Abdication of Justin II

One of the strengths of Mr Gibbon (Chapter 45) is his propensity to draw up images from the very moment the original events happened. The abdication of Justin II is exactly one such event.

What makes it so wonderful for me to hear the lamentation of the abdicating monarch is his realisation of all he could have done better in his responsibilities for the people. Hence, the speech with which he greets his successor, Tiberius, is colourful in both wisdom and elegance.

This, I feel, is one of the moments where one realises how fully absolute power corrupts. Justin failed to avoid it and he fell into darkness. He, however, also realised the full extent of the troubles with the people swinging behind a new person, and he managed to extricate himself from that situation. For all that he has experienced, he does not wish Tiberius to go down the same route…

“You behold the ensigns of supreme power. You are about to receive them, not from my hand, but from the hand of God. Honour them, and from them you will derive honour. Respect the empress your mother: you are now her son; before, you were her servant. Delight not in blood; abstain from revenge; avoid those actions by which I have incurred the public hatred; and consult the experience, rather than the example, of your predecessor. As a man, I have sinned; as a sinner, even in this life, I have been severely punished: but these servants, [and he pointed to his ministers,] who have abused my confidence, and inflamed my passions, will appear with me before the tribunal of Christ. I have been dazzled by the splendour of the diadem: be thou wise and modest; remember what you have been, remember what you are. You see around us your slaves, and your children: with the authority, assume the tenderness, of a parent. Love your people like yourself; cultivate the affections, maintain the discipline, of the army; protect the fortunes of the rich, relieve the necessities of the poor.”

‘Wrapped Up in Death’, ‘Castle’

There’s no upside to screwing with things you can’t explain.

That’s very much the takeaway from the ‘Castle’ episode ‘Wrapped Up in Death’. A very good and meaningful phrase uttered by the Captain Roy Montgomery after relating a story from his early detective years, it’s hard to argue with.

Things you can explain with, go ahead. Things you can’t, be aware…

Quoting Ancient Egyptians

I’ve come to consider again two quotes which relate to Ancient Egypt. I learned about these from an anthology of Ancient Egypt I read recently, and noticed these again when I thought about the post I made earlier today on continuing to write (actively).

Without further ado:

Study writings and commit them to memory; then all your words will be effective.

— ‘The Teaching of Ani’


Man perishes; his corpse turns to dust; all his relatives pass
away. But writings make him remembered. . .

— ‘Be a Writer’

Quoting John Gray (Quoting J.G. Ballard)

“I think Ballard was on to something important when he talked about how things that humans have constructed can be beautiful in ways that they don’t understand. What I like about his writing is the lyricism: his novels are full of the most beautiful images. He always said he wanted to be a painter, but didn’t have the talent. But when you read his books you see they are galleries of images.”

This quote is taken from a recent interview with the author John Gray that can be found at this address. Why this remained in my mind after I’d read through the sentence was the eloquent imagery: and potentially the simplest of truths.

Do we ever know when something we do/have/see is beautiful? And if that is ever the case, would it not be that it would be our human understanding of beauty — that is, our fancy at any given moment and not something that could be considered universally beautiful?

I would think our bias in every moment is enough to disturb our minds — but that means I am even more prone to letting my mind continue to work without understanding it perfectly.

It is the image in our mind that will be important in the end.


Quoting sir John Jervis

“There are eight sail of the line, Sir John”
“Very well, sir”
“There are twenty sail of the line, Sir John”
“Very well, sir”
“There are twenty five sail of the line, Sir John”
“Very well, sir”
“There are twenty seven sail of the line, Sir John”
“Enough, sir, no more of that; the die is cast, and if there are fifty sail I will go through them.”

The famed words before the Admiral led his troops into the Battle at Cape St Vincent, I so admire the sentiment present here. What sir John knew was that battle was necessary — and he was not afraid to join battle with a superior force due to his belief in the capabilities of his men and ships.

Every time I read these words, the emphasis falls on the numbers: “eight”, “twenty”, “twenty five”, “twenty seven”. I am quite confident the original was not like that, but I like my version somewhat more: if only for the reason that it allows me to conjure up a part where these numbers were more impressive than they might have actually seemed. And the Admiral would act in the same manner no matter what.

And can we imagine our own chief saying that he believes in success no matter the odds? What a wonderful boost to morale!

Quoting David Foenkinos

“Time again for the waltz of smiles. Amazing how you sometimes make resolutions, tell yourself everything will be a certain way from now on, and then all it takes is a tiny movement of the lips to shatter your confidence in a certainty that seemed eternal.”

