One is sometimes overtaken with a sudden realization or conclusion, as if the all the premises had been stewing in one's brain but have only recently been able, as the collagen of old ways of thinking or simple oversight breaks down, to combine themselves in the proper way and thicken and set into a new idea, which has a certain kind of inexpressibility to it: not the inexpressibility of the mystic or esoteric, which can be intimated but never communicated, that is, can never be shared with another, though one can say where one has got it, but rather the inexpressibility of the simultaneously banal and profound—as if, having walked before the Mona Lisa for the first time, and, despite the throng of tourists (despite one's thronging along with them), one has been beguiled by that famous half grin, and, returning from the Louvre, tells one's travelling companions (who for their parts have occupied themselves more sensibly, standing in line, perhaps, at Pierre Hermé's shop, or pissing in the Seine), that her smile is beguiling, in the manner of a breathless discoverer of truths hidden.
What is to be said to this? And can one even say it without simultaneously feeling foolish, as one would who felt compelled to reveal to his friends that on a fine day, the sky takes on a distinctive blue shade, lighter than the blue of the sea or a deep lake, but without that preciosity one finds in the shells of a robin's egg? Such a person, if he became aware of what he was saying midway through speaking, would surely trail off lamely rather than finish his surprising report. Everyone knows this fact about the Mona Lisa; everyone, anyway, who would be able to attach any definite sense to the claim in the first place; if it is not quite imbibed with mother's milk, it is at any rate a component of the formula whereby one learns what the Mona Lisa is. And so the only way to convey what one has experienced before the painting is identical with a textbook's lesson, and insofar as that experience comes from a human capacity, we might say that if intelligence makes us human, then education diminishes humanity; as a pessimistic writer of our day puts it, that
the litterae humaniores are nothing more than the litter on which the humanist's body shall one day be borne out.
Reflections of this or an allied nature may well have been going through my head as I sat one afternoon at a small neighborhood café and bakery, reading a novel; the space buzzed with conversation and, even if no one could quite make out what anyone else was saying, that did not diminish the atmospheric conviction that great intellectual work was being done; discoveries were being made or at least rediscovered, and ideas traded by earnest young people in crowded banquettes acording as the value of various schools of thought were projected to rise or fall, succeed or fail before the shocks that everyone was sure would shortly arrive, even if no one had a very certain idea what they would be like or, for that matter, whether they had not happened already and no one had noticed.
It's called Sausagefest '08, one of them was saying, who proceeded to describe this year's encased meats, while from another corner came the claim
Under capitalism, no one need ever be ashamed any more of who he is, though whether this was approbation or otherwise could not quite be discerned. I sat off to one side at a mostly unoccupied bench and took no notice of this, captivated, in that confusion of bread, black coffee, and Apples, by my book, and after reading a particularly well done stretch of dialogue (really, a monologue) found the thought impossible to avoid or exclude, but equally impossible to express (not just for considerations such as the preceding; in addition, there was no one there whom I knew), that The Man without Qualities is brilliant.