Pity the poor aphorist! Laboring neither in the turgid field of philosophy nor in the all-so-pragmatic realm of the proverb, he struggles for purchase somewhere between the two. Yet as Yahia Lababidi’s Signposts to Elsewhere demonstrates, that struggle can lead to some wonderful insights.
Opening with a meditation on the nature of the aphorism (a term defined in one of the book’s aphorisms as “what is worth quoting from the soul’s dialogue with itself”), Signposts to Elsewhere deftly navigates the undiscovered country between philosophy and revelation. Moreover, upon reading such pieces of wisdom as “The over-examined life is no more worth living than the unexamined” and “Controlled chaos is the law of existence” the reader senses a distinct affinity between Lababidi’s aphorisms and the stark minimalism of Ezra Pound‘s poetic dicta “Make it new” and “The artist is always beginning.” And though the volume is slim — weighing in at 74 pages — it is by no means a quick read. Rather, it is a book to be pondered, a book to be savored. My advice: start each morning with one of Lababidi’s aphorism and ponder it through the day. After all, as the aphorist notes toward the end of his book, “One should not listen to a new argument with the intention of converting the speaker, but with the possibility of changing one’s mind.”