This is Kairos?

Australian reporter Harriet Alexander, in a January report titled “Quick! Before the Worm Turns,” looks into the practice of beach-worming–the harvesting of wormbait from sandy beaches using fingers or pliers. Use of fingers reduces the risk of breaking apart the long worms in the process, according to Col Buckley, the human subject of the story. Buckley suggests a linkage between the beach-trawled worms and the fish in the neighboring waters. He also prefers a conservative ethic:

Buckley can be found splashing around the watermark at low tide during summer, pulling up slimy invertebrates and stuffing them into a pouch. They sniff out decaying fish and seaweed and poke their heads up to feed, concealing the rest of their bodies, which can be up to 2½ metres long, beneath the sand. Bream, whiting and flathead all like to eat worms, although the portion of worm threaded on to the hook needs to be varied according to the size of the targeted fish species. Recreational fishermen can harvest up to 20 worms a day, although Buckley does not believe in taking more than are needed.

The question surfaces again. Worms turn, diverting away from a danger. This is not the same “worm turn” as the idiom induces, which implies revolution–a reversed power dynamic in which the worm, relative to the lion, ends up on top. The worm turns, in this second case, means the underdog ascends. But in the context of this Alexander’s report, these turns are more or less successful, whether we think of them as a body (the individual worm turns) or a species (the lot of worms are vanishing). In the bodily sense, they turn, sometimes caught and split apart at this or that segment. Other times they turn and by turning escape harm having dived underground again. Worming, Buckley explains, is not about speed and quickness; its success hinges on being “gentle and smooth.” The predatory kairos operating here finds opportunity improved not by timing but by manner. A severed worm, now part-safe in the ground and part-pierced on a fish hook, I imagine, experiences without “experiencing” a regenerative if bifurcated metanoia.

By the way, the story also mentions that the beach worms are wind-shy, which means they don’t surface as often on windy days. This, too, goes against the sand-grain of a winds-of-change thinking about revolutions and instead recognizes winds-of-change thinking as partly responsible for worms-returning to their safe havens.

I realize this is obtuse and playful stuff, folks; just using the blog to pluck away for a few minutes at the threads of a couple of ideas.

Carrying the Ball Around

On the elliptical Thursday, lolling slowly-idly through spacetime (i.e., winding across 3+ miles, ending up nowhere). Reeaading Elbow’s “The Doubting Game and the Believing Game–An Analysis of the Intellectual Enterprise,” the well-known appendix essay in Writing Without Teachers (1973) and an essay I am considering assigning for the first meeting of ENGL516 next month. In a future entry, I may have more to say about the essay, its premises, and whether anyone still reads it or finds the believing/doubting dialectic useful anymore. But it’s this passage on basketball that (today) still strikes me as odd-fitting:

If you are playing basketball and someone starts carrying the ball around without dribbling or keeping score wrong, what you do next is not part of the game but part of real life. You can shoot him, you can try to have him locked up, you can cry, you can say you won’t play with him tomorrow, or you can try to persuade him to start playing again by talking to him. Here, I think, believing game has an inherent advantage over the doubting game. The activity of the believing game (trying to share perceptions and experiences) is more likely than the activity of the doubting game (trying to find holes in the other person’s view) to keep people willing to talk to each other if the game breaks down. (174-175)

This must be a pick-up game.  There are no referees, no arbitrators of the game’s rules outside of the game itself. In fact, decorum is, in this case, so delicately kept by participants in the game that it is possible, if anyone in the game decides it is the best solution, to shoot the rule-breaker. That the miskept score or the carrying of the ball would warrant–under any circumstances–shooting the rule-breaker creates dissonance with the idea of hermeneutic propriety (the gains to be had in a generous intellectual manner more willing to try on ideas than to rush into critique). So it’s the extremism of the scenario that, in this particular passage, distracts me from the larger point Elbow seeks to make. The point is that the believing game could restore basketball-rationality to the scene. But it is startlingly difficult to believe these alternatives to verbal negotiation.  Locking up the rule-breaker? Crying? This list leaves me with doubts about whether the believing game holds up when absurd, hyperbolic alternatives enter into play.  Another way: do absurdity and hyperbole gain traction in the predominance of a doubting manner?