Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Lichtenberg

I've just come across the aphorisms of Georg Christophe Lichtenberg.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georg_Christoph_Lichtenberg

I am fond of aphorisms, in their compressed way they shine a thin focussed beam that cuts into the inconscient. They have a high specific gravity; they are the gold of speech.

In the old city of Jerusalem you may see a man carrying 23 chairs on his back or a large fridge. In Paris as told in 'The Piano Shop on the Left Bank'(by T.E.Carhart) you can hire a man who will carry a grand piano up the stairs of a courtyard apartment. There are the steps, there is the harness, there is the grand piano, you must find that perfect point of balance then swing and move. For this service there is an acolyte who guides the nose of the piano and prevents the swing of it from unbalancing the porter.

All that prose. Poetry has a stronger back. I can understand how Shankara wrote most of his Upadesa Sahasri in verse because its constraints force one to get past the normal cliches that spring effortlessy.

"A book is a mirror: if an ape looks into it an apostle is hardly likely to look out. We have no words for speaking of wisdom to the stupid. He who understands the wise is wise already."
(Lichtenberg from Notebook E 49: 1775 1776)