Reason Suspended
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Speeches from the plays 1

From How To Roast A Strasbourg Goose


[At the Court of Tir nanOg, Reason is Suspended]



But he did miss it... In goes Packy

and what does he see? Middling crowded courtroom.

Bert Stump at his table on the left,

dragging on the butt of a cigarette -

Bert Stump

Gauloise, of course!


- Tomes, texts and reports

piled around him; energy coiled inside,

ready at a touch to zap out

forked lightning arguments -

Bert Stump




- exponential expertise -

Bert Stump

C'est absurde, quoi!

What is absurde?

Life is absurde!


How do you prove that?

Bert Stump

'Ow? On my

phenomenological trampoline! Zair you 'ave eet!

(Makes loopy gestures, arriving as it were to a perch high above the intellectual circus.)

Bert Stump

Allez-oup! Q - E - D: et voilà!


And in the benches on the right, the Angelic Delegation,

itching in their tweedy britches,

propped in front of them a large oblong card,

their monogrammed motto -

Head Angle

Not Angels But Angles!


Colliding with the panelling, knocking the table-legs,

joggling each other, all

elbows, buckteeth, goofy gossagacity -

Head Angle

Anyone for tennis? Why not?


What a language! Bumping like jackhammers

from emphasis to preposterous emphasis,

absolute total conviction of utterly

injured innocence!

Head Angle

Where is this

little man Stump? How dare he drag us here!


Chockful cheeks gobbling profuse

post-positivist propositions -

Head Angle



And on the bench, Lord Reason, a study,

a face all crags, cross-hatched with the

endurance of a thousand fine arguments

- set against fraud, pitted against treachery,

entrenched against exasperation, adroit

luminary, Lord Reason himself; hero of

the story as it has been understood

so far, but alas about to depart

from at any rate our view for

the immediate future. Have a good look at him.

It was the city that made him. When he speaks

it is the voice of all cities,

the world-weary voice, the touch-tolerant voice -

Lord Reason

We know all that!


And now he is about to depart,

at the fine Grecian zenith of his career,

the peak, the apogee by azimuth and almacantar,

with the most death-defying case

ever to be scrutinised before him,

one that would tax - to the discreet limit -

the cool susurrus, the lightly-breathing refinement

of his all-Aristotelian resources,

one that would put his renowned interpretive faculty

to the pin of its succinct, legal cravat.

He raises his gavel, ready to enunciate

the time-bedraggled phrase:

Lord Reason

The Court - of

Tír na nOg - is now - In - Session!


And what happens? Enter a Messenger.

Hurry. Gasping. Last gasp. No, second last.

Tripping over himself. Stumbling at the coaming.

Battering the panels of the dock.

Fetching a quite accidental

kick on the ankle of an Angelic Delegate -




Boss! Judge! You Honour! For you! A note!


He hands it to his Lordship. Who reads;

and the gavel descends, slowly

Lord Reason



- three times -

Lord Reason

Plock! Plock! The Court - of Tír na nOg

- is hereby ad-journed - for three - months!


A stunned silence. Then - pandemonium!

Flashes - shots - photographers jockeying for position

- oaths and imprecations from the plaintiff:

Bert Stump

Sacre bleu! Merde alors!


The wrangling Angles in their box,

jostling contusions and contortions, like

a brace of giant squid that'd got mixed up

in a school outing; panic-stricken squid

that had scoffed the bag of bones intended for

the janitor's dog and didn't know how to get rid of them

- shake a leg - all gone down the wrong way!

...So how did all that come about?

Earlier that morning, in the ante-office

of His Reality Ultimate the First and Last -

enter backwards: Chancellor Serious,

retreating from the presence, fighting it off -

His Reality Ultimate the First and Last  (off)

Buffonaccio! Pazzachione!  

Chancellor Serious

Sì, Realità! No, Realità!

Whatever you say, Realità!


- struggling to hold

rearguard shreds of order and good discipline -

Chancellor Serious

Right away Realità!


- closes the door behind him,

gingerly but with relief -

Chancellor Serious



Chancellor Serious tiptoes heavily to the phone,


Chancellor Serious

'Ello. Number T'ree. Dis is

Serious - Chancellor Serious! Me!

We got trouble on our hands. He wants a New Illusion.

Is what 'e said-a - design a New Illusion.

'E t'inks dey're getting too close-a.

I tell you Meaning, I'm serious... yes I know -

you're Meaning and I'm Serious, but I'm serious too -

blast this name! O o! No blast, OK? No blast...

Spot of bother - in a spot of bother, heh?

Not just-a one spot! An epidemic!

A cageful of ravening leopards with smallpox!

Suspensions - that's what he wants.

You make 'em out, I sign 'em. First to go

Belief - Belief is suspended. I tell you, Meaning,

Specific orders from His Reality Ultimate the First and Last!

Belief is suspended! Hope stays, but only just. Love?

Hasn't been heard from for years except in bad movies.

Reason goes too. No I'm deadly serious!

Aha. Dead serious. Lethal. R.I.P.

Shaddap! You and your Oxford levity!

A word in your ear, Meaning. You were

nearly for the chop yourself. He wanted you

stuffed away in semiology.

I didn't mince my words - I told him

we can't carry on without Meaning!

I said it was unthinkable! O don't thank me!

Thank... well, who else?... We are none of us safe!

Now - about-a de New Illusion.

The guidelines as I seem to remember them were:

must be plausible, but not too plausible -

explain enough but not everything -

allow for the divine... discontent I think it's called.

Seventy-thirty split was it or eighty-twenty?

Eighty-twenty split between satisfaction and frustration.

Lucidity? Yes. Brilliance. The gilded puddle.

A pool of light amid the encircling gloom

- a clearing in the jungle with trails leading off

but they peter out. Ecco! You have the idea

get cracking on it... What's 'at? Say that again -

you already have - seven - why seven? -

philosophical systems made out? Each with its own

microphysics, cosmology and ...soul?

Auto-levitational bootstraps - spell that out for me...

They lift themselves up by their own bootstraps,

I see. And they could all - say that again -

they could all be true at the same time - could they?

Really?! Meaning, you are a genius!

You are mee-raculous! You really kept

the thinking cap on there, Meaning, you old

pen-pusher! Real substance there, boy!

Genuine creative abstraction! And you have all this

worked out ahead of time? That's grand!

We just bring those in to the Boss and... I see.

Not to let too many of them out the bag at once,

right of course. But about this other business,

put the lid on Reason first, will you?



And that is how it came to pass

that Lord Reason, with gavel suspended,

astride the hearthstone of his career

before a blaze of wisdom,

read the order to abandon ship

and, gravely counting himself out:

Lord Reason


Knock! Knock!



to the judicial obscurity of a disrobing room

backstage under the stairs; where he fell,

as will sometimes happen, into not

unconvivial company, and where

at a later date, we may hope to rediscover him.

On his way out he passes the table

stacked with manuals, tracts and citations,

where a by now disconsolate Bert Stump sits

- a hand to his temple; who glances up

and with a more than modish angst

murmurs his by now immortal

bon mot on the rustication of Reason -

Bert Stump

Ze verdict -


said Bert Stump

Bert Stump

ze verdict:

innocent. Ze sentence: birth.


The ghost of a smile crossed Reason's face.

He went outů




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