Month: June 2011

Academic Progression

Every once in a while some graffiti lingers around in my head, waiting for a place to be archived. Perhaps it needs to be integrated into my worldview, or perhaps just discarded, or perhaps neither of the two, but classified amongst the other funny tidbits I have come across. And then there was this little piece of academic (semi-)obscenity, written casually but clearly on a wall in the academic Latin Quarter. Yes. Funny at first sight and perhaps even a little insightful…

It is a play on words with Descartes‘ famous maxim –Cogito ergo sum– only a few streets away from his Parisian address. Descartes had come to the discovery of this maxim after a profound philosophical doubt. “I think, therefore I am”, or “I am a being which receives impressions”, which had become the cornerstone on which the rest of his worldview was to be based. And with that, Descartes became the father of modern philosophy.

Fast forward a few hundred years and everyone knows both him and his maxim. But the time of grand philosophical structures has passed. Mocking a basis for a structure of knowledge and affirming ones own existence through a very personal experience is what this quote does. Coïto ergo sum. I have sex, therefore I am. No grand truth, but the subjective experience of living; the full charm of Existentialism. If this was the same young man who used to clamour “Freedom is for Animals”, I think we can safely assume he is back in business, and feeling a whole lot better.

Temptation in a box

Every once in a while you see a situation which just can not end well. Whatever direction the unfolding chain of events takes you in your head, it always seems to go badly. Or worse. And it had come around again. This time, all it took was a simple cardboard invitation by the phone in the hotel room: Playstation available. Now any rational person will argue that you can just ignore it, just as you can change the TV channel from indecent material, but I feel that that fails to take into account the full scope of human psychology. A playstation. Here. Hum. That looks like a cloud drifting our way, it’s not such great weather out there you know…

Of course not everyone would be confronted with this problem. If you are in the hotel on business, all your thought process has to do is balance the re-reading of tomorrow’s presentation with a quick spin of Gran Turismo. Professional as you are, you quickly realise that you will be fine with few hours less of sleep. But that delicate balance does not work to well if you are there with your significant other. After all, even just the fact that you are in a hotel already suggests that you are out of your usual routine, that it is a moment of togetherness. You could even say that it is the stuff of the adventure of the relationship. And that, somehow, does not translated well into understanding the attraction of Grand Theft Auto. This is one of those cultural barriers, where what you want and what you feel you ought to do painfully conflicts.

Perhaps someday our culture will have changed. Children may learn to see that romantic getaways can involve participants having bags under the eyes at breakfast due to a heavy night of Need for Speed. And businessmen or visiting lecturers can open the morning meeting with the suggestion to postpone as they could not get around to revising their notes the night before due to a Call of Duty at the hotel. What a great society we would have become (erhm) if that came about, but we are not there yet.

What actually saves the day at the hotel is the fact that you have to go down to the lobby to get your Nintendo or Playstation. That could be just enough of a level of effort to protect the romantic harmony of travellers and perhaps even the quality of business meetings in town. But then, you can not help but wonder, why should you offer it at all if it only taunts the hotel guests? I think there is at least one possible answer here. Besides holidaying people and business travel, there is one other group of people stay in hotels and who would be thrilled to find the console: those unfortunate souls who just got booted out of their houses by their spouses. Well, they do exist. And for irony’s sake, let us hope that it was not for playing Tomb Raider