Thursday, November 02, 2006

Inter te et mulierem...

MOST of the avoidable suffering in life springs from our attempts to escape the unavoidable suffering inherent in the fragmentary nature of our present existence. We expect immortal satisfactions from mortal conditions, and lasting and perfect happiness in the midst of universal change. To encourage this expectation, to persuade mankind that the ideal is realisable in this world, after a few preliminary changes in external conditions, is the distinguishing mark of all charlatans, whether in thought or action. In the middle of the eighteenth century Johnson wrote: "We will not endeavour to fix the destiny of kingdoms: it is our business to consider what beings like us may perform." A little later Rousseau wrote: "Man is born free, and is everywhere in chains." Johnson's sober truth kindled no one, Rousseau's seductive lie founded the secular religion which in various forms has dominated Europe since Rousseau's death.

Hugh Kingsmill - The Genealogy of Hitler


Ttony said...

Hic autem non habemus mantentem civitatem.

I nearly quoted St Augustine’s comment to HM the Queen when she came to visit my place of work and I was presented. I described what I and my team were doing and, right at the end of our conversation, she said that it is very hard to organise work in a situation of constant flux (my words, not hers, though the sense is right). I thought "Dare I?" and then bottled out! (Can you imagine how daunting it is to talk to the Queen, never mind cast an Augustinian aphorism her way as a joke?) I ended up saying that stability was one of those things that we all longed for but knew that we would never be able to have. A Guardian reader would say that she looked suitably wistful. This Telegraph reader, however, particularly noted her "That’s certainly right" and her "Thank you VERY much" accompanied by as piercing a stare as I have ever been subject to.

I had thirty seconds to prepare myself for the Duke of Edinburgh. We didn’t get onto philosophy with him, though.

Moretben said...


This blog is four days old and you've already succeeded in connecting it (however tenuously) with HM the Queen.

Onwards and upwards, then?

I've been rehearsing your conversation in my imagination and wondering (while attempting to drive out the image of Prunella Scales as HM and Edward Fox as ttony, dialogue courtesy of Alan Bennett) whether or not you're now a marked man in some way. It can't have been what she expected. Did it make or mar her day, I wonder? Has your MI5 dossier expanded subsequently? Did you cover it over with an existential shrug and a quiet profanity for the Duke?

Thank you anyway for your visit to the Undercroft, and sending your own shaft of light into the sepulchral gloom.