Saturday, March 01, 2008

Existential coffee-making.

Idle query: Had Jean-Paul with his pipe clenched firmly in his teeth stood in front of a microwave oven to make instant coffee and peered myopically at the seconds ticking backwards on the LCD clock dial, would he have cracked the existential riddle: pre-reflective consciousness, free will and whatever else it might be? I doubt it. Any attempt to describe, understand, historicize the thing-in-itself – coffee in the making, LCD clock marking time backwards, etc. – Sartre would have termed "reflective consciousness". By the time the coffee was ready and the micro beeped its customary warning, his concentration would have been broken and he would have hurriedly pressed the open button. After which the aroma would have completely shattered the spell of his existential reverie. Actually, my whole staging of his hypothetical thinking process is faulty, as you must have noticed. Being a true Frenchman with an Algerian mistress who later became his adopted daughter, Jean-Paul would probably have insisted on the real thing. No instant stuff, merci beaucoup. "I put instant coffee in a microwave and almost went back in time," wrote a bloke called Steven Wright. “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons,” is the fifty-first line in the lament – er, love song – of another curious bloke called J. Alfred Prufrock who earlier on in the poem (line 34) shows a distinct preference for “tea and toast” and a scant 45 lines later (line 79) changes his fickle mind in favour of “tea and cakes and ices”. He keeps reiterating his strong leaning toward tea in lines 88 and 102, though. This leads us to an important question worth pausing and pondering. Why should the treacherous teatotaler (who may or may not be a teetotaler) have access to a coffee spoon even if the scoundrel professes to use it only to measure out his life with? Pray tell, after a reflective sip of instant coffee.