Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

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Two is the Beginning of the End
In today's Awfully Big Blog Adventure I muse on the joys of unconsciousness and compare childhood to a panopticon. Also hidden away in there is a phrase that I think would make the perfect title for an Adele album, should she ever stop using numbers for that purpose. The only prize for spotting it is a glow of satisfaction.

Anything labeled as "one of Philip Pullman's favourites" bears a big warning sign for me.

We can't blame von Kleist for that - he killed himself over 200 years ago, after all.

It's not his fault that Pullman likes him, but it is his fault that he wrote something Pullman likes.

That's quite a high bar to set!

Not for a warning sign.

And not for Pullman, whose critical sense is something appalling.

In terms of self-consciousness bringing disaster, many nineteenth-century children (and adults) knew that:
A centipede was happy – quite!
Until a toad in fun
Said, "Pray, which leg moves after which?"
This raised her doubts to such a pitch,
She lay distracted in a ditch
Consid'ring how to run.

I don't remember seeing that rhyme before - where has it been all my life? And Google tells me that it gave its name to the psychological effect it describes, too, which I've even had occasion to allude to in these pages. Thank you! (I'd have used it in that ABBA post had I known it.)

You're welcome! :)

Your mistake with the driving was to think that it should be done mindfully where what you're after with physical skills like that is flow.

Another way of looking at it is the 4-stage model that goes:

unconscious incompetence --> conscious incompetence --> conscious competence --> unconscious competence.

With regard to sprezzatura, some people do seem to have a natural ability to perform some skills, e.g. a sport, writing fiction, or singing. So sometimes calling it "unconscious limited competence" would be better than "unconscious incompetence". But this "natural" ability usually only takes the person so far and to advance further they have to realise that they could do better (conscious incompetence) and then they can progress through the stages until when they get really really good and reach unconscious competence, the sprezzatura returns.


Von Kleist's essay makes a similar point, I think, in slightly more obscure language.

“Now then,” said Mr. C—, “you have in your possession every means of understanding me. We see that in the natural world, as the power of reflection darkens and weakens, grace comes forward, more radiant, more dominating . . . But that is not all; two lines intersect, separate and pass through infinity and beyond, only to suddenly reappear at the same point of intersection. As we look in a concave mirror, the image vanishes into infinity and appears again close before us. Just in this way, after self-consciousness has, so to speak, passed through infinity, the quality of grace will reappear; and this reborn quality will appear in the greatest purity, a purity that has either no consciousness or consciousness without limit: either the jointed doll or the god.”

“Therefore,” I said, a little distracted, “we must eat from the tree of knowledge again and fall back into a state of innocence.”

“By all means,” he replied, “that is the last chapter in the history of the world.”


I like the other poem ascribed to the same lady given at https://books.google.com/books?id=oTsZAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA325

When you feast on cherries, children,
Take my advice:
Don't swallow all the stones,
It doesn't look nice.
Little ogre boys and girls
Are not such gluttons;
When they eat a lady's page
They leave his buttons.

Or, as Yogi Berra said, you can't think and hit at the same time.

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