Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Marcus Aurelius on the primal Cause

Upwards and downwards, from age to age, the cycles of the universe follow their unchanging round. It may be that the World-Mind wills each separate happening in succession; and if so, then accept the consequences. Or it may be, there was but one primal act of will, of which all else is the sequel; every event being thus the germ of another. To put it another way, things are either isolated units, or they form one inseperable whole. If that whole be God, then all is well; but if aimless chance, at least you need not be aimless also.

Soon earth will cover us all. Then in time earth, too, will change; later, what issues from this change will itself in turn incessantly change, and so again will all that then takes its place, even unto the world's end. To let the mind dwell on these swiftly rolling billows of change and transformations is to know contempt for all things mortal.

The primal Cause is like a river in flood; it bears everything along. How incorigible are the little men who play at politics and persuade themselves that they are acting in the true spirit of philosophy. Babes, incapable even of wiping their noses!

What then, you who are a man? Why, do what nature is asking of you at this moment. Set about it as the opportunity offers, and no glancing around to see if you are observed. But do not expect Plato's ideal commonwealth; be satisfied if even a trifling endeavour comes off well, and count the result as no mean success. For who can hope to alter men's convictions; and without change of conviction what can there be but grudging subjection and feigned assent?

Oh yes; now go on and talk to me of Alexander, and Philip, and Demetrius of Phaleron. If those men did in truth understand the will of Nature and school themselves to follow it, that is their own affair. But if it was nothing more than a stage-role they were playing, no court has condemned me to imitate their example.
Philosophy is a modest profession, all simplicity and plain dealing. Never try to seduce me into solemn pretentiousness [...]

Many of the anxieties that harass you are superfluous: being but creatures of your own fancy, you can rid yourself of them and expand into an ampler region, letting your thought sweep over the entire universe, contemplating the illimitable tracts of eternity, marking the swiftness of change in each created thing, and contrasting the brief span between birth and dissolution with the endless aeons that precede the one and the infinity that follows the other.
Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-180)

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

UBS* on my radio plastico

UBS* on my radio plastico

on my radio plastico
the invisible voice said that
an invisible zimbabwean politician
wanted to send a wee bit of invisible gold
to zurich / the invisible zimbabwe - zurich axis
but this cuckoo-clock time
it wasn't to be
- for the invisible official papers were out of order
and the shady gnomes
got the chills
and the jittery-jitters
got the wind up
and barred the doors
to their vaulted gardens

that's invisible economics

three and a half tonnes
is a lot of invisible gold

it's a big lot
of invisible congolese gold

FM4 News Bulletin 24 Feb 09
*UBS: here, Underground Banking System

Thursday, 12 February 2009

The birth of two prophets, or whatever you like to call them

The world is full people who like to mark the birthdays of prophets. Today in 1809 two modern prophets entered the world. Their names were Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln. It's curious that these two far-sighted prophets should arrive on this planet on the same day. If we are to believe that prophets are sent to earth to guide us then the date 12th February 1809 must make us stop and consider our situation vis-a-vis prophets.
I am not speaking of prophets here in the biblical sense. That is another matter altogether. There are those in high places who are paid a lot of money to delve into religious matters. What I am speaking about here is a prophet in the general meaning of the word. As Webster's has it there are 5 definitions of the word prophet. I am speaking about definition number 2: One who fortells the future; especially an inspired predictor.
What message can we take from the curious fact that these two men, who changed the world for the better, who brought us all a few giant steps forward in our ways of thinking, arrived on the planet on the exact same day 200 years ago? That is the question.
Today, on the 200th anniversary of the births of these modern prophets, we might do ourselves a bit of good if we took a few minutes to ponder on this strange and mysterious event. We may in the end write the whole thing off as mere coincidence. And that it may be. On the other hand it may not be. Throughout history prophets have arrived when the time is ripe; Copernicus, Galileo and others. But for two to arrive on the exact same day, that is unique. That is special. Consider the facts and decide for yourself.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Last man standing, the real thing.

Austrian Times – Home > Around the World > Shack attack builders

If ever there was a Jin Chang and Goliath situation this is it. Notice the flag flying on the roof of the humble abode; and is that a satellite dish perchance (enlarges photo)? Indeed it is. Surely the owner of this house is a poet. I'd love to meet him.

