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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

What's your anti-whetstone?

It could be alcohol. For me, that is a way of shutting my mind down from time to time. Otherwise, the weight of intelligence could be overwhelming.

It could be the ease of not having to struggle very much to have your ideas accepted. You don't have to be sharp because you are in a mediocre environment.

Maybe it's a social thing: you can't be as sharp as you want because that would make it socially uncomfortable for you. It's easier not to be the asshole and just go along with the flow.

The anti-whetstone is what dulls your mind, over the long term.


Thomas said...

A few years ago someone noticed that I didn't know how to keep my kitchen knives sharp. The problem was that I would simply throw them in with the rest of the cutlery when I did the dishes (I have never had a dishwasher). He recommended that I instead rinse them and wipe them immediately after each use, then hang them on a magnet. I've been doing that ever since.

The real anti-whetstone of the mind is clumsy use and lack of maintenance. Norman Mailer once said that it was a bad idea to write while drunk (he would know). But I don't think drinking at the end of a good day of work, even getting a little drunk, is an anti-whetstone as such. It's when we work carelessly that the mind unravels.

It is said that a Zen butcher (actually, I think the story is about a Taoist) can cut meat all day without ever needing to sharpen the blade. He just cuts exactly where the meat "parts", as it were. Ideally, we would need no whetstone at all. The mind would hold its edge because it was always being used precisely.

Thomas said...

"In the absence of a greater faith, a professional keeps himself in shape by remaining true to his professionalism. Amateurs write when they are drunk. For a serious writer to do that is equivalent to a professional football player throwing imaginary passes in traffic when he is bombed., and smashing his body into parked cars on the mistaken impression that he is taking out the linebacker. Such a professional football player will feel like crying in the morning when he discovers that his ribs are broken." (Norman Mailer, preface to Deaths for the Ladies, reprinted in Existential Errands, p. 200)

Anonymous said...

Bad environments. Having to explain very basic things very slowly to people who still do not understand for a lot of hours per day. Being projected into. Having to repeat slowly things like, no, my support of separation of powers is not an indication of mistrust of you as an individual. Having to talk to people who are drunk as though they were not.