Kalashnikov’s Umbrella

Today, it rains. Today I must go out. When I say I must go out, I mean to say that the choice to go out is not mine, or not mine alone, for there are external forces which compel me to rise from my bed and to venture into the world, against my will. My will! How absurd it sounds when I put it that way, as if I had a definite will and not rather a velleity. And against this will, this velleity, the many forces, some external but others perhaps not. Forces, that is precisely the word. And external, also the precise word. For everyone understands what is meant by a force, and also by an external. Were it not for these, I would stay in today, as I would stay in every day, if left to my own devices.

The rain introduces a problem. Yes, it is true that the dry does nothing for me, particularly, except insofar that it stands as a negation of its antithesis, the wet, which I abhor. But this is not nothing, the dry. Or, rather, it is a nothing, but a nothing that is not the something I abhor. From this it follows that I must stay in the dry, and out of the wet, which I abhor, which is the problem. I mean to say, getting wet is the problem, and the rain is the getting wet, the fons et origo of an abhorrent something I wish to avoid by staying within the sphere of the indifferent nothing, if it is in fact a sphere and not rather a negation of sphereness.

I was once told an umbrella solves this problem of mine, by allowing one to create the indifferent nothing, the non-sphere of dryness, whilst yet going out into the abhorrent something, the sphere of wetness. Ah, well, it sounds simple enough. Yet nothing ever is. Simple, I mean. For example, there is the question of the umbrella.

As to the first class of umbrella, the cheap, the advantage is obvious, so much so it pains me to mention it. But mention I must, for reasons concerning external forces I need not adumbrate. Suffice it to say that not all are wise in the field of umbrellas. Thus necessity compels me to say something of the topic, viz, the advantage of cheapness. For one is certain to lose an umbrella. Inevitably it will be left behind at the theatre, or on the train, or in the restaurant. In which case, it is lost forever. The advantage as you know (did I not say already that it was obvious?) is that a cheap umbrella is easily replaced. One forms no attachment, the umbrella being cheap and therefore of poor quality. In fact, it is often the case that one is secretly pleased to have lost a cheap umbrella. I emphasize secretly only because rarely will you hear one speak fluidly on the pleasure of losing a cheap umbrella. Yet the pleasure is a matter of solidity. It exists. It is real.

The cheap umbrella that is lost with secret pleasure is kept with evident disdain. This is a matter of logic. For the cheap umbrella falls to pieces, or inverts in the wind, or inverts and falls to pieces. It can do both, logically, the result of even one of these things being wetness, a fait accompli negating the very purpose of an umbrella. This is why I refuse to carry a cheap umbrella. A cheap umbrella must be avoided.

Now, then: the expensive umbrella, a completely different creature. In contrast to the cheap, the expensive umbrella works. For the essential thing is not the expense, as such, but the quality, the capacity to work. An expensive umbrella could, in theory, be also cheap. Yes, we all understand this, in theory. To be clear, I am speaking of the quality. My interest here is in the umbrella that does not invert in the wind, does not fall to pieces, does not in any way shame or disappoint its owner. I am speaking of the umbrella that keeps its owner dry in even the worst of conditions. The expensive umbrella, which is to say the quality umbrella, a friend as well as companion. To lose such an umbrella is unbearable. The thing must be avoided. From this it follows that a quality umbrella must be avoided.

From this it follows that umbrellas in general must be avoided. The umbrella of the first class, cheap, and the umbrella of the second class, expensive, or quality.

We arrive at the idea of a cheap, quality umbrella. A splendid idea, but I assure you nothing more than that, an idea. Such a creature does not exist, but as idea. No, please do not torment me by insisting upon this impossible notion. I have no need of ideas, practical as I am. Nor need of theory. Another way around the original problem, the wetness, must be found. So I have found it, by examining all of the relevant facts, as well as the irrelevant ones, all of which I have written here in my little note book. The facts, I mean, both of the relevant and irrelevant type. I have examined the question throughly and arrived at the solution.

The wetness, you see, is not the problem. Not as such. It is the becoming that is abhorrent. Once one is wet, and there is nothing further to be done, the wetness is simply a fact, a condition, a state if you will. One carries on with life, now in a condition of dryness, now in a condition wetness. Where one was once dry, one is now wet, and that is that. From this it follows that to have always been wet is to never become wet. The one who was always wet is as the one who was always dry, which is to say never becoming, from which it follows that one can stay dry by staying wet. An elegant solution, you must admit.

You are curious. You want to know why I must go out. What external force compels me?

I have been summoned by the President-elect, Mr. Crusher. He wishes to speak to me of peace. Not only of peace, but of war. And not only of peace and of war, but of the Middle East. You see, Mr. Crusher believes that he can bring peace to the Middle East. A fantastic notion! And as I am a detective first and foremost, and as such a finder of facts, he has sought my counsel. He admires the sharpness of my mind, my habit of using facts and logic, my way of proceeding from premise to conclusion. It is I, for example, who taught him to abjure umbrellas. From me he learned that the dry is the wet, the wet the dry. Yes, I am quite proud of this, quite proud. Mr. Crusher believes he can bring peace, and to this end has sought the benefit of my counsel. And so I hurry to meet him at his tower, on this day when it rains and the external forces gather and compel us to move forward, forward, forward, even against our will.