Wittgenstein in Korea

The Wittgenstein quote used to be posted on the wall of the classroom near the chalkboard, where everybody could see it: “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” It’s more or less the Wittgenstein quote, as far as I know, and although it may have aroused some curiosity in the minds of our dull and drearied students, it’s unlikely that any of them understood it. Not a word has ever been said to me about it. The quote has since migrated to a slightly-different location under a bookcase mounted in the same wall, where you can be sure that virtually no one except myself and my Korean co-teacher—whose English is better than my own—can see or understand it. There is something extremely amusing, ridiculous, absurd, and ironic about this. It is as if someone is screaming something desperately important right in your face, but you’re completely deaf, and you can’t hear a word.

It dovetails nicely with another notion I can scrounge out of the junkyard of truisms, the rusting workshop of sophistries, lodged inside my skull: the idea that all kinds of obvious benefits and inventions and discoveries are staring us right in the face wherever we look, only naturally we’re too blind and distracted and stupid to make any use of them. Warp drive, free energy, it’s hanging off the tip of each and every nose, but our fingers are in the wrong place—we’re blind to the profound, just as blind to wisdom and knowledge as these young students are to Herr Wittgenstein. So much unwritten wisdom is likewise everywhere in this universe-as-library and library-as-universe, wherever our eyes happen to dart, but we don’t speak the right language, we can’t see any of it, and future generations who happen to stumble upon those revolutionary things will laugh at us for our ridiculousness.

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One thought on “Wittgenstein in Korea

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