A certain philosopher used to hang about wherever children were at play.
And whenever he saw a boy with a top, he would lie in wait. As soon as the
top began to spin the philosopher went in pursuit and tried to catch it.
He was not perturbed when the children noisily protested and tried to keep
him away from their toy; so long as he could catch the top while it was
spinning, he was happy, but only for a moment; then he threw it to the ground
and walked away. For he believed that the understanding of any detail,
that of a spinning top, for instance, was sufficient for the understanding
of all things. For this reason he did not busy himself with great problems,
it seemed to him uneconomical. Once the smallest detail was understood,
then everything was understood, which was why he busied himself only
with the spinning top. And whenever preparations were being made for the
spinning of the top, he hoped that this time it would succeed: as soon as the
top began to spin and he was running breathlessly after it, the hope would
turn to certainty, but when he held the silly piece of wood in his hand, he
felt nauseated. The screaming of the children, which hitherto he had not
heard, and which now suddenly pierced his ears, chased him away, and he
tottered like a top under a clumsy whip.
Translated by Tania and James Stern