ON NOT ANSWERING THE TELEPHONE
'On Answering the Telephone’ is a very humorous piece that very gently talks of the practical problems of the machines invented by man. This is actually a speech given over the radio. This essay bears some connection to the earlier essay which we have done –‘Spoon feeding’ wherein we saw W.R.Inge feeling sorry that machines have indeed made the telephone and sees more discomfort with it than advantages.
After reading this unit, you will able to
·list the merits and demerits of machines
·describe what witty writing is
·state the importance of bringing together the world as one unit
·explain the significance of the role of youth
Introduction to the Essay and the author
This essay opens up a very important debate about the merits and demerits of machines in general and the telephone in particular. As we study the essay in greater detail, we will get to know some of the main reasons as to why Plomer considers the telephone as a necessary evil. Besides, we will also get a good picture of want witty writing is all about.
This essay is an extract from the talk given by William Charles Plomer in the British Broadcasting Corporation. The essay focuses on the disadvantages of simple equipments that overshadow their advantages. He brings home the dependence of man on machines in a delightful manner. His recollections of his experience with these machines are indeed very funny and we cannot help agreeing with him that sometimes these machines do caused irritation in us.
William Plomer (1903-73) was born in Northern Transvaal, South Africa. He was a South African writer, who raised his voice against racism in his first novel, Turbot Wolfe (1925). His anti government sentiments came into conflict with the authorities and so he had to leave the country and settle in . While in , he wrote many reviews, gave broadcasts and served as editor in journals. Among his other novels, The Case is Altered (1932) and The Invaders (1934) are well-known.
Plomer begins the essay by saying that he does not have a telephone and that many people have been surprised at this. The author does not have one because he dislikes the idea of possessing it and is able to manage his daily life without it. But most people are shocked as to why he does not have one. They stare at him wildly and consider nom an eccentric. But for his part, he considers it an irritant and a waste of time. When a call that is expected keeps you waiting it cause unnecessary anxiety and suspense. Some other times, you may have to try a number that is constantly engaged. Speaking from the booth may be an equally horrible experience, as the booth may not be properly ventilated chocking us with cheap cosmetics and smoke.
Next he recalls a typical scene when a telephone rings. Very often it rings when we don’t want it to. Either when we are asleep or in the middle of a conversation or going out or taking bath. On these occasions, he suggests, that we should not be tempted to pick it up. Whatever may be the nature of the news it would anyway reach us. Equally absurd is the fact that we say ‘Hello’ to a total stranger. Since our names are printed in the telephone directory, our numbers are available to everybody. This gives rise to the possibility of unknown people calling us at all odd hours. He strongly believes that it is possibility to manage without telephones as in case of an emergency, we can always use public telephones which are large in number in . He adds the remarks of an actor who said that if he were to be in lonely island. He would prefer to carry with him a telephone, bury its wires in the sand and derive great pleasures of watching it dead.
Telephone alone is not the cause of Plomer’s anger; he is equally disgusted with the typewriter and cars. When his friends suggested that he use a typewriter to type his letters to them, he decided to buy one. But then, as is always with his, he did not find it exciting to use. Though he learnt to type well, he did not appreciate the formation of letters in the typed format. He preferred the handwritten style to it. He was annoyed that the editors of publishing houses wanted only typed copies of his writing even if he could write neatly. Apart from its appearance, he rejected this machine as he never wanted to oil, or clean or repair it. Further the typewriter also did not like him. It would get jammed if he touched it. As for the cars he developed no liking for them either. He had been taught to drive in a busy city like and got his license at the young age of seventeen. When he visited another part of where there was no motor traffic, driving was comparatively easier. So, he drove very fast and the speedometer broke. Soon driving also irritated him. He got bored and fed up of driving when traffic, especially in , became heavy and rules strict.
William Plomer is not essentially against machines, but he is certainly against man’s undue dependence on them. He would not want to feed the typewriter with sheets of papers, he would rather use his legs to walk than lose the use of them by being driven in a car, or be called without prior information on the telephone. He is deadest against the domination of machines over man.
William Ralph Inge was known to the public as ‘The Gloomy Dean’ for the sharp cultural criticism of his columns in the Evening Standard. He was a passionate Christian Platonist known in the academy for his work on mysticism, Plotinus and a synthesis of Christianity and Platonism.
William Ralph Inge was born 6 June 1860 in Crayke, Yorkshire, England, into a family of clerics. His father was an Anglican curate and provost of Worcester College, Oxford, while his mother’s father was the Archdeacon of Cleveland. After education at Eton and King’s College, Cambridge, Inge returned to his alma mater as Assistant Master at Eton in 1884. The year 1888 marked the beginning of Inge’s twin paths of scholar and churchman as he was elected Fellow and Tutor at Hertford College, Oxford, and ordained Deacon in the Church of England. His early work at Oxford centered on Christian mysticism, and his Bampton Lectures on the same theme were published in 1899.
Inge remained at Oxford until 1905, when he became vicar of All Saints’ Church, Knightsbridge. In 1907 Inge was installed as Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity and Fellow of Jesus College at Cambridge, where he taught until becoming Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1911. Inge delivered his two sets of Gifford Lectures on ‘The Philosophy of Plotinus’ in 1917–1918 while at St Paul’s. He retired in 1934 to a life of writing and study. Inge married Mary Catharine Spooner in 1904, and they had three children. He delivered a number of lectureships in the United Kingdom and the United States and received honorary degrees from the universities of Aberdeen, Durham, Edinburgh, Sheffield, Oxford and St. Andrews. He died 26 February 1954.
Inge wrote over thirty-five books in the areas of mysticism, Christianity, Platonism, ethics and contemporary issues. A number of his books were collections of his essays, including two series of Outspoken Essays, a title that betrays much about its author. For Inge was a controversialist, even a contrarian. In theology he was a liberal, in politics something of a reactionary. A supporter of animal rights and the arts (serving as trustee of the National Portrait Gallery from 1926 to 1951), he was a constant critic of the state of modern civilization, particularly in its democratic form. It was this criticism in the form of regular columns in the Evening Standard (1921–1946) that earned him his reputation as ‘The Gloomy Dean’.
Yet Inge’s reputation as public gadfly is tempered by the depth of feeling in his writing on the mysticism of Christian Platonism. His integration of and apology for Christian Platonism took the form of an impassioned commendation of humanity’s ascent to God. His at-times overappreciative analysis of Plotinus is understandable in light of his express desire to offer Plotinus as not only ancient philosopher but also contemporary teacher. Inge undoubtedly accommodated the Christian and Platonic mindset to one another, but not uncritically. As a Christian, he spoke of the transcendentals of Truth, Goodness and Beauty as attributes of a personal God rather than abstract Forms. Whether and how far Christianity and Platonism are compatible is a still-searing question. But one must admire the embodiment of an attempt to articulate a universal cosmic movement from and to God that is to be found in W. R. Inge.
Quotes by W. R. Inge
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Works by W. R. Inge
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This book has everything a reader needs to explore the world of German mysticism. William Inge begins with an introduction of histories, biographies, and summaries of the movement, and his scholarly articles will prove useful for the student of mysticism. Then he includes in the book many examples of the writings of the 14th century Dominicans, the Friends of God. These friends were an informal group of Catholics who strove to deepen both their communal relationships as well as their inner spirituality. Eckhardt, Tauler, and Suso were the major proponents of this theology, and each is represented in Inge's collection. This book is a unique and convenient volume that will assist readers interested in the fascinating movement of German mysticism.
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