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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Genesis of Stupidity

Stupidity is a scar. It can stem from one of many activities – physical or mental – or from all. Every partial stupidity of a man denotes a spot where the play of stirring muscles was thwarted instead of encouraged. In the presence of the obstacle the futile repetition of disorganised, groping attempts is set in motion. A child’s ceaseless queries are always symptoms of a hidden pain, of a first question to which it found no answer and which it did not know how to frame appropriately. Its reiteration suggests the playful determination of a dog leaping repeatedly at the door it does not yet know how to open, and finally giving up if the catch is out of his reach.

(Adorno and Horkheimer, The Dialectic of Enlightenment)

Almost without exception, children become more intelligent, almost day by day, and if you watch them, you can see this happen. I have even noticed myself becoming cleverer, and now, at the age of nearly 60, I have almost thrown off adolescent habits of moral certainty and political priggishness.

But my cat never learns. He insists on sitting on the mat where the mat might slam on him, and on challenging the same old bruiser of a female four doors down, who duffs him up every time, leaving him cut and scabby.

I admire this determination not to develop, and reflect how simple it makes his life. Those of us who try to do a little better every day, and who break our hearts in failing, could learn a lot from him.

(Fred Sedgwick, ‘Why I Love My Cat’ , Guardian 6 September 2004)

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