…on today’s memorable quotation

What is solitude?  “The nature or situation of being alone;” or to have none other present.  Upon becoming cognisant that Emerson declares to faithfully experience nature, one must realise solitude – perhaps interpreted as seclusion, or separateness – the individual may conjure up a walk alone on a beach or in a wood; or even existing beneath a potent thunderstorm; however, merely these are inadequate.

“To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, 1836

tsThis solitude is not the meagre antithesis of the mob cited in Self Reliance: severing oneself from the hordes in a joyful act of self-actualisation and non-conformity; though, this realisation is laudable and should be sought; rather, the epiphany that to attain veritable solitude, one must disunite oneself wholly from one’s thoughts: cares, concerns; for these are burdensome and interfere with absolute solitude.  And now, we are ready…

Try it sometime!

…on today’s memorable quotation 

Gethyn and I were having a conversation over dinner recently, and he cautioned his horrified wife that, although he enjoys reading her hero and appreciates some of what he imparts, he unfortunately found himself not in a position to accept the entirety of philosophy about nature; moreover, he put forward that humanity does not perceive, wholly, what nature in reality is.

As one who disseminates his love for and knowledge of Physics to others, he cited the brilliant Professor Stephen Hawking:

“These examples bring us to a conclusion: there is no picture- or theory-independent concept of reality. Instead we adopt a view that we call model-dependent realism: the idea that a physical theory or world picture is a model (generally of a mathematical nature) and a set of rules that connect the elements of the model to observations. This provides a framework with which to interpret modern science.”image

Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design, 2010

His, by now appeased and less-horrified, spouse smiled faintly; not unlike a Buddha, because she not only concurred with Professor Hawking; but, so did her hero, and she had a citation at the ready to counter that science could not endure without nature, and indeed exists to illuminate facets of the very thing which we do not comprehend.

To wit…

“It presently learns, that, since the dawn of history, there has been a constant accumulation and classifying of facts. But what is classification, but the perceiving that these objects are not chaotic, and are not foreign; but, have a law which is also a law of the human mind? The Astronomer discovers that geometry, a pure abstraction of the human mind, is the measure of planetary motion. The Chemist finds proportions and intelligible method throughout matter; and science is nothing but the finding of analogy, identity; in the most remote parts.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, The American Scholar, 1838

The Physicist comes around and his wife beams broadly!

…why I thank religion for “Les Mis”

How does one receive and consider religion: as a bringer of unity and camaraderie; as the means through which humanity is imparted a moral centre; as consolation in arduous times; or – as I do – extraneous to community spirit; for there exist myriad conduits through which companionship is realised; as malignant; in the figure of the indoctrination of the young and as unnecessary for probity; for this is – and must be – passed to us by our parents  However one regards religion…

…theatre as we realise and appreciate it today – essentially; the whole of it – was introduced by the ancient Greeks; specifically, Classical Athenians, and was a fundamental ingredient of their culture; it was moreover, decidedly political in that it was framed inside religious context; and what is more, the Athenian calendar integrated the three foremost festivals in a year: Great Dionysia, Rural Dionysia and Lenaea; all in cities named for the god, Dionysus.  Classics Scholar, Paul Cartledge, regards Athens as a performance culture, which hosted more religious events (performances of both drama and tragedy for competition) than any other Attic state.


Sing it, Javert!

Whether deemed respectable or not by the reader here, the watcher there – or the writer of this piece! – Greek tragedy was each time framed within a religious perspective.

To wit: Antigone buried her brother, Polyneices  (who fell at the hand of her other brother, Eteocles, who was interred with the formal rites) in defiance of Creon’s decree that he be left unburied; the fact she was an unmarried woman whose father was deceased, resulted in Antigone’s rejection of φίλος (family; I present a contradiction: both her former brother and once-uncle/now-father are Antigone’s relatives): her late brother was regarded as eχθρός (enemy) by Creon; and Antigone proceeded, in every respect certain the gods would assess her conduct as honourable; and divine judgement transcends mortal principles and deeds.  There exists, within Greek tragedy, bipolar aspect, which necessitates two disparate sides, sans grey areas; and the inevitable tragedy lay in the reality that an unquestionable outcome — a catastrophic one — is imminent for one side.

As both a woman and an atheist, I am acutely conscious of another conspicuous incongruity: in addition to the absence of legal status afforded to Greek women, and imposed seclusion and separation (see Solon Laws), women were moreover, forbidden attendance at religious events; however, they were integral to them; and, it may even be alleged that women were superior to men in religious festivals; however, there is no compelling evidence one way or the other on the subject of the presence of women at either the Great Dionysia or Lenaea.

