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Monday, February 9, 2009

In Praise of Ceramic Bliss

There's something about the Jetsons that brings out the best in coffee.  For you, maybe it's something different: starfish, Harvard, "I heart NY," "World's Greatest Stepmom."  For the Solipsist, though, it comes down to the Jetsons or DC superheroes (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.).

We are talking, of course, about favorite mugs.  Everyone has one.  And yes, of course, there is nothing qualitatively--LOGICALLY qualitatively--different about the coffee that goes into these mugs as opposed to the other mugs in the cabinet: the boring, matte black cups, the flower cups, the cup with a sad face on it (the one with a happy face broke).

And yet.

Come Sunday morning, when the Times has been unwrapped from its blue plastic, when the Travel section has been tossed aside (seriously, who reads the Travel section?  Does anyone CARE what's going on in Grenada these days), when (ideally) a baseball game has been flipped on--at these times, there is nothing quite like sipping one's first cup of coffee from one's comfort mug.  And one shudders to think what one's day would be like if/when this mug breaks.  On that day, we shall mourn.

This goes back to a point made in an earlier post (1/24/09): Americans are all 5-year-olds.  We need our special mug, or we get cranky.  We also have our favorite blankets, t-shirts, socks, chairs.  Maybe this is not a sign of 5-year-oldness: Maybe it's just part of human nature to find comfort in objects.  There's something rather pathetic in this (in the true sense of pathos).

The Solipsist is reminded of a comic book he read ages ago--nothing special, just a regular issue of Detective Comics (that's a Batman title for the uninitiated among you).  In this episode, a large, friendless outcast, is dragooned by some badguy and, thanks to some kind of secret formula, endowed with superhuman strength.  The big galoot goes on a destructive spree, and Batman has to stop him.  Anyway, what the Solipsist remembers from this particular episode is that, before his transformation, our slightly oafish but essentially harmless protagonist is surrounded by bullies.  They tease him and grab from him his prized possession: a calculator.  Despite his desperate pleas, the bullies callously smash the toy.  The big oaf cries helplessly.  And, call the Solipsist a sentimental fool, but he felt like crying, too.

The Solipsist is no psychoanalyst.  He will not venture a Freudian explanation.  But maybe it all has to do with control--or lack of it.  There are so few things in the world we can control, or even count on.  People are, sadly, unreliable.  So we cling to those things that bring us comfort, that make up our own little world, be they calculators or coffee mugs.

There's a little solipsist in all of us, after all.

ADDENDUM: In response to yesterday's tirade about drugs in sports, one of the Solipsist's faithful readers commented that "The whole [Michael] Phelps brouhaha would never have happened in Canada."  Right.  Canadians are such paragons of drug-free sports.  Just ask Olympic "Medalist" Ben Johnson.


  1. What you're missing is the point that one drug was illegal, while the other, for all intents and purposes, is not. The distinction is vital.

  2. And where's my damn blankie, eh?