In the Age of Thumbs, Help = 4357 (& vice-versa)

Pour les francophones – « Quel que soit votre problème, il y a un numéro que vous pouvez composer » – vous n’avez que défiler vers le bas.


Celeste, Tapio (god of the forest), . . . so many good names he would have given to children.

His plants could not have been greener, but a colleague—herself often sick—wanted to show him how to take better care of them.


He remembered that, in olden days, after a vacation was over and you had to put your shoes back on, they felt funny; your feet weren’t used to shoes.

A woman’s lips led him to get out his pencils. The more he concentrated, the more he wanted to kiss her.


He had not been getting as much kindness or attracting as much attention as a human being needs.

He realized that without a watch or phone, he knew what time it was. Could he learn to forget? Could one learn not to know?


His life was a reproach and a caution. As if to say, “A better man might live like this, don’t.”

He got along best with waiters, because they waited on him, and because he was interested in their lives and feelings.


We make room for the person who appears not to care if he plows into other people or who seems not to know what he is doing. But why inconvenience ourselves for someone who is ready to be useful, polite, obliging?

It’s very powerful to be loved, even by a difficult person.



William Eaton is an essayist, aphorist and the Editor of the intellectual journal Zeteo. A collection of his essays, Surviving the Twenty-First Century, was published in 2015 by Serving House Books, and a second volume—Art, Sex, Politics—is due out in 2017. Readers of the present piece might also be interested in On Pointing (based in Wittgenstein, published by Agni), La colère, c’est démodé, tu ne trouves pas ? and in the Montaigbakhtinian One-Liners arranged in volleys.


After Picasso, Femme au fauteuil rouge, 1932, crayon drawing by William Eaton, February 2017Quel que soit votre problème, il y a un numéro que vous pouvez composer

Tant de bons noms qu’il aurait donnés aux enfants.

Ses plantes ne pouvaient être plus vertes, mais une collègue, souvent malade, voulait lui montrer comment mieux prendre soin d’elles.


Il s’est rappelé – autrefois, des vacances terminées, il lui a fallu remettre les chaussures et il se sentait un peu décalé ; ses pieds n’étaient plus habitués aux chaussures.

Les lèvres d’une femme le poussèrent à sortir ses crayons. Plus il se concentrait, plus il voulait l’embrasser.


La gentillesse des autres, l’intérêt qu’ils manifestaient à son égard : ils étaient moins que ce dont un être humain a besoin.

Il s’est rendu compte que sans une montre ou un portable, il savait quand même quelle heure il était. Pourrait-il apprendre à oublier ? Peut-on apprendre à ne pas savoir ?


Sa vie était à la fois un reproche et un avertissement. Comme pour dire: « Un homme meilleur pourrait vivre comme ça ; mieux vaut ne pas. »

Il s’entendait très bien avec les serveurs, parce qu’ils lui servaient, et parce qu’il voulait toujours savoir comment ils allaient ou si quelque chose leur troublait.


Nous faisons de la place pour la personne qui se fiche des autres ou qui semble distrait. Mais pourquoi nous déranger pour quelqu’un qui est prêt à être poli, gentil, serviable ?

Quelle sensation d’être aimé, même par quelqu’un difficile.



Images are crayon drawings by William Eaton, the first after a Bonnard self-portrait (Le boxeur, 1931) and the second after a Picasso portrait (Femme au fauteuil rouge, 1932).


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In the Age of Thumbs . . . Quel que soit votre problème


  1. Bill,

    I really like this one–it’s like playing with my brain–more to you later!

    It’s 80 degrees outside (!) and I just got home from volunteering at church and I’m so sleepy….


    On Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 9:59 AM, montaigbakhtinian wrote:

    > William Eaton posted: “Pour les francophones – « Quel que soit votre > problème, il y a un numéro que vous pouvez composer » – vous n’avez que > défiler vers le bas. Celeste, Tapio (god of the forest), . . . so many > good names he would have given to children. His plants ” >

    • Thanks a lot, Carol. There seems to be something in this form (of poetry?) that works for me, or that works in our day and age. And to think that it only took me a half century to realize this! Meanwhile may the balmy weather drift you off to balmy sleep. Best, Bill

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