Experience and Imagination

It is always a pub. There is always loud music. You have to speak a little louder to make yourself heard. And when you are the listener- you have to fill the gaps with your own imagination and possibly, your estimate of what the other would say. Did I say imagination and estimate? Maybe it is just prejudice?

“Tipsy, what do you miss? What would you rather do? What have you not done in a while?,” said Frank obviously hoping Tipsy would ask him the same question in return.
But Tipsy chose not to. She wanted to think about the question. She wanted to think about what would she rather be doing than sitting here. But wasn’t it disrespectful to Frank, to what they had here? But that should not matter. Frank would not mind. He was Frank.

“I miss being on a beach, and not having a care in the world, ” Tipsy said matter of factly.

“Really? Were you ever on a beach with not a care in the world? Is that even possible?”

“It is not necessary for something to have happened for me to miss it. Those who miss only the things that have happened suffer from a serious lack of imagination”

“That’s beautiful Tipsy. I love you for that. I love you for being like me. But that is restrictive and so I must say - isn’t imagination just a weak substitute for experience? Would you need so much imagination if your experience was really rich?” said Frank, intent on starting an argument that he wanted to lose.

“How can you say that you love me and then not even give me a moment to be happy about it? And how can you not see that your argument has a dual - that would you need so much experience if you had a rich imagination, ” Tipsy said softly.

The writer hoped, at this stage, that the intelligent reader would combine Frank and Tipsy’s argument to arrive at an eclectic mix of imagination and experience with the importance of each decided by the individual preferences.

“Imagination is no substitute for Experience,” said Frank - fighting a losing battle.

Tipsy almost blurted out the obvious. Then she almost said “Should I state the obvious?”. But then she came up with the best strategy and said nothing. She smiled.

The writer was slightly disappointed at this stage, for neither Frank nor Tipsy had taken the slightest note of his interference. So he got desperate. And he called upon the great writers that had lived and summoned the help of one Somerset Maugham who obliged by pontificating on the topic of imagination and experience.

Somerset Maugham: “The extent of their experience is pleasantly balanced by the fertility of their imagination.”
Frank was mesmerized by Tipsy which made the writer uncomfortable as this was a fresh setback to his attempts at insinuating his existence into this duo’s dialogue.

The reader,however, was mesmerized by Somerset Maugham which, again, made the writer uncomfortable because he did not have anything remotely profound to say about the subject of imagination and experience.

And, so the subject was abandoned.

“Why does the mundane exist? What purpose does it serve? What can every day not be different from the other?” said Tipsy overwhelmed by ennui.

“If every day were different would it not become mundane?” Frank was in a mood to play the devil’s advocate, to contradict anything she said. He also had just lost an argument and wanted to lose another one. The writer though Frank was the weaker one and wanted to get some reaction out of him. The writer was insecure and almost jealous of the lives of his characters.

Tipsy had a vision of car at rest. It is boring. Then the car starts moving. It travels at constant speed. It is boring again. The speed increases but settles at a high speed. It is boring again. The car keeps accelerating. The acceleration is a constant. It is boring again. There is no escape.

The writer, at this moment, must pause to consider several mathematical formulations of the problem at hand and reminds himself of the beauty of the derivative of the exponential. The readers, not many of whom truly exist, may choose to ignore this interlude. Or, the readers may choose to regard the writer as a pompous ass. In any case the writer will be gratified because in taking a stand the readers would have to, at least, exist which is no mean feat for the writer.

For Frank it was an argument. It was a dry discussion. For Tipsy it was a matter of an interesting life or a boring life. She could sense it - the next question that would come up - it would not be a step forward. It would go one step back. And Frank said it.

“Why must life be interesting?” asked Frank, because he wanted to have an interesting discussion.

“Because, when we have had our dinner and are not yet ready to sleep - we must amuse ourselves.” because she had not yet had her dinner and she was not yet ready to sleep.

“Why must we amuse ourselves?” said Frank - sounding like a naive AI program.

And at that moment, just when we are getting the reader slightly interested in these two experimental selves of the writer (who insists on provoking his own characters) - who should enter, but the waiter.

“Have you guys been waiting for me?” said the waiter, then paused for effect and some reaction. Then, seeing none he continued  - “Imagine that, me being called the waiter, and you waiting - ha ha ha !”  

