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Dated 15/12/06

Blogs can be a personal moan or an informative presentation of straight, technical informative. Ours is neither – it is our assessment of what is true.

The philosophical definition of truth, in the minimalist sense, says that there is no such thing as a 'definition of truth' and the only thing you can say about truth is that a sentence like ‘there is a 'camera' there’ is only true because 'there is a 'camera' and it is 'there'. This is a trivial thing to say but it is the only thing to say according to 'minimalist truth'. 'Absolute truth' however, as an 'absolute' is even more difficult to render or to comprehend, so let's not bother...

   
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God Help Ye Merry Gentlemen

This blog is all about good manners and courtesy – or the lack of it in modern life. “Am I bovvered” – yes I am. Someone once said: 'Modern life is rubbish'. I believe they scribbled it on the back of a toilet door for maximum effect, then the band Blur spotted it and named an album after it. Very good it is a too, but not as good as ‘The Great Escape’ album, which, with a title like that seems like a sequel to me. On The Great Escape album there is a track called 'Ernold Same'. Sung, or narrated at least, by Ken Livingstone, at that time a Labour politician and later to become Mayor of London, hopefully striving to make modern life less rubbish, at least in London anyway.

Courtesy is a strange thing – certainly in London, but wherever you are it is something we cannot practice alone, especially when we are prone to swearing at ourselves under our breath, like I am. Perhaps it is because modern life is definitely stressful, demanding, disappointing and wasteful (generally termed rubbish for short) courtesy tends to get forgotten, or put off, or laid to one side as too much extra effort in a hard world. 'Ernold Same' is a song about boredom and drudgery – same old this, same old that… same old becoming Mayor of London. Exactly the sort of thing that lets apathy set in and standards drop.

Courtesy often seems just a formality anyway. We say hello and wave to people we wish we had never spotted in the first place, or more to the point, we wish they had never spotted us... and so in the general repetitive nature of life, we forget (on purpose) to be polite. We deny it. But life without all that false formality, although more truthful, is definitely worse – definitely more rubbish and certainly uncertain.

There is nothing more heartwarming than when a complete stranger is polite, even though you know full well it would not continue if you got to know them, or worse, if you fell in love. Try an experiment. Stand in front of a shop display looking at the products, but leave a gap between you and the display so people have to pass in between. (Those of you who are just starting to need glasses will probably be used to this) Now see how many people say excuse me as they pass, not very many, I’ve tried it – perhaps it’s just me, thought I suspect not. To the passer by it’s you that’s in their way – you that are forcing them to apologise – to speak, which they have no intention of doing. However, if one of them says "excuse me", it is guaranteed to brighten up your day and vice versa.

I have noticed that around Christmas people do get a little more polite. It’s as though that last, horrible year was all there is and they have made it to the end of that vile world. Next year will be different – modern life may be rubbish, but the future is always somehow potentially better – the great escape we all wish for – it’s called hope, and it’s the best Christmas present you’ll ever get.

Being polite is a good register for our own existence. “If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it fall, has it really fallen” – if we swear under our breath when alone, have we really sworn – do we really exist. Get my point? If we say “hello”, or “sorry” when we get in someone’s way, it’s just a register of their existence and it makes them feel better – they’ll probably reply just to hear the sound of their own voice ringing through, what just a few moments earlier, was the jumbled wilderness of the mind. By not saying anything, you are denying the other person their existence, that’s what makes it impolite.

Existence is all about physics and ultimately, ‘quantum’ physics. This is the physics of the infinitely small, where everything is possible – even being polite. In 1935 Erwin Schroedinger proposed an experiment to do with quantum physics in which a cat is put in an opaque box where an atom is expected to decay. Without going into it at great length, the idea was to demonstrate the ‘uncertainty principle’. Does the cat exist or not while you can’t see it? This experiment has not been tried – ever, but my own theory is why bother with the cat and an opaque box? Just try the ‘shop experiment’ and see if anyone says “excuse me”. It’s a much more practical experiment that should help quantify your existence once and for all and it’s one we can do anytime we’re out shopping. If no one acknowledges your presence, you can philosophise for the rest of the day about whether you exist or not. I have been ‘uncertain’ on many occasions. However, I usually come home with less money, so unless my wallet decays like radium, flicking coins out into the universe at random, this ‘coin loss’ may be evidence of some form of interaction, or shopping, as it may be termed. “I shop, therefore I am”.

So, what are you giving and getting this Christmas? Remember, it’s the thought that counts and what we could all do with this year is a nice parcel of good manners and courtesy – in short, a bit of thoughtfulness, but remember: “courtesy is for life – not just for Christmas”.

It all boils down to quantum physics and sub atomic particles in the end – it’s the small things that really count, and choose how much we condemn modern life as the culprit for rubbish, quantum theory suggests that ‘everything probably exists everywhere all the time and always did and always will do’ – so as Christmas Carol says: “Be good for goodness sake”.

Joy to the world – Peter

Peter Hague, 15th December, 2006

           
    The logo for polite atoms    
 
The logo for polite atoms
  The logo for impolite atoms
 
The logo for impolite atoms
  We're all made of atoms, yet too much proximity to nuclear energy can kill us. There's nice atoms and not very nice atoms and my theory is that nice people have less nasty atoms.  
   
This weblog and others by the same author may be upsetting to some people and we apologise if that is the case. Some of the thoughts, words and ideas expressed may be considered inappropriate for the owner of a museum and teashop – but that's creativity, for you – you can't have both. All the comments above were the opinions and thoughts or probable opinions and thoughts of the author at the time they were written and may not be the opinions or thoughts of the same author now. Nor do they concur with the general philosophy behind The Victorian Teashop or Life in a Lens Museum – even though the author of this site is the creator of both – but hey, that's what insanity does for you. We also apologise if any of the material in this web log is in any way offensive, it's just that we have strong competition from Aunt Agony on The Victorian Teashop site and sometimes things get a little out of hand.  
 
 
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