Existentialism was there, smoking on the balcony.
Inside, Descartes' Cogito held a volume of Spinoza's Ethics
in one hand and a glass of port in the other as if the difference
between them were either self-evident or non-existent.
The dictatorship of the proletariat had made eye contact
with the theory of infantile sexuality. Cardinal Newman
(The Idea of a University) chatted amiably if a bit stuffily with
the Sublime, who kept looking over his shoulder in the approved
manner of New Yorkers at parties on the lookout for someone
more important than the person they are speaking to,
only this was the party of ideas, where the idea of a republic, a democracy,
and the idea of the self-determination of nations could mingle
at the end of the day, satisfied. The idea that history repeats
itself was there. The idea that history repeats itself was there.
Logical Positivism was there, a kindly old pipe-smoking don who
asked to his rooms for sherry and said he was cautiously optimistic.
The buzz in the room was that the first refuge of the scoundrel
had begun an affair with the last infirmity of the noble mind,
which explained why neither of them was present. Art for
art's sake was there, nursing a vodka gimlet. It was clear
from a look at Utopia's face that she'd had one brandy Alexander
too many, but British empiricism looked none the worse for wear.
Everyone said so, especially American pragmatism, savoring
a new wrinkle. The Noble Savage tended bar.
The Categorical Imperative wouldn't take no for an answer.
I thought of "The Idea of Order at Key West" and took a leap of faith
opening a door hoping it led to the men's room.
-- by David Lehman from When a Woman Loves a Man (Scribner, 2005)