. Once again I have stepped in to solve a dilemma that threatened to ruin your life. There is no need to thank me, it is just what I do.
As for God, he is another silly bugger; he has had an infinite amount of time to find a solution to the continued existence of country and western music and has failed abjectly.
Here in the town to which you so dismissively referred, we call folk like Zeno a goggle-eyed wassock and God a big girl's blouse.

Vicus Scurra said...

May I, at this point, profess my sincere love for you?

Professor Bainbridge said...

Yes, you may, for which I am most grateful, but can I really believe you, coming as you do from the aforesaid Leicester? I note that you didn't confirm whether you managed to get to your cake and eat it which I think is suspicious. And bear in mind that it most be the whole cake for me to be convinced. You may have consumed everything but the tiniest particle (maybe so tiny as to be invisible), in which case the various infinitely divisible fractions of the cake can still have been eaten without disproving Zeno's observation.
I think I may be on to a solution, though. Yesterday I actually managed to reach the end of the garden. I did this by subtly pretending to myself that I needed to traverse twice the distance of the garden and so, having completed the first half, I was already at the garden gate. I just needed conveniently to forget where I had initially planned to go and it worked!
I understand what you are saying about Zeno not being able to move at all but I think we now have to go beyond mere deduction and adopt an empirical approach. My experience of yesterday shows that movement is in fact possible. Do you have a proverbial pipe into which you can stick this material evidence?

Vicus Scurra said...

You are simply demonstrating that you believe it is possible to negate failure by pretending that you had a different required result. I expect your loathsome friend Zeno would suggest that just because you could move yesterday there is no proof that you can do so again. If you wish to spend your time with such foolish people that is your choice. Instead you could have pretended you wanted to go to Pontefract (although I cannot work out why anyone would ever want to visit Yorkshire) and come here to witness me getting outside of the cake.
Tell me, are you stuck at the gate? You may think you have solved a tricky problem but now find yourself somewhere that has no benefit and are unable to extricate yourself. I would not be so cruel as to suggest that this is a metaphor for your life, but you may want to ponder on that.
In answer to your first question, yes, you can believe me - there are some simple human tasks of which you are capable; whether you do believe me is neither here nor there.

Vicus Scurra said...

Alas, it appears that Sainsbury's have been taken in by the clot Zeno.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-52483353

Dave said...

Tell me, if I set out for what we shall call, for the sake of argument, a ramble (I nearly said tramp, but felt you might accidentally misumderstand me) with no particular target in mind, will I in practice be able to walk any distance, just as long as I do not get it in to my mind that I want to return home at some point?

Vicus Scurra said...

Yes, and please feel free to experiment.
And I suspect you meant "misunderstand". Misumderstand is the ancient capital of Eastern Mesopotamia.

Dave said...

Hagns heed inn abjekt shaem. Eye apolojise.

Professor Bainbridge said...

I'm sorry, Mr Scurra but I think you'll find that it is actually Mesopotamia that is the capital of Eastern Misumderstand. But I agree, Dave, with Vicus, that you should give going for a tramp, sorry, ramble is a good idea as long as you don't plan to return from it but then, as explained above, change your mind at the crucial moment. You will, though, need an atlas, compass, possibly a very long tape measure and reel of cotton as well as sandwiches etc. so that you can calculate twice the distance back home and then nonchalantly wander back till you arrive safely at home. Probably best not to reveal your plans, or lack of them, to anyone else, while on your journey. Hope this helps.

Vicus Scurra said...

Another county heard from. Whereas I do not share the views of Henry Plantagenet vis-a-vis troublesome priests, the padre has just offered to wander away aimlessly. We could be without him for sometime. Then you come along and do your best (however meagre that may be) to get him back again. Here I was, seeing him as a latter day Moses, off into the desert, or Ipswich, whichever comes first, unencumbered by the tribes of Israel and unlikely to be the recipient of arcane commandments, now I expect he will roll up here or on facebook with some tripe or other in the near future.

Unknown said...

My goodness, probably not, dear people!
I have only just today (4th May) discovered this extraordinary "discussion", for which I feel partly responsible, having replied so unsatisfactorily to Vicus Scurra's deep philosophical question about "too much cake".
Were I not so busy writing another book on French literature, I might be tempted to join you in your pursuit of wisdom and truth.

Vicus Scurra said...

Thank you for your attempt to steer this conversation in a more serious direction. You have failed. I will forward your details to Professor Bainbridge who speaks French fluently, albeit with a West African accent.

Unknown said...


Do you really think that anyone else reads this crap? Well, there's always one!
Such sophistry as yours is enough to drive any sane person barmy! Why not discuss something useful - quantum theory, for instance? Now, that would be a help!
I'm going back to my book now.
Bonsoir, bonne nuit!
Guten Abend, gute Nacht!

Vicus Scurra said...

Quantum theory. I have disproved it. It suggests that particles behave differently when they are observed. (I am simplifying this for the more simple minded of readers). I conducted an experiment by watching "Only Connect" on the electric television. On those occasions where I get an answer before the contestants, I exclaim loudly (perhaps not so demonstrative as a shout, but with more volume than my usually calm expressions), sometimes several times. I do this whether I am in company or alone. Bohr? Bloody loathe him round our way.

Unknown said...


Do you really think that anyone else reads this crap? As I told you earlier, there's always one!
Your dismissal of Quantum Theory comes as a bit of a relief, in all truth.
I must return to my book.
Some would say, of course, that the book is neither here nor there. I assure you that it is here but in sadly unfinished form: only one-third complete, I confess.
Having so much free time can lead to procrastination.
I wish you and your crazy philosopher friends another happy day of obscurantist enlightenment!

Steve. Because 'Steve' is almost as nice a name as 'Paul'. said...

Marie Antoinette would have let you eat as much cake as you wanted. She was awesome like that. (Normally I would have kept France out of the issue, but Marie was Austrian - and a woman who knew that cake fixes everything.)

Vicus Scurra said...

Thank you - it is nice to get the view of an accomplished historian.