Mad-Hatter Rummaging

wittgenstein's three blobs of ink

Time ago it was that he would refuse to admit that in the world as a whole there were three things. Take three blobs of ink, his friend and elder had said, and he shook his pen three times on a sheet of white paper. Young Ludwig with his mad blue eyes would not admit these things to be in the world at all. And that is somewhat the distinction, but not quite, that the open-collared Cambridge philosopher would make between fact and fiction, though I must admit that that is not what he meant at all, and which I am merely borrowing torn from the bastardized template of lost time, du temps perdu, to serve myself if not a nameless master of my own. What might be said about ‘finite assertions’ and infinite abstractions is not so much my interest. Mine is in things like hats, straw hats, if you will. That there were indeed three clowns wearing them in my little clownish world of words and green grass I would like to assert as having been once true. And that these three gentlemen digging up my garden on a summertime whim and dare, when I saw them, they ran off like bolts of lightning through the trees and forever disappeared. Now, another would assert that all I have done is mimicked the difference between ‘fancy’ and ‘imagination’—the former being of a merely mechanized function of memory and the like, and the latter being the supreme creative force of human perception.

three straw hats

Time ago it was not as well, and in that world there were always these three glorious things, ink blots on a folded linen napkin gone to waste, forced upon the young man by an ample yet, alas, second-rate mind. And later on, in this same world, the one that never was, there were always, too, three empty summer hats made of hand-braided straw which never had never been pitched atop a living human head, nor had been ever doffed from three, two, or one. Now before I take my leave, I must do so suggesting only this single proposition: that what I have said here every child who’s known sand to be slipping through its fingers already knows, and that only later on can this a worry ever become, that only then are these same once-children beset with, “Was it true?” or “Was it not?” And of those two last questions, dividing the world itself as such, which have and has never meant that much to me, I must finally end this little sally by having us think upon such things as ‘luminous grey’ or ‘a half-knight’s move” —whether you can imagine them to be or not at all.

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