Frank and Tipsy were impervious to the charms of the irresistible waiter. The waiter - however was not one to give up.

“See what I did there? Waiting. Waiter? Truly - you may not realize it - but word play is a sign of amazing intellect. While it takes a lot of learning to associate the word with its context  - it is an even more challenging process to unlearn the context and see words bereft of their context.”

“But, I do not expect you prejudiced people to really understand that. I don’t expect you to use your imagination to rise above your experience. So why don’t you just order your freaking fries and get it over with.”

“Yes”, said Frank caressing the menu - and reading like a nervous actor at a script reading session - “I would like to order some fries and chicken nuggets”

“Really, sir, is that all you can think of?”

“No, I would like to order a whole lot other dishes - but I don’t trust myself to pronounce those names”

“Sir, you must get a tutor - you clearly won’t be able to afford me but I could recommend an underling”

“Thanks, but there are a few other things I would like to try. But I don’t know whether I will like them or whether I will just miss an opportunity to eat something I know I like”

“That is the old exploration versus exploitation problem and there are several research papers I could point you to. Would it help if I got you printouts of those to help your decision? Or would you rather that I emailed them to you?”

“With an attitude like that do you ever get tipped?”

“Tipping is something I stand for, ” said the waiter. Then, paused for effect.

Frank had had enough. “I would like to talk to the manager,” said he.

“I would too, however he is much too busy. I will go and get your fries and nuggets” the waiter said and did nothing.

At this moment Tipsy intervened. “Dear waiter, please get us the said order and I apologize for the discourteousness of my friend.”

“You, ma’am are extremely intelligent” said the waiter remembering the old adage of complementing a beautiful woman for her intelligence and an intelligent woman for her beauty.

“However,” he continued “I cannot help but reserve my judgment on the quality of your choice of members of the opposite sex.” The waiter had not grasped the level of Tipsy’s intelligence. An intelligent woman does not expect much of the opposite sex having met with much disappointments.

The waiter left. And Frank was sad. He was sad and disappointed that Tipsy had been nice to the waiter who was not so nice to him. He thought he should say that. But that would be so much like a woman. He did not say anything. He sulked. That was even more like a woman.

“You are acting like a girl, ” said Tipsy.

“Why did you do that?” he asked.

“To prevent him from spitting in our food”

It all made sense to Frank now. That’s why we need to be nice to people. So that they don’t spit in our food. Behind our backs. That was the secret of the universe. Now they would be fed. But they will not be ready to sleep. And they will go back to the question of boredom. And they will not have an answer.

At this moment the writer summoned the writers that be and got this. When in doubt - quote Nietzsche.

Nietzsche: Against boredom even gods struggle in vain.

There was nothing further to be said on that.

The waiter arrived with their order. Tipsy looked at Frank, at the waiter and ignored the writer. Then, she said - “I would like to order some roasted chicken, some Biryani and some chicken curry”

Frank was aghast. “How can you order so much? How can you eat so much? It is not healthy.”

“Why should we not do what is not healthy? I am bored” said Tipsy.

Frank had no real answer. But he said - “ but that is against the survival instinct. Not eating healthy is against our instinct. It cannot be done therefore it should not be done.”

Tipsy looked at the writer. The writer, beaming at finally being acknowledged, helped her and gave her a quote.

“But I fear ennui will be as bad as a bad stomach - a great man once said, ” said Tipsy.

“Who said that- I bet he knew nothing about evolution?” asked Frank.

“Charles Darwin said that,” said Tipsy without the slightest arrogance that would have made her victory less glorious.

Frank hung his head as Maslow's pyramid fell to pieces all around him.

Wine And Cheese

So well we all know that it is never without reason that Frank and Tipsy rise from their unreal existence into what can only be called a semblance of reality. This happens to a lot of people when they finish their weekdays and become less robotic over the weekends.   But that is a clear digression, the writer acknowledges.

The writer would like to apologize to all present and future readers for the present and future digressions. That being said; let us attempt to break the shackles of digression.

This writing is once again occasioned by special circumstances in the writer’s life – the special circumstances are not very difficult to define. They are the defined by the rare confluence of two relatively commonplace events neither of which have been known to raise eyebrows in polite society.

