Friday, September 11, 2009

Ludwig Wittgenstein Gets Some Hearing Aid Batteries

I am all in a tizzy today, behind with all my jobs and unable to either present my promised post in the Family Six Pack series or get around to all the other Theme Thursday participants and view their interpretations of rhythm. It is partly that we have decorators in and the house is in chaos. It is partly that I ran out of the batteries that power my cochlear implant and had to get some more. And it is partly the fault of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.
Many years ago I used to do some guest lecturing on a University of London course called "Education in England". Another of the guest lecturers hired for a three week stint in the middle of the summer was a retired philosophy professor from Belfast called William McClure. Bill was a wonderful old chap with a store of tales to fit every occasion. Whilst our students were off enjoying a taste of the cultural sites and sounds of London in the evening, Bill and I used to retire to the pub and get slowly and satisfyingly drunk. One evening I was delayed for my meeting with Bill in the Public Bar of the pub opposite the Institute of Education and when I eventually arrived I apologised for keeping him waiting for almost an hour. His reply - in a soft and rolling Irish accent - was "Sure, it doesn't take me long to wait an hour". Over a pint or four he told me how he had heard an old farmer use this expression in a village in the Mourne Mountains when he turned up at the post office one morning a good hour before it opened. Bill went on to explain how the phrase perfectly summed up the theory of time as postulated by Ludwig Wittgenstein. I have to confess that the detailed philosophical explanation got lost in clouds of Fullers Best Bitter, but I remember the phrase well.
So this afternoon as I queued up at the hearing aid clinic to get a new supply of batteries (all free on our splendid NHS will all my American friends note) and the technician came out to apologise for the long wait, I simply put on my Bill McClure smile and even a bit of a Bill McClure accent and said "Sure, it won't take me long to wait an hour". The technician smiles and went off to write something in my notes. I sat there thinking vaguely philosophical thoughts. The clock moved on. I eventually got my batteries but it was too late to post my Family Six Pack piece. If you want to complain, direct your complaints to old Ludwig Wittgenstein ... wherever he may be.

16 comments:

  1. That is a very useful phrase--we have some friends who are Wittgenstein scholars--I'll have to ask them about it.

    Anyone in this country with any sense is jealous of the NHS--sadly, a lot of folks have no sense here anymore...

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  2. Great... Now I have to track down William McClure's notes so I get the whole story!

    Blast you, Fullers Best Bitter!

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  3. I can use that on my customers. I run a framing business out of my home, part time thing, but people will call and say they are coming a certain time. So I plan my whole day around that appointment and they don't show for fifty minutes later or an hour. I waste that hour lots of time, thinking they will come any time now. They think that I am in the house and never leave so it doesn't matter. Anyway, you just spread Bill McClure's quote all the way across the ocean. That is a great story.

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  4. Oh yes, I have to add this. I am not concerned about free batteries. What I am concerned about is that the program that I paid into for the last 39 years will be dissolved into a minimal program. I paid for all of my older relatives free health care and now mine will not begin to look like theirs. My wife's congestive heart condition, puts her into the target of Obama's elimination of unproductive citizens, put them on a list, priority care not necessary. Save the productive citizens first.

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  5. Well, he sounds like a delightful man and I love his phrase you have taken for your own. It would come in useful and I like the way it diffuses the irritation of waiting. :) You know we'll all look forward to the next Six Pack installment. But that's the beauty of blogging. You get to it when you get to it. There are no rules! :)

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  6. ha. wonderful tale and i love the phrase...mayhaps have to use that next time i am left waiting.

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  7. Will have to use this next time we're kept waiting at hospital or the grocery-LOL! And mindyou what Betys said, is spot on, yes?

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  8. He probably wrote: "Mad as a hatter."

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  9. Behind every Good man is a Ludwig Wittgenstein!

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  10. I love this phrase. My only question is, what do you do when the person who is late doesn't apologise for keeping you waiting? I don't do revenge...

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  11. Haha I have so many Irish bloggers/commenters and they all have that charming turn of phrase. Haven't heard that one before!

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  12. I can't wait to have the opportunity to use that phrase! :) What a great story!

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  13. As someone once said, "It's the way I tell 'em". I think Irish philosophy (over a beer) is easier to take than Wittgenstein

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  14. Not really relevant to this posting - my (10 years' older) philosopher sister went to visit the Wittgenstein family in 1964. (I was 14 and not quite into philosophy at the time.) Thought you all might like to know?!

    (What I can't remember is if it was to visit the man himself or a (younger) relative and see original papers and such-like. Must ask my sister next time I see her...)

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  15. I to will have to remember this phase for future use.

    Love this story. But, I do regret that you were subjected to a minor rant regarding our health care. We Americans have a long history of believing all sorts of distortions and lies as long as it is said publicly or in print. As John Hayes said many here have lost there senses when it come to this issue.

    If I want hearing aids that really work, my plan doesn't cover them and I would have to pay $4000 myself so I will probably just say, "What?" more often.

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  16. love the expression and the story...ever since my freshman philosophy course I've had a soft spot for old ludwig.

    and I wouldn't mind sharing a pint or four with you sometime discussing family histories, culture, genealogy or cats vs dogs!!

    and alan, no apologizes ever!! life happens along with household chaos, the bloggyhood will always wait.

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