On Whether a Table is a Table

What a waste of time, philosophy. Penniless nerds pondering whether “a table is a table.” A table IS a table, and that’s that. And if it isn’t, who cares! Right?

Thought of any “non-profitable” nature is often mocked as a waste of time. Philosophy- the love of wisdom- a mere collegiate perversion. Egg-head territory. Don’t think: punch the clock, grind your teeth, collect the pay. Keep things tweet-simple. Intellect is the root of all evil.

Let’s try to make a case for discussing tables.

Because a table is NOT objectively a table. A table can easily be a very uncomfortable bed. Or an unusually big chair. My coffee “table” is indeed smaller than a chair. In fact it is closer in kinship to a chair-ish “stool” than to my dining-room table. A table is a rectangle when viewed from above. But sometimes it is a square or a circle of a triangle, and can assume any number of unexpected forms in the hands of a visionary designer. Is a table the place where “one puts dishes”? If I put a dish on your head, do you become a table? Or are “tables” already human? (What IS a human?) And when does a table stop being a table and become an altar? Do the services provided by the table change its essential nature?

Or… wait… is a table actually a graphic arrangement of chemical elements?!?

It may be that our Platonic table, bearing only tangential connection to our tangible tables, is simply “a surface in which we put things.” And that “Platonic ideal” may help us recognize tables- but only in a table-centered society. The ground was the world’s first table, much like the cupped hands are the world’s first dish and glass. Many a Neanderthal never learned the concept of “table” and would have been puzzled as to their use. The earliest tables can only be traced to as recent a tribe as the Egyptians, and it wasn’t until the Greeks that tables were first tentatively used for dining purposes.


Maybe these questions aren’t worth more than a few minutes of mental energy. But if we never wonder about tables, we will never develop the mental tools to question anything of any higher complexity – and there are few concepts as un-complex as “tables.” Not having the imagination to wonder about tables leaves us hopelessly inept when facing higher-level, abstract concepts as endlessly subjective as
‘human relationships,’ ‘sexuality,’ ‘identity,’ ‘morals’, ‘economics’, ‘religion,’ ‘politics,’ ‘society,’ ‘life.'”

There are no “facts”: facts are only heavily enforced opinions. You may believe that someone is six-feet-tall and that is a “fact.” But the fact crumbles when one starts wondering: what IS a foot? Whose ‘foot’ exactly? Who decided that a foot was a valid, universal source of measure? Why do these “feet” correspond to the average feet of males, and why were females not asked to the measurement party? To say that feet are feet, and everyone knows what they are, and that it’s all, is only contrary to “objective” reality: no one is “six-feet-tall”. People are only six-feet-tall depending on what subjective measurement system they choose to participate in.  Travel around Europe and your “objective height” will quickly vary: there are dozens of different ‘feet’ by region, often varying by inches.  In Bruges, a foot is equal to 274 millimeters. In Tyrol, a foot is equal to 334 millimeters. So an item that is a foot tall in Brussels will MAGICALLY CHANGE its supposedly objective height in feet when traveling to Tyrol. To never wonder about these seemingly unimportant things is to be doomed to ignorance about a complicated, thousands-of-years-old history of laws and regulations, of evolving mathematics, of science allied to government dictums, of massive campaigns of national homogenization, of  local individuality surrendered to global expediency.

In short, wondering about a table may be a minor mental exercise- but by all means, let’s keep our mind sharp with minor exercises. If we can’t be bothered to attempt one easy mental push-up, we’ll never be able to deal with any serious weight-lifting.

Most people do simply accept that a table is objectively a table and never wonder about the set of circumstances that led for them to acquire that belief; these are the people who believe that “it is what it is”; that there is such a thing as a placid lagoon of truth, where there are only the wild tsunamis of perception. If we don’t “waste time” questioning something as simple as a table, we can never hope to question something as complex as life. And if we do not ask questions of life, how we can expect to get any meaningful answers from it?

(Matthew 7:7)



(For Kate. Good for the goose, good for the gander.)

Since Mr. Ballard had been on Ativan for a while, not to mention Lexapro, Zoloft, Paxil and Wellbutrin, everyone felt uneasy about letting him know that his wife Brenda had been in a disastrous car accident.