~ ~ ~THE YEAR OF THE OX~ ~ ~

diverter of the myriad machines
by peaceful and patriotic means
-Mister Jin Chang of Chongqing-

No Worst, there is None

No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,
More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.
Comforter, where, where is your comforting?
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?
My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief
Woe, world-sorrow; on an age-old anvil wince and sing -
Then lull, then leave off. Fury had shrieked 'No ling-
ering! Let me be fell: force I must be brief'.

O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne'er hung there. Nor does long our small
Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep,
Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all
Life death does end and each day dies with sleep.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Prohibitorum ad nauseum

The other day I entered one of Vienna's historical city centre coffee houses, the Adolf Loos' designed Cafe´ Museum on Operngasse. The sparse functional cafe´is known to regulars as Cafe´ Nihilism. It was a frequent watering hole for Leo Trotsky and the group of philosophers and intellectuals known as the Vienna Circle. I found an unoccupied table in a corner, ordered a beer, and pulled from my jacket pocket a well-worn public library copy of Jean Paul Sartre's novel Nausea.
I was only two pages into the novel when a young man selling Augustin, a newspaper sold on behalf of the city's homeless and jobless, entered the premises. Naturally I bought a copy and commenced to flick through it. A cartoon on page 36 caught my eye. An explanatory text on the drawing stated that the Roman Catholic Church had in its index liborum prohibitorum listed the name Jean-Paul Sartre, author of my Nausea, but not the name of Adolf Hitler the author of Mein Kampf.
So there I was, sitting where Leo Trotsky may well have sat, reading a banned book. A book by Jean-Paul Sartre whose complete works are banned. The same Jean-Paul Sartre who refused the Nobel Prize. What was I to make of it all? I was soon to find out.

Arriving home I switched on the radio and was informed that the Pope had authorised the appointment of the Windischgarsten priest, Gerhard Maria Wagner as the Bishop of the City of Linz. Yes, the famous City of Linz; the European Capital of Culture 2009. And the man? Ah yes, wasn't this the man who came to notice for describing J K Rowling's Harry Potter books as satanic and then proceeded to warn parents and children not to read them? I had not long to wait; within a few seconds the newsreader informed me that this was indeed the same Gerhard Maria Wagner. The new bishop clearly had his own ideas about who should be on the index liborum prohibitorum along with Jean-Paul Sartre.

And so I looked. And there at I found what I was looking for. The names of the forbidden. Descartes, Pascal, Voltaire, Stendhal, Balzac, Hugo, Flaubert, Zola, Machiavelli, Spinoza, Hume, Defoe, Swift, Kant, D'Annunzio, Bergson etc., etc., etc. Like J K Rowling's Harry Potter they are dangerous men all.
In 1966 the index liborum prohibitorum was downgraded to the status of a moral guide which "reminds the conscience [...] that a book might be dangerous."
If you are not deterred and are determined to risk your soul here are some of the dangerous books. It's but a small random selection. My Top 10 as it were:

A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy - Laurence Stern
Les Miserables - Victor Hugo
Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
Woman of Rome - Alberto Morovia
History of the Devil - Daniel Defoe
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire - Edward Gibbon
Memoirs - Giovanni Casanova
Creative Evolution - Henri Bergson
Life of Jesus - Ernest Renan
and last but not least,-
Jean-Paul Sartre - All works

And now, if you'll excuse me, I must read more Nausea.

post scriptum -
The morning after I wrote the above piece there came tragic news relating to a family from Gerhard Maria Wagner's parish of Windischgarsten. It appears that there was a road traffic accident in which three children (aged, 5, 8 and 10) were killed. Several other persons are badly injured.
The reason I mention this unfortunate event is because small-town Bishop-in-waiting Wagner is the same man who famously claimed that the city of New Orleans had been visited by Hurricane Katrina as a divine punishment from God. This, he said, was due to it being a sinful city.
We may wonder what Wagner will make of God's latest punishment, if that's what he believes it to be. And we may also wonder how and why such a narrow-minded and dogmatic man, this prohibitorum ad nauseum priest of Windischgarsten, is to be become the Roman Catholic Bishop for Linz, the European City of Culture 2009.

Update: the good bishop wagner now claims that god may well have had a hand in the recent Haiti earthquake (where over human beings 200,000 perished and many more were injured and/or made homeless) and says this is because Haitians engage in voodoo! It's really high time for someone in authority at god's hq to remind the herr doktor wagner that 85% of Haitians are of the same religious persuasion as his good self.