I’ve been reading a lot of William James these days — eight books of his so far this year, the most recent of which, The Meaning of Truth, I just finished this morning.
Approximately four hours after finishing The Meaning of Truth, I was getting a bite to eat at a supermarket deli when a teenage boy came and sat down at the table next to mine. He was wearing a gray hoodie with this sentence written on it in big red and blue letters: “TRUTH IS WHAT STANDS THE TEST OF EXPERIENCE” — a statement, that is, of the meaning of truth, and a pretty “pragmatic” one, at that, Jamesian in its emphasis on experience and in its characterization of truth as something that happens to an idea. (I didn’t think it was likely to be an actual James quote, the focus on “testing” being uncharacteristic of him, but I googled it just to be sure. It turns out to be from Albert Einstein.)
I need scarcely mention that I have no memory of ever previously having encountered a truth-defining article of clothing of this sort, making its appearance at this time a pretty impressive coincidence.
A further synchronicity: James makes a distinction between “facts” and “truth” — the former refers to realities; the latter, to a property of our beliefs in relation to those realities. In The Meaning of Truth, he repeatedly takes his critics to task for conflating these two things.
Just three weeks before I read The Meaning of Truth, my father also tried, in a comment to this post, to make a distinction between “facts” and “truth” (though not the same distinction that James makes), and I insisted in my reply that there was no such distinction.
I was in one of my weekly sessions of English conversation practice with a student of mine who is a surgeon, and he was telling me about another expat English teacher who had just been in the ER with a broken kneecap after a motorcycle accident. Trying to describe the seriousness of the fracture, he said he was not sure of the correct English word, but he believed it was something close to comminuted. Not being familiar with that word, I looked it up in the dictionary on my Kindle and found that, yes, it was the correct word (meaning “pulverized, broken into many small fragments”).
Just minutes later I had a short break between classes and decided to do a little reading. I picked up that same Kindle and opened up the book I am currently reading (William James’s Essays in Radical Empiricism) — and in perhaps the third or fourth paragraph I read, I found this:
In these respects the pure experiences of our philosophy are, in themselves considered, so many little absolutes, the philosophy of pure experience being only a more comminuted Identitätsphilosophie.
I was not aware that I had ever encountered that particular word before — though I have, it turns out, at least twice; a search of my Kindle reveals that it occurs once each in Bacon’s Novum Organum and H. S. Maine’s Popular Government, and of course I have no way of knowing how often I may have run across it in my on-paper reading without noticing it. However, I think I can reasonably assume that comminuted crosses my path certainly no more than once or twice a year, so meeting it twice in a matter of minutes was quite a coincidence.
I had a dream Saturday night in which I was walking down a deserted street naked, trying to find a towel or something so I could cover up. Then I saw a person approaching, so I put my hands down to shield my privates from view. After standing in that position for several seconds, I looked down and noticed that I was not actually naked after all, but was wearing a pair of light gray boxer shorts — so there was no need to hold my hands over my crotch.
The next day, my wife was watching the Singaporean film “Taxi! Taxi!” on TV, and I saw parts of it. In one scene, some passengers get out of a taxi and run away without paying, and the driver (played by Gurmit Singh) chases them down. In the altercation that follows, one of the passengers forces the driver to strip down to his boxers — and the driver stands there with his hands over his crotch, as if trying to cover up what is already adequately covered by the shorts.
The shorts I was wearing in my dream were almost identical to the ones worn by Singh in the movie, and quite unlike anything I wear in real life.