Whether one embraces or discards religious beliefs, it is indisputable that Athenian creeds varied immeasurably to those adopted by countless people presently; and in the main, polytheism is more benign than monotheism; specifically for the reason that polytheists did – and do – not pursue or maltreat other polytheists.

I close by pronouncing that as a theatre-goer, woman and even an atheist, I express gratitude to religion (or the “STARS…” in your multitudes!) for Les Mis!




…on today’s memorable quotation

There is demonstrated here, a distinct element of faith versus fact…

“All science has one aim, namely, to find a theory of nature. We have theories for races and of functions; but, scarcely yet a remote approach to an idea of creation. We are now so far from the road to truth, that religious teachers dispute and hate each other, and speculative men are esteemed unsound and frivolous.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, 1836





…on the relevance beneath the surface

Echoing conversations with Gethyn, Mel and Gerri through the ages…

There exists a “thread of influence” I have detected when I read Emerson, which wends its way through his observations and my own and across time and space, his life and my own.  I decipher a reflection and at once a glimmer is generated in my own intellect: the realisation that he ideated something in the 19th century that I believe today; I am conscious of traces of his influences in my own thoughts, actions and life, and this cross-pollination is wonderful to me.

“Some men classify objects by colour and size and other accidents of appearance: others by intrinsic likeness, or by the relation of cause and effect.  The progress of the intellect consists in the clearer vision of causes, which overlooks surface differences.  To the poet, to the philosopher, to the saint, all things are friendly and sacred, all events profitable, all days holy, all men divine.  For the eye is fixed on the life, and slights the circumstance.  Every chemical substance, every plant, every animal in its growth, teaches the unity of cause, the variety of appearance.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, History


An emoji for Gerri

Although this statement, in isolation, is self-evident, it is but an ingredient of a broader significance: to always probe below the exterior; and not merely consent to “History” (with a capital haitch) and reiterate it, by rote; rather, scrutinise, critically engage with it and certify it before accepting it as truth.  In examining history and historical figures critically, one comes to comprehend – and hopefully accept! – that those figures and events, whilst celebrated, were remarkable contemporaneously and must always be framed within those contexts.

I am minded of Suetonius’ biographies of Caligula and Nero (the ostensibly “bad” Emperors), which presented the facts in an unbiased – not cold or dispassionate, as his writings and facts have been characterised – manner; for example, citing Nero’s aptitude for the written word; without employing the oft-used tool of invective, as Historians were, and are wont to do.

On another level, I confess to experiencing nothing short of thrill when I first read this, as in addition to the myriad other visions I serendipitously share with my hero, here was yet one more, and I extolled, “how long have I been saying this?”  Fundamentally, to consider the statement more literally, perhaps closer to some homes and – dare I say – on the surface, one need examine oneself and one’s knee-jerk prejudices.  This one dislikes Black people; that one dislikes overweight people; the other one dislikes Muslims; merely because they are easily-identified by outward manifestations.  This brand of cataloguing and judgement demonstrates an unutterably appalling amount of intellectual inferiority, as it is vital – and just – to receive individuals with the same judicious eye; for a person is neither inferior nor superior to me – particularly based on an accident of appearance – until he or she has proven him or herself to be by some act or acts, which delineate that individual as a person; which classify him or her.

“Genius watches the monad through all his masks as he performs the metempsychosis of nature.  Genius detects through the fly, through the caterpillar, through the grub, through the egg, the constant type of the individual; through countless individuals the fixed species; through many species the genus; through all genera the steadfast type; through all the kingdoms of organised life eternal unity.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, History

In order to appreciate, grasp and embrace distinctiveness, the wider representation must be realised, in the framework of time, existence and worth; not merely by considering the here and now; or present, the apparent unchecked facts or the validity of an individual.  The genius can distinguish all origins as well as inexorable progression and evolution, though one need not be labelled a genius to achieve this level of awareness; a so-called lesser organism is regarded as equally beautiful and capable in the eyes of both the recognised genius, and the genius by enlightenment.

The beauty of reality, change and difference – in epochs, figures and individuals – is realised in that the surface may appear unaffected; however, delving beneath the facade will unearth this superb certainty.



…on today’s memorable quotation 

” You cannot go wrong without suffering wrong. ‘No man had ever a point of pride that was not injurious to him,’ said Burke…The exclusionist in religion does not see that he shuts the door of heaven on himself, in striving to shut out others. Treat men as pawns and ninepins and you shall suffer as well as they…”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson, Compensation