Accidents Will Happen: Elvis Costello as Philosopher


Accidents will happen; yes, they will.  I wrote this little essay more than 25 years ago.  I think it was my first–certainly it was one of my first–attempts to say much of anything about ordinary language philosophy or about Elvis Costello.  It fell out of my file cabinet today as I was hunting something else.  I had thought it gone for good.  Perhaps it would have been better if I had not found it; perhaps I should not post it.  Perhaps.  Anyway, here it is.  Apologies in advance.

Link to essay


50 Years–Happy Birthday to Me

Huh.  50.  How’d that happen?  Gah.

Knowing ourselves, our world, our task so great,
Our time so brief, ’tis clear if we refuse
The means so limited, the tools too rude
To execute our purpose, life will fleet
And we shall fade and leave our task undone.

Yep.  Fading and undone.

Now to be oneself, to remain oneself is a trickier matter than most people think.  There are always gaps in our personal experience and our personal thought, and there exists a permanent temptation to stop these up with ready-made developments borrowed from some body of pre-existing doctrine.

Full of stop-gap measures, I head into my fifth decade, still barely myself.  Or that’s how it seems.  Oh well, here’s to Browning and Marcel (quoted above) who keep me company on the journey!  And to all the others, friends, family, colleagues and students, who continue to put up with me!

Monday Morning Blues: “Pains and Laze and Brainlessness”

Borrowing a passage from Stephen MacKenna on this close, gray morning.

August 13 1908

A day of nothingness, of prehumous death:  pains and laze and brainlessness.  Probably I could have saved this day and given it some value, had I but frankly from the early morning proclaimed it a day of rest:  it is always nobler to rest diligently than to work listlessly.  Life is in activity, and if one can’t be active in work, the only living is to be lively in play.  If one can’t write seriously, one can read seriously:  if one can’t read long, perhaps one can think long:  if one has no thoughts, one can read lightly:  if one can’t read light things or talk pleasantly, then better to go to sleep, thus at last doing something seriously useful.  If sin is sin by dampening life, then a morose dawdling is among the deadliest of sins; it is a very subtle shaft of the Gille nach chorp.  Few acts could sink a man further from God’s service, or from the mastery of himself more fatally or more miserably, than spineless discontented actlessness.

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