I quite the like the one book by M Foenkinos I’ve read, and when I got round to viewing some quotes on Goodreads today I saw that I had ‘liked’ a number of quotes by the same person. This one here was amongst that group, and I had to hold back a smile when I saw these lines. Why hold the smile back?

I was not certain at this moment whether this was a good reflection on people or a bad one: by this I mean that I was unsure whether this was said as comment on the indecisive nature of people or as one on how well people can change. Can it be a good moment where one’s confidence is shattered by “a tiny movement of the lips”?

Maybe. I don’t quite have the answer for that, but I do know that I debate with myself far too much — and I resolve to do far too many things as a result of these inner debates so that nothing ever gets actually decided. Unless the decision allows me to ignore said problems, that is.

So maybe it is this collection of a million unfulfilled promises that makes humans an interesting group?

And yet I think I enjoyed the thought that those promises would be broken.

Quoting George R.R. Martin

The best fantasy is written in the language of dreams. It is alive as dreams are alive, more real than real … for a moment at least … that long magic moment before we wake.

Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and olive drab. Fantasy tastes of habaneros and honey, cinnamon and cloves, rare red meat and wines as sweet as summer. Reality is beans and tofu, and ashes at the end. Reality is the strip malls of Burbank, the smokestacks of Cleveland, a parking garage in Newark. Fantasy is the towers of Minas Tirith, the ancient stones of Gormenghast, the halls of Camelot. Fantasy flies on the wings of Icarus, reality on Southwest Airlines. Why do our dreams become so much smaller when they finally come true?

We read fantasy to find the colors again, I think. To taste strong spices and hear the songs the sirens sang. There is something old and true in fantasy that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamt that one day he would hunt the forests of the night, and feast beneath the hollow hills, and find a love to last forever somewhere south of Oz and north of Shangri-La.

They can keep their heaven. When I die, I’d sooner go to middle Earth.

I have again come to quote George Martin. For some reason, so much of what he writes can be seen to come across as very refined…

This quote goes to my very heart — I know that a number of people consider science fiction and fantasy both most unrefined and uncivilized and they do not grasp why anyone would want to read about something that is “not real”. My response to that usually was that nothing read in books (assuming fiction) is real — it’s all someone’s mind and thoughts which has conjured up a world of some sort into which they have placed their story. It is just that some authors choose to place their stories into a world everyone knows, while others create their own world where anything can happen.

Note that I also consider that any science fiction/fantasy work is in a better position to criticize society although I should return to this to figure out why I believe this to be the case.

But, coming back to this quote: I agree with everything Mr Martin says and I enjoy the final sentiment. I love being lost in fantasy lands especially the ones where I can imagine endless forests and a hunter wandering in them or a dragon flying over the seas hunting.

So, yes…

They can keep their heaven.

Quoting George R.R. Martin

“Sleep is good, he said, And books are better.”

I noticed this amongst my liked quotes on Goodreads, and my one thought was that this is very true: I do like my rest even though on average I sleep five to six hours. However, not few are the days when I like the book I am reading enough to continue well into the early hours of the next day.

Take the attitude presented here, and make it yours!

Quoting Patricia Hodgell

“That which can be destroyed by the truth should be.”

I found this quote while browsing the web today, and my first thought was: “I couldn’t agree more.”

And I still think that. There’s not much to be added here really, since it is so very straightforward: Truth should reign supreme, and if we know something that is entirely correct and improves upon the generally known version, then that should be public. Lies cast down into the abyss were always meant to be cast down to the abyss.



‘Decline and Fall’, E. Waugh

Just to continue my deceptive method of mentioning the title of a book and then not commenting on the book but on an aspect of the book, I managed to remember the cover of Evelyn Waugh’s ‘Decline and Fall’ yesterday. Now, naturally, there are different editions of the very interesting work, but the one I read had an interesting thought written on a billboard above a house.

The billboard read:

Tonight is the night and all night and every night.

Now, it doesn’t make much sense… however, ever since I read it there I have been amazed. I tried looking into where and when that might have been, or what it meant, but all of my efforts came to naught.

However, I still like the phrase. And it comes to my mind every now and then. It is memorable.

And I have a picture taken of it as well although the rest of the cover of that book seems to have gone missing. Here you go:

Pilt037So, in effect, I was misquoting it earlier. Let’s try the correct version:

To-night is the night and every night & all night.

The spelling adds a bit to it– Even more amazing!