2: The Naked Truth Of Its Context
But, of course, those bones, bare and approaching middle-aged as they are, cannot be the whole of it. Its this osteoporosis thing you see is the problem. Because of it the truth of them is brittle, with a tendency to fracture that belabours a lingering notion amongst yez all of hard facts. So we need a sturdier narrative here. Something more robust, up to the heavy weight of the mythos of it all:—the style of things that Peregrine O’Cleary and his cousin Brother Micheál once stood to and proclaimed.
For ourselves we declare that there are no Masters working in Ireland now. And no Annals. Just lying media. No epics. No sagas. No songs of derring do. Just planter and pale propaganda for the red, white and blue. And then, this meagre Brigade of ourselves, in despite of all that, scuffling among old lies for a land of youth and truth. A land where the hero has a thousand faces. And the Villain has a million arseholes.
Now, clearly, the Slug in his day was no hero of ours. We don’t see him as any kind of hero now. But nor do we see him as the villain of the piece. Really he’s just another of those workaday arseholes, toiling away at his masters’ villainous schemes. He’s by no means innocent, but his guilt kinda shivers and shrivels up and pales in the glaring light of theirs. It’s a deal alright but not such a big one.
Nor, contrary to illusions long held to on the left wing of this Irish political pitch, was the Slug simply stupid. Sure enough, philosophers have never been heard to claim him as one of their own. And rightly so, for the Slug was never a wise man, nor yet a lover of wisdom. But he was an assiduous seeker after knowledge.
The thing is, you see, it’s a matter of distinguishing between wisdom and knowledge. Assuming that is we can get to the root and the source of a man to draw such a fine distinction among the multiplicity of unknowns that are known and unknown unknowns of the paltry beginnings and the scrawny conclusion of him. If in so doing we can work our words through the warp and the weft of him and make them make sense.
Okay then, knowledge is a product of the intellect and, as such, it has very little in common with wisdom, which proceeds from the understanding. Intellect is barren and dry; it knows everything and feels nothing. Intellect is in the world but it is not of the world. The human world is a world of touching and feeling, the world of an active reflection. It is not known in any passive intellectual operation abstracting from the things that are touched and felt, lived and loved. It is actively understood in the course of the touching and feeling, the living and the loving.
Understanding is not a process of reasoning but, since it is inevitably more or less clear, proper or otherwise, to the point or lost in the latitudes and longitudes of itself, it is subject to interrogation by reason. Understanding is irrational but it is not unreasonable about it. And wisdom then, which is a function of the understanding, is discovered hurling itself against the ramparts of all those knowledges which defy it.
Here then stands the Slug. An arsehole in the struggle between the human understanding of the toiling masses and the inhuman knowledges of the few that feed on us. The few that know everything and hate it all. The few that love nothing and loathe themselves. Those lords of the universal who understand none of the infinite particulars upon which they will fall, fail, and finally fade…..From Big Bang to weakest whimper.
And here then stands the Slug. He has no idea, not the slightest intimation, of wisdom. But he is viscerally involved in a process of knowledge. He is gathering facts such as will enable him to know what he hasn’t a hope of understanding. The names and the scraps of matters of fact in his book give him the raw material of what can only be a failed knowledge; a bunch of tatters of this and that that can never be fulfilled as a rounded human narrative and so can never function so as to fulfil the Slug himself. Looking on him kindly we can see that the Slug wants nothing more than to be human. It’s not just that he doesn’t know how but that the how of it is not something that can ever be known. Simply being human is beyond all the knowledges of the knowledgeable.
Here then stands the Slug in our understanding, and him going about the world in a grubbing, scavenging way; sifting shifting sands for facts, more facts, hard facts. Poor Slug!