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Thursday 8 May 2014



Untitled [Lion, Myself, Stockholm]: photo by Hans Söderstrom, 13 April 2014

II.xi. "What is internal is hidden from us." --- The future is hidden from us. But does the astronomer think like this when he calculates an eclipse of the sun?
If I see someone writhing in pain with evident cause I do not think: all the same, his feelings are hidden from me.
We also say of some people that they are transparent to us. It is, however, important as regards this observation that one human being can be a complete enigma to another. We learn this when we come into a strange country with entirely strange traditions; and, what is more, even given a mastery of the country's language, we do not understand the people. (And not because of not knowing what they are saying to themselves.) We cannot find our feet with them.
"I cannot know what goes on in him" is above all a picture. It is the convincing expression of a conviction. They are not readily accessible.
If a lion could talk, we could not understand him.

Ludwig Wittgenstein: from Philosophical Investigations, c. 1945-1949

If a lion could talk,
...would he talk to Mark
...would he talk to Matthew
...would he talk to Luke
...would he talk to John

or to the four archangels
mounted on the queen's bedposts


even if he were in great pain
even if his life were ending
even if the hyena pack were closing in
and the vultures already wheeling in patient circles
in a wide early evening sky
he would not let on

and we would continue to fail to understand him

Untitled [Lion, Stockholm]:
photo by Hans Söderstrom, 10 July 2011

Lion (Kungsträdgarden, Stockholm):
photo by Hans Söderstrom, 5 August 2009

Lions (Richmond, Virginia, USA):
photo by Hans Söderstrom, 18 December 2011

Thirsty Lion (Falun, Dalarna, Sweden]: photo by Hans Söderstrom, 16 August 2013


Poet Red Shuttleworth said...

Even a Detroit Lion.

TC said...

Oh, indeed, ESPECIALLY a Detroit Lion.

In fact, that Thirsty Lion in the bottom shot -- in the next moment he turns into a Hungry Lion, and, after spitting out those pesky glass chunks, swallows Alex Karras.

Be the BQE said...

I have been frustrated in attempts to photograph the pair of lions a crane company has installed on their roof in Maspeth, Queens, visible from the BQE. Why does it bother me so much that I can't get a decent shot of what is really just industrial bric-a-brac? Your post helps me understand.

TC said...

David, talking of understanding, the stuff I learn at your place -- possible bodies in parking lot trash bags, my heavens! -- makes me feel a bit like the Cowardly Lion (as if I didn't feel enough like that already).

But being down below when lions are being perilously transported by crane -- the company makes cranes, so may we assume they use their cranes to transport their lions? -- Zut alors!

(By the by, that third lion pictured here, the one with the flimsy lace kerchief, has been decorated for, yes, Pride Week. Only nice lions here, thanks very much.)

nooshin azadi said...

your poem gave me goosebumps... so brilliant!
as a crow left of the murder, i have witnessed such a scene... listening to the lion...and understanding him:

there's a point where
languages f-
words dis-
into thin air

a point where
you're both the spe-
and the lis-

where poetry is


Barry Taylor said...

I really like the vultures' patient circles and the poem slowing with them.

I also love the ghostly reflected photographer in the first photo. I think (as far as I can say I understand anything Wittgenstein, never mind a lion, has to say) that this image of two superimposed but incommensurate realities neatly illustrates what Wittgenstein is getting at in his lion remark. That language, and so communication, emerge from, and are bounded by, the life-world a community constructs, and in the life-world of the lions Matthew, Mark and you and me are lunch. Only the most eccentric of lions stops to chat with his lunch. I say this in all deference to my daughter, who really knows about this stuff, and also knows when a dad is probably communicating through his hat.

TC said...

The best thing about having sensitive and intelligent friends is that they can turn a post into what it needs to be by (dare one say it) providing the best "content".

Thanks very much for the beautiful poem Nooshin, empathic as always ("as a crow left of the murder").

And Barry -- many a time have I considered what might be our fate, here, were the size proportions between us and our pack of house cats reversed... dears that they are, I'm certain their first thought upon espying us would be: "Lunch".

(Perhaps of course preceded by a pleasant bit of "Toss-lunch-about-before-consuming-it.")

Mose23 said...

"That one human being can be a complete egnima to another" seems to me a necessary factor in any ethical reflection.

With animals, more so. They shrink from the reach of our imaginations; the right to objectify or classify doesn't follow as a matter of course.

The lions and the poem are grand.

TC said...

Thank you, WB.

(I believe I was attempting to respond to both your good comment here and yours on the previous post as well, in answering over there...)

nooshin azadi said...

thank YOU for building this "shrine" of beautiful thoughts and words, Tom... the moment i enter this "holy" place, i found myself in a very close contact with whatever existing in this world...

BDR said...

Stevie Smith's *Sunt Leones*

TC said...


Stevie has it right, as usual -- "the part the lions played was being overlooked".