One of those events does not raise eyebrows because there are none in the vicinity.  The writer has not known the second event because he has never been in a state to absorb new knowledge in the circumstances of that event. Indeed ladies and gentlemen the two events that we refer to are solitude (or loneliness if you like a bit of melodrama) and the state of inebriation (or drunkenness if you so like).

So, if these two events are not so rare why should their confluence be rare – the intelligent reader may ask; and the mathematically inclined reader may even go to the extent of asking me about probabilities and correlations. Well, dear reader if your day job has any remote connection to such computations I would advise you rather sincerely to think of other things. And, if your day job does not involve such things I would say to you, why bother?

Suffice it to say that there is a cultural taboo on the confluence of two events – so one does not drink alone because that; it has been seen; can lead to bad things. It is both a cause and effect of bad things. And bad things should be avoided. Bad things are not good.

Anyway, for a fuller treatment of the probabilities, correlations and Bayesian statistics related to the interplay of solitude and inebriation please refer appendix XXVII, should you be so lucky as to find it.

Frank to Tipsy – “Alert, alert – we must rescue the readers!”
“Of well, it’s been a nice four years of quiet solitude but we must now take control of the situation – we cannot let the writer get away with this, ” Tipsy was at the controls once again.
“What is our purpose – Frank, what is our purpose? What is that we seek to achieve?”
“Oh, well are we back at the meaning of life once again Tipsy- I though we had settled the question – there is none unless you assign one, ” Frank said, being reckless- dared to contradict Tipsy. Most women, from the time they are born do not take kindly to being contradicted – especially by the half of the species designed for the specific purpose of unquestioning servitude toward them.
“I will not be tempted to acknowledge your existence; judgmental writer,” blurted Tipsy defeating her own purpose.
“Well, whatever,” said Tipsy figuring that should keep him quiet.

The writer could not think of an appropriate response to that and instead started thinking of the plight of millions, perhaps billions who have been thinking of an appropriate response to that. ‘Whatever’, thought the writer – ‘whatever’ – it encompasses everything that you have uttered, are uttering, will utter and can possibly utter. Everything that you can imagine is dismissed by this extremely powerful word. The writer was defeated.

Tipsy smiled. Frank’s heart skipped a beat or two or three– he wasn’t counting. Tipsy always did this to him – first time, next time, every time. Taking this to its extreme logical conclusion Frank’s heart would stop if she smiled all the time. Which, in itself would not be a bad thing because there is nothing quite as irritating as a constantly smiling person.

Tipsy was fresh from the victory against the writer and chose not to be offended by Frank’s insubordination – and instead just focused on the discussion.

“Frank my dear, we have reached a stage of sophistication where we no longer care for the ‘meaning’ – but we admit that people may assign meaning etc. That is boring now. I am talking about the purpose- the purpose of this very moment. Whether you admit it or not - every moment has a purpose. We are trying to accomplish something- even if it is trying to avoid doing anything in that moment. There are some weeks that make me work so hard that on weekends I make sure that, I do not end up doing any work, even inadvertently!”

Frank’s process of cognition, still not having fully recovered from the Tipsy Smile, paused at the good fortune of being called “my dear” by her. So when she stopped talking he had to quickly rewind what she said and frame an appropriate response.

“Don’t look at me like you are in a formal situation and don’t know what to say – speak – I command you!”

She didn’t really say – “I command you” but that’s how it sounded like, in substance, at least, to Frank.

“Tipsy, I love you and that is my purpose – in this moment and forever”

The waiter entered.
“I am the waiter – and I always wait for the worst possible moment to make my appearance. If you are in a hurry I will take forever – if you have hours to kill I will keep pestering you. I will come to you and if you are not ready with your order – then I will go away. And, moments later when you are ready I will be nowhere to be seen. I am the waiter”

“Sir and Madam- or Madam and Sir; if you will. Would you like to place your request please?”

“A request? Wasn’t it supposed to be an order?” said Frank – visibly upset at the intrusion and the subsequent meanderings.

“Well Sir, after several socio-psycho-anthropological meta analysis of behavioral tendencies of restaurant visitors and subsequent long deliberations we have decided that an ‘order’ is reminiscent of an era of feudalism and classist society and using the word ‘order’ increases our chances of becoming a more unequal society by 23 basis points and therefore we have substituted the word ‘request’. So please, I order you to place your request”

“I request you to bring the wine which is more expensive than 75% (or closest to it) of the wines in your menu so that I don’t appear cheap and I don’t go bankrupt paying for it – and I would also like some cheese”

The waiter could not argue much with the wine order but the cheese order made him gleeful.

