Without Feathers ?
Student: What is a man ?
Plato: A biped.
Student: A bird is a biped.
Plato: A biped without feathers.
Diogenes: (handing Plato a plucked goose) Behold a man !
Both were right of course, man (or as we say now, a human) is a biped without feathers. However, you can’t translate that truth into a definition or syllogism, which is really what Plato was trying to do. So it is Plato who for once comes out the fool in this short dialogue. In a nutshell, that story is what this blog is about, trying to get to the truth of a matter without necessarily having to rely on accuracy. As with Plato and Diogenes, the question for the reader is not only what is accurate in any given blog, but whether they agree with my version of the truth. In that, the blog strives more to be like Diogenes, described by some as the “original smart ass” than like Plato, master of his culture. For anyone can be accurate, it is the truth we are searching for, and the truth is often, perhaps most often, a plucked goose.
If the BlogSpot people are to be believed, today is the 500th entry of “Mills of the Gods”, but you probably already knew that from the T-shirts and gimmie caps celebrating the event you have seen around your town. Normally this milestone would be a time for reflection over accomplishments and I would be happy to do that here if we had had any accomplishments. In the sense of a successful blog, as most people understand that term, Mills is in the lower quartile of the contestants. But that is only because of definitional problems, like the one Plato had. Mills can still be a plucked goose and accomplish what it set out to accomplish, even if a plucked goose is not the standard by which society measures blogs . That is, fees generated and hits per day.
I think that about a dozen people read this blog from time to time. I have not done anything to try to increase readership (mostly because I have only about twenty minutes a day to work on it). Without large readership a blog cannot become remunerative or influential and, true to form, this blog is neither. Does that make it unsuccessful ? Not on its own. Successful events have happened when a leader has only 12 followers and if the author could walk on water or turn that water into wine, Mills would stand a much better chance. But Mills, unlike Christianity is not a proselytizing institution. Like the Buddhist, Mills looks inward for the truth and then like the bad drunk, regurgitates that truth each morning. By doing so, the truth comes out funny looking, perhaps not as people remember it or would like to believe that it happened. Like the last two sentences, Mills is not often very pretty.
Years ago, Woody Allen published a book of short stories called “without Feathers”. For years I thought that Allen was referring to the dialogue between Plato and Diogenes. Only after reading the poetry of Emily Dickinson did I later find that I had been wrong. Allen was referring to a poem by Emily Dickinson which begins:
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune—without the words
And never stops at all.
It hardly need be said that I am no Woody Allen, and many a 17 year old Korean girl is glad about that. What Woody’s title means is that there is no hope. When I considered titling my blog “Without Feathers” I was thinking about man as a plucked goose. I finally decided to title it Mills of the Gods because, in the end, I believe that as slowly as the Mills of the Gods are said to grind, they will always arrive at the correct end. Sort of like Greek Karma. So as far as the philosophy of this blog is concerned, it is decidedly pro feathers,or anti-feathers, anyway, pro hope. Although we sing the words without the tune around here, we have no current plans of stopping. Maybe only a dozen people read the blog on any given day, but that’s eleven more than were even aware that Dickinson wrote poetry, so I got that going for me.