do not thank; accept!


Speaking of the virtues of silence, I'm reminded of a Wittgenstein anecdote. It's not exactly that civility with strangers can't be spoken of and must be passed over in silence. But a sure way to neuter a generous gesture is to offer it in the first place, and then to overdo the thanks. In his biography of Wittgenstein, The Duty of Genius, Ray Monk records an incident in 1945 when the great Austrian philosopher of language and its limits was visiting a vicar in Swansea. From the kitchen, the vicar's fussy wife called out:
"Would you like tea, Mr. Wittgenstein?" along with a whole slew of alternatives—a typical British nervousness.
The vicar was exasperated:
"Do not ask; give," he said.

Wittgenstein was so impressed with this direct attitude, Monk writes, that "he repeated it to his friends on a number of occasions." Terribly sorry and all, but might I suggest an extension of this philosophy? When something is given to you with the right understanding, do not thank; accept.

James Westcott

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