On the question of what to do with your mind

Some of my friends tease me because I sometimes get animated about things I am learning. If I get a chance, I think I tend to go on abit. And I agree, it can be boring to listen to someone going on. But at the same time, how can you not talk about stuff that you read that is fascinating. Or that somehow helps you to make sense of things in a way that you haven’t before.

At the moment I’m reading Marx. And about Marx. Funny actually, since I have had, uhm, intimate relationships with more than two self-professed “Marxists” over the last decade or so and I, in my very naive understanding of the term, have argued with all of them about what I perceived as glaring contradictions between their actions and their so-called ideology. My basic point: how can you be a Marxist AND consume the fine things in life (whisky, cigars etc).

Well I’m not sure if those are still not contradictions, but that’s beside the point right now.
The point is I am in a state of fascination, even as I am still trying to grasp that fascination. I mean, how is it that someone’s ideas can be so important even though the main one – his predictions of the proletarian revolution and the “organic” decline of capitalism – never happened?

The intrigue is that once you pay attention to what he was saying, there is something infectious in his writing. Even in a monotone and frankly quite boring description of what a commodity is. Something like an old school master droning on and endlessly repeating himself, showing something between affectionate patience and an arrogant assumption of your stupidity.

But when you imagine that this kind of thinking has never happened before, and when you realise that so much of what you have read subsequently takes that first text as an assumption, then it is like – as my old history teacher Mr. Malaza used to threaten us with doing – like being pounced on by thunder and lightning.

Another funny thing I thought of is how when you read texts that are suggested by someone you look up to intellectually, you suddenly start to see where a lot of their own “brilliant” thinking comes from. And they slip a little notch off the pedestal. Just a little one though, because you also know that soon – if you keep reading – you will be up there too. Yup. Keep reading and soon you’ll be looking down on the gods and wondering what all the fuss was about.

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