Marginalia, no.116

Readiness to answer all questions is the infallible sign of stupidity.

~ Saul Bellow, Herzog

I turn to Bellow for flattery.  Because if, on the other hand, unreadiness to answer any question whatsoever is the mark of intelligence, then you may write in my name for the presidency of MENSA.  I’m daily astonished at how little I know – and how little, it seems, I can know.  Whether I’m asked my opinion on a top-ten controversy of the day or a trivial bit of work-related nothingism, my response is the same: Who the hell am I to have an opinion?  Most days it’s all I can do to keep functioning as an organism and not go mad.


Filed under Marginalia

8 responses to “Marginalia, no.116

  1. This is why you like Montaigne, and also why your web-log is good. I leave you w/ Thomas Hardy’s word on it all:


    A star looks down at me,
    And says: “Here I and you
    Stand, each in our degree:
    What do you mean to do,—
    Mean to do?”

    I say: “For all I know,
    Wait, and let Time go by,
    Till my change come.”—“Just so,”
    The star says: “So mean I:—
    So mean I.”

    N.B. The antepenultimate line alludes to a passage in Job.

  2. Ian Wolcott

    Thanks, Mark. And yes, I’m sure that’s why I love Montaigne so much.

    I remember the passage in Job:

    “If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt desire the work of thine hands.”

    I suppose the book of Job goes well with Montaigne too, since even God – when he appears at the end – refuses to answer direct questions.

  3. Gaw

    As I get older, the only thing I’m becoming more sure of is the reasonableness of doubt.

  4. Ian Wolcott

    That’s nicely said, Gaw.

  5. As to Job, Montainge, & Hardy, Ian: Your remark hits the bull’s eye.

    Frost used to say that in the book of Job God was simply “showing off to the devil.” I like that.

    Best, Mark

  6. Pingback: Signs of Stupidity « Contemporary Digest

  7. elberry

    i have come to the conclusion that we the world is a funny old place, there’s nowt queer as folk, and we really don’t know much. Strangely, this can be expressed in a way that seems exhilarating and wonderful.

  8. Pingback: Tweets that mention Marginalia, no.116 « The New Psalmanazar --

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