This is basically four bad articles for the price of one. Split four ways, that’s £0.00 each. And I’m throwing in a preamble at no extra cost. Pretty good sting for your sterling.
I’m not sure if this happens to anybody else, but often I find myself falling in love with a phrase without really knowing what it means – before the point of its maturity from nonsense to sense. Since I am happy in the knowledge that our minds are abuzz with indeterminacy, incomprehensibility, and contradiction, I don’t lose any sleep over this. Once I ‘fix’ on what the phrase ‘actually means’ then it loses something special which it had before; rather like how a child – a young shoot aching to branch off in every which way – at some point actually becomes a man, like a plumber. And then everybody says: ‘Ah, he was always meant to be a plumber!’
And somebody should rudely interject at that point: ‘No, not at all. When he was seven years old, and playing in the forest and giggling wildly with his friends, he could have literally become almost anything.” They should probably add: “Although I don’t want to disrespect his skills as a plumber, and his fate has obviously turned out pretty useful because our toilet is always on the fritz.”
So this is about a phrase in childhood, before it has a job and a mortgage, before it has truth conditions, and a wave function which has collapsed. The phrase is: ‘The Juice is Out!’
The Juice is Out! (1)
An old professor of Metaphysics finally wrenches his head away from an early edition of Kant’s Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics, after an exhausting week of meticulous scrutiny and deliberation. He rubs his eyes with his palms and sighs; he is fatigued, and he realises with some despondency that he is some way off from any resting place – anywhere, that is, from where he can see truth and existence with any more clarity. His reading-torn eyes glimpse from out of the window a child – well, a youth of 18 or 19 – exiting the philosophy lecture hall. A bright green field stretches out before the youth. It is the end of the Michaelmas term; that must have been the last lecture of his first course on Metaphysics. The old professor realises that it is as if he is looking at himself, 40 or so years ago.
He suddenly feels an urge to shout out to the youth: ‘The Juice is out! You will never learn as much again as you learnt in that first term!” And now, as if to spite him, the youth gets a big ripe orange out of his bag, cuts it in half, and digs his teeth into it, juice spraying over his face. The professor wants to shout: “That sweet nectar which flows so easily will stop flowing! Do not spend the rest of your life gnawing at the rind, sucking in all futility for the last few drops.”
So that’s the first possible future for ‘The Juice is Out!’ It’s basically just diminishing returns. It’s a bit of a silly idea, because it depends on a presumption that i) knowledge is gained cumulatively, ii) there is a fixed supply of knowledge, and iii) knowledge is basically an orange . And it probably isn’t. Knowledge probably isn’t an orange.
The Juice is Out! (2)
The Headteacher at St. Thomas’ School in Leamington Spa has called an emergency meeting for all members of staff. They are assembled in the Old Gym and there is a deafening cacophony of grumblings. After giving up on any semblance of ordered proceedings, the headteacher simply lets them cry out their grievances. Mr. Ryan, the Mathematics teacher, shouts: “They won’t listen! They said they now know how to do arithmetic, percentages, and algebra, and that they can teach themselves the rest!” Mrs. Thompson, the English teacher: “They say ‘we already understand the central messages of To Kill a Mocking Bird, thank you very much, and we now know how to read a book for ourselves’.” Mrs. Edmonton, the Critical Thinking teacher: “They said that they can now judge whether an argument is valid or sound, and that they are now perfectly wary of at least the twenty most common fallacious argument forms, and then they left!” Mr. Heath, the P.E. teacher, simply: “This is outrageous!”
The Headteacher bows his head and for the first time the teachers are silent. “I know what it is,” he says solemnly, “they realise that they do not need us.” And then he finishes with a line which, if not for the title of the article in which it were placed, would seem inapt: “The juice… is out.”
So this possibility is going along the lines of: ‘the children are like Prometheus and have stolen our fire’. The illusion has been dispelled, they no longer need us, we should panic! What are they going to do with all this juice?
Alternatively: we have done our jobs well by giving the children all they need so that they can be set free. Let’s relax.
Again, the ‘juice’ is playing a strange role. The juice, which is definitely now ‘out’, is no longer a fixed quantity, but instead some sort of strange juice-making capability. It’s a bit like you could find some actual person who is the source of ‘the milk of human kindness’ and you could milk them, and you could give yourself ‘mammary glands of human kindness’ and then you could milk yourself.
The Juice is Out! (3)
You go to the fridge and you find that there is, literally, no juice. We have run out of juice and we must go to the shop in order to procure more juice. “The juice is out!”
Pretty pedestrian. Thinking about it, this is probably how this phrase was born, somewhere in the recesses of my Reptilian, juice-seeking brain, long before it was appropriated by my neocortex .
Or perhaps this happens on a national or international scale, like with oil or water. Global tension escalates, military forces labelled with increasingly ominous acronyms are drawn in, and many deaths ensure. Why? Because: ‘The juice is out!’
The Juice is Out! (4)
This is fairly straightforward, as long as you’re happy to go meta (which is something I generally recommend). so:
The juice of ‘the juice is out!’ is out!
Just by saying a phrase, it already gets some meaning, whether you or I like it or not.
And obviously ‘The juice of ‘the juice of ‘the juice is out!’ is out!’ is out!’ And on for eternity.
Acknowledgements: thanks to Abhinav Bajpai and Benjamin Davies for inspirational conversations about ‘The juice is out!’ Although I’m pretty confident they wouldn’t want to take any responsibility for these strange ramblings, I’m afraid, guys, that the juice is out.