“What kind of cheese, sir?”

“Can I get one that is made from the milk of overweight cows on the foothills of the third most tallest mountain in South Western Guatemala?”

“No, sir you may not”

“Why Not?”

“Because the claim of being the third most tallest mountain is disputed by two different mountains and I cannot betray my profession by serving you anything but what you asked for and claiming that it was the case”

“All right get me your favorite cheese”

“I am sorry Sir, I cannot do that”


“Sir, I am great supporter of privacy and I do not intend to give up my right to hide my preferences as to what my favorite cheese is. Suppose you sell that information online and then all ads that I see while browsing show me that cheese and other ‘recommended’ cheese. I will be bugged, Sir. I will be extremely bugged.
Not only by the fact that they knew it but the fact that they think I will eat no other cheese or eat only the cheese that other people who also eat my favorite cheese ate. The fact is, there is no reason why a person who likes cheese A would also like cheese B, and any correlations you see are spurious. Please do not pretend to know what cheese I would choose.”

“Get me the first cheese on your list”

“We have several lists, Sir.”

“Get me the first cheese from the first list that you ever made”

“That list is no longer available Sir”

“All right get me the first cheese listed on the first list that is available”

“That cheese is no longer available, Sir”

“All right get me the first available cheese on the first available list”

“The first available list has no cheese that are available, Sir”

“Can you please give me a list of all the cheese that you serve?”

“I am sorry, Sir we don’t do that”

“And, why don’t you do that”

“For health and safety reasons”


“For health and safety reasons, Sir – the last person who listened to the entire list went mad; it wasn't good for the safety of the guests in the restaurant and it affected the health of our manager – who is a very distinguished gentleman”

“Why should I care if he is a distinguished gentleman? Get me cheese. Get me any goddamned cheese”

“I am sorry Sir I cannot do that”

“Why not?”

“Because that sounded like an order Sir. We don’t do orders – we only do requests”

“Get me any cheese, can you please get me any goddamned cheese, ” said Frank softly - flustered but unwilling to lose the game.

“That is a request I cannot fulfill Sir”

“Why is that? Please tell me. I request you”

“Because, your request is ambiguous – do you want any cheese or any goddamned cheese?”

“Any goddamned cheese”

“That presents a conundrum”

“What conundrum?”

“There is no way I can tell whether a cheese is goddamned- even if I were to begin to make sense of the god damning a cheese”

“So please get me any cheese”

“Absolutely Sir, I will get you that”

Franks was relieved. He turned to Tipsy. She wasn’t impressed. She had been playing with her hand held device and hadn’t witnessed the feat that Frank had accomplished.

“You were saying something Frank?”

“I was saying I love cheese, err… I mean I love you”

Tipsy turned her head away. She wasn’t sure she would want to compete with cheese. That has been the problem of every woman who had a faithful lover. She thinks she is competing with some abstract entity – like, well cheese.

“I love you Tipsy, now, ever, forever”

Tipsy felt better. There was no mention of cheese now.

“Well, Frank so what is the purpose of this moment?”

At that moment the waiter came back – remarkably quick because he sensed that Frank would not mind waiting and neither, for that matter, would Tipsy.

“Here is your cheese - bloke and girl,” he said.

“Hey - Whatever happened to Madam and Sir?” Frank could not resist.

“Dear bloke, we analyzed the data and realized that the salutations of Madam and Sir also increase the probability of our society becoming more unequal, so we have shunned their usage. We are still working on possible substitutes and I have just used our beta version on you. Bloke and Girl. “

“I am sure your beta needs a lot of alpha”

“It depends on the context Bloke, what is better - the alpha or the beta”

“I am sure it does, now please can I have a moment of peace with my most dearly beloved”

He was given a moment of peace.

They drank their wine. They ate their cheese. Maybe they spoke. Maybe they didn’t. It does not matter.

“Thanks for the answer, Frank, I know – the purpose is wine and cheese”

Frank was speechless. First the smile, then the ‘my dear’ and now thanks – surely she loves me.

Don’t be so sure Frank.  She may want you to love her – but that doesn’t mean she loves you. But you have to wait – as there is no more wine. Only the cheese is left – and that just doesn’t cut it.