Do you regret in the morning the spare supper of the night before or the foregoing of the useless dessert? Do you feel bad that you now feel good and are not hung over? You missed the party and with it the ambiguity and unseriousness and dissipation of idle talk. Are you now troubled by your spiritual continence?
As for idle talk, here is something good from Franz Kafka: The Diaries 1910-1923, ed. Max Brod, Schocken 1948, p. 199:
In the next room my mother is entertaining the L. couple. They are talking about vermin and corns. (Mrs. L. has six corns on each toe.) It is easy to see that there is no real progress made in conversations of this sort. It is information that will be forgotten again by both and that even now proceeds along in self-forgetfulness without any sense of responsibility.
I have read this passage many times, and what delights me each time is the droll understatement of it: "there is no real progress made in conversations of this sort." No indeed. There is no progress because the conversations are not seriously about anything worth talking about. There is no Verantwortlichkeit (responsibility): the talk does not answer (antworten) to anything important in the world or anything real in the interlocutors. It is jaw-flapping for its own sake, mere linguistic behavior which, if it conveys anything, conveys: ‘I like you, you like me, and everything’s fine.’ An expression of boredom, it does little to alleviate it.
The interlocutors float along in the inauthenticity (Uneigentlichkeit) of what Heidegger calls das Man, the ‘they self.’ Compare Heidegger’s analysis of idle talk (Gerede) in Sein und Zeit (1927), sec. 35.
Am I suggesting that one should absolutely avoid idle talk? That would be to take things to an unnecessary and perhaps imprudent extreme. It is prudent to get yourself perceived as a regular guy -- especially if you are an 'irregular guy.'
Individuals need society to socialize them and raise them from the plane of mere animality. The quality of society, however, depends on true individuals, who are made by solitude. Moses was alone on Mt. Sinai; Jesus was forty days in the desert; alone Socrates communed with his daimon; Siddartha forsook the company of the royal compound; Henry "I have no walks to throw away on company" Thoreau went for walks solo. . . .
Thus society profits from its solitaries, assuming that those who escape from it for their own good return to it for its own good. In a Platonic figure, the escape from the Cave ought to be followed by a return to the Cave.
Walter Morris is an exceedingly obscure author whom the Maverick Philosopher has decided to take under his wing and rescue from total oblivion. When I get through with him at least some excerpts from his journals will be in range of the search engines. Please contact me if you know anything about this fellow. He is the author of American in Search of a Way (Macmillan, 1942) and The Journal of a Discarded Man (Englewood, N.J.: Knabe-North Publishers, 1965). I have found nothing on the World Wide Web pertaining to either of these books apart from what I myself have posted. Luckily, the Arizona State University library contains a copy of his Notebook 2: Black River (limited edition, mimeographed, Englewood, NJ, 1949). It has been languishing in the ASU collection since 19 March 1956 on which date it was cataloged by one F. B. Morgan. I'd put money on the proposition that I am the only one ever to have read it.
All right Walter, with the MP as master of ceremonies, you are about to enter the 'sphere.