It was Chip, Mr. Ballard’s younger brother, who finally texted about it: “Shit. Bro. Sorry 2 tell U, but Brenda was in an accident. Flipped the Explorer off US 1. Fucking American cars! Try not 2 lose Ur shit over this, ok? She’s DOA. Be strong.”

Other men might have taken a while to process this, might have felt disbelief, might have left their gaze drift about in confused aimlessness. Not Mr. Ballard. He understood at once, and pictured the car as a burning hulk by the side of the highway, and Brenda twisted somewhere in that flaming vehicular prison, and the hopeless ambulance ride as the EMTs gave up on the corpse. Mr. Ballard sobbed with sudden, wild abandonment, like he had sobbed at the beginning of Pixar’s “Up,” or at the end of Pixar’s “Finding Nemo,” or throughout most of Pixar’s “Toy Story 3.”

Continue reading “A TALE OF FIVE MINUTES”




(Continued from Part 1)

Leland Granger was a lean man with somewhat aristocratic airs and a graying mustache that curved around a sardonic smile. That smile was on glistening display as he rode into Thirsty Gulch in his chestnut saddlebred, and it extended even further as Granger inspected the outside of Paw Jenkins’ cabin, which, if the strict truth be told, was in need of much repair.

“Cozy little secluded state, Hank! Makes it hard for old friends to track you down.”

“That is one of its many admirable qualities.” Paw Jenkins laughed as he walked down the porch steps to greet the visitor. “Come here, Leland, you son-of-a-snake, and let me shake your double-dealing hand!”

Continue reading “THIS LAND CAN BE QUITE UNFORGIVING (Part 2)”




Paw Jenkins still made some money ranging and bounty hunting on Merokee Plains, but of late he had slowed down and was more into stealing horses and skinning anything unfortunate enough to have fur. This gave him more time to think of Bolo and Mellie, the children he kept on his cabin by Thirsty Gulch. The cabin was all crooked logs that leaned over the ravine just like Paw Jenkins leaned over Mellie and Bolo after a night of gin-guzzling to say:

“Don’t you all cry and moan. That’s how the wolves know to get you.”

Continue reading “THIS LAND CAN BE QUITE UNFORGIVING (Part 1)”




“He applied and was chosen for an unpaid post at the library. He found the place too dusty for his lungs and asked for an ever longer series of sick leaves (…) After he repeatedly failed to report for work, showing up one day a year or less, even his unusually tolerant employers dismissed him, five years after he had first been taken on.” – Alain de Botton, “How Proust Can Change Your Life.”

Francine was merrily whistling “Frere Jacques” and dusting off the backs of the many weighty manuscripts contained within the Bibliotheque Mazarine, (23 Quai de Conti, Paris, France.) She had gone up a very long ladder to pay particular attention to a high shelf containing Madame de Salacieux’s “Les Liasons Excitantes, Tomes I-LXIX,” so naturally she became alarmed when the ladder began to shake.

Continue reading “MARCEL GOES TO WORK”




Nancy said to Frank, “Sweetie, I feel like ice cream. Oooh, mint ice cream! Want to share with me?”

Frank kissed Nancy’s belly bump and said: “Aaaah, I see the cravings are starting. Mint ice cream? Sounds like a trip to the fridge.”

He jumped out of bed, nearly stepping on Pom Pom. The little orange Pomeranian ran busily between Frank’s loafers, intent on making him trip on the way to the kitchen. Frank opened the refrigerator’s door, peered in, frowned. “I don’t see it. We don’t have that.”

Continue reading “CRAVINGS”



Viviana sat on the rocking chair in the living room, holding a Vogue from 1978, Farrah Fawcett beaming aggressively angelical blondness from the cover. That had been the year of Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy and the Vampire of Sacramento, but also there had been “Dallas” and “Grease” and “The Love Boat,” so Viviana though of 1978 fondly. Later, she planned to think of 1985 fondly, and 1982 and 1973 and 1996. There were lots and lots of Vogues blossoming around the rocking chair, a whole garden of Vogues.

But then there were a series of loud knocks at the door so Viviana leapt out of the chair excitedly and dropped the Vogue to the floor. She had some idea who it would be. He’d been gone so long, she could hardly wait for him to come back.

Continue reading “THE GOOD NEWS”