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.”

Dreamworld

It is an odd coincidence that lately I have been able to remember my dreams far more than I used to. Coincidence I say because it would also seem that my dreams have become more interesting than in the past. Obviously though, this could only be a reflection of the fact that I remember, by which I also appropriate more importance to these dreams.

When I think of the dreams I have had lately, I have to say that mostly when I wake up I am confused as to whether what happened in the dream might have happened instead on the day before. Since the events I see fall in line with the things I am concentrating on in ‘real’ life, the similarities only confuse me more.

It might be difficult to describe it any better terms unless this feeling has been experienced in person. But, think of this: Of the things I can remember, the most memorable was something that either happened on Friday or in the dream on that day. I haven’t been able to determine which it was up to this point, and I will probably remain unable to do so. Maybe this inability to categorize it as either is the main reason for which I appreciate it that much — the uncertainty I face is fun.

There have been a number of other events as well, but I will not lay them out here. It was more that I wished to describe the general sensation. In a way, it has made me think I live in a dreamworld. Once I lost the capability to define whether a dream had been a dream, the only way to continue on was to say that anything seen in a dream might have happened in ‘reality’ as well. So, if something went wrong or contrary to plans, it would make more sense to avoid it even if it seems as if the original was part of a dream. It pays to be cautious.

In a way, would a dream not be the subconscious’ way of warning us from things we should not do? And all the more so if it does it in a way where the warnings resonate greatly with daily life and results that I would not see come true.

There is also the small possibility that if my dreams feel real, my reality might have become a dream… How would one go about resolving this particular conundrum?

So, as inconclusive as this post has been, I have said what I meant to say. Life feels more like a dream since my dreams have continued on from the experiences of the day, with this sense of similarity acting as an anchor on life itself. I am still here, and so is the day in which I live. The dreams come at night, but the next morning it might feel as if I have just woken from a long yesterday. And I think I am better off for it.

‘From dream to dream we dream, and today we dream anew.’

I wish to write more…

And I don’t. I even have posts that I manage to plan out in my mind whilst out and about. There is just the small and slightly relevant problem that I almost never manage to write them out once I get back home.

I have tried to think of ideas to make me more consistent in my writing, but I will have to see how that works out.

Right now, while watching ‘A Few Good Men’ once again, I thought that I would at least try putting some sort of a note down here that I can try writing more. A friend of mine recently started blogging, and I was hoping that her consistency would make me fall in line as well. Alas, that particular engine seemed to slow down so now I am wondering what would work best for me.

Until I work that one out, I will point out that I have had in mind to write a few words on British imperialism in the modern day, or at least my impressions on something that might be called as such. [And now that I have written it out, I will have to try doing it in least time possible. And maybe comment on ‘A Few Good Men’ as well. I do like that movie.]

Of Greece, and of People

In a similar line to my earlier post on Scotland, I have now returned (well, a week ago it was) from a good twelve days in Greece (the locations: Korinthia and Thera) which were not only very educative in the traditional higher educational sense (of geology and volcanology), but also of people — including myself.

While the locations I saw were not numerous, the time in Korinthia was well spent. Unfortunately, Akrokorinth is something I missed even though my hotel was only fifteen minutes away. Oh the times!.. Yet, there was one ancient settlement that I did get to visit in the region, and that was Heraion/Iraio (Ηραίο). It is difficult to describe the feelings that take hold when I look upon the work of people from two-and-a-half millenia away — what stays from that moment with me though is the consideration that to have their work survive for this long is representative of the great care and skill with which those stones were laid down once upon a time.

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Ηραίο

The Thera part of the trip brought to my mind a lot of interesting problems, the majority of them related to history. For example, outside of Fira itself is a small cape and on that cape used to be a settlement-fortress. But as a fortress, the location was not all that useful. So, was the purpose to guard the people or to be guarded from them?

The old city of Akrotiri was quite spectacular (not even to mention that there was a house in that city called The Admiral’s House — what a beauty!) if somewhat lacking in the explanatory side. I dare say the evolution of that side of the island when looked at from a both human and volcanological point of view makes for an interesting story that probably deserves a fair bit of thought. I guess, however, that the one thing that is difficult to figure out is where indeed could there be other old settlements under the meters-thick layer of Minoan eruption sediments.

The Admiral's House
The Admiral’s House

One thought stayed with me the entire time from landing on Thera to leaving the place — it is immensely spectacular to see a place so naturally endowed for being a harbour. If it was in any way more strategically placed, it would be quite easy to lament the Admiral who chooses some other island/town for his flag-station. Looking down at the caldera — there were few fleets that I could think of which would not fit into this amazing enclosure. Sure, by the present day the eruptions have opened nearly a quarter of the bay to marine breezes, but even so one could have hidden and guarded a fleet here for some time. The one impulsive wish I did get was to travel to Truk, to Scapa Flow, to other renown harbours to see what sort of an impact they make. Do they look as good ports as Thera?..

And the people… let’s just say that there was plenty of opportunity for reflection on a variety of topics. The Mediterranean Sea always does seem like a very good place to go to for thinking — the combination of warm air, a sea breeze, the gleaming moon, waves breaking against the coast, the dark skies, and potentially a glass of the local quality drink make for a very beautiful moment. Pensiveness is certainly enhanced by this atmosphere. And it makes one wonder…

DSC_0054Also, over the course of this trip I could see that Dutch music is becoming more and more to my liking. I am not entirely certain why, but De Dijk’s line ‘Swalkend op de oceaan’ is a part of the cause.

Of Scotland, and of People

I’ve just returned from a short visit to Scotland (Oban, Argyll), and I reached a point during the journey back when I thought: “I wonder how this never appeared to me before this moment.”

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What this “this” was would have been a thought that thought by landscape and the general look of the land, Estonia and Scotland are so very different, there is a marked similarity in the people (or at least the people I saw there). I think it would be even more so deeper into the Highlands.

How I came upon this thought was by following my pattern that if I lived under those mountains for five years, I would be changed by that. But changed how? And how would then people who have fifty generations live under the mountains change?

These are interesting questions all, but something in them made me think of the people. And I think I managed to draw a point of comparison that told me a Scottish person is not all that different from an Estonian, although it might appear different. But how we have come to that point is different. The Scot has been led there by the Highland landscape which has formulated him to be careful when walking and yet happy in the rain, and the Estonian has been shaped by the course of history which has taught the same lessons.

And I did think that the Finnish landscape offers some points of similarity. And I want to return.

Collecting Data

Data are the basis of life. We need more data and we need ways to use these data. Data as information are power.

I have thus far recorded only some data: mostly my expenditures and incomes on a daily basis. Some time ago I decided that this, by far, is not enough to be aware of myself so I decided to find a way to record more things and in greater detail. Since my previous record was daily, I summarized it monthly — this meant I had to wait until the first of the next month which is today to bring my new datasheet into action. I worked that sheet out a few days ago although it is still a work in progress since I’m trying to figure out more things I should record.

Thus far I’ve added in greater detail the same expenditures/incomes options as before although with a subcategory and a subsubcategory while I previously used just a single subcategory. I’ve also added options for keeping track of the distance I travel (since I think it to be quite an interesting thing to know), and I will be shortly adding an option to keep track of how many words I’ve written that day as well.

In other words, as a work in progress I’ll be using this datasheet for June but I expect it will really come into its own next month or the month after when I know more. But, I also expect that everything I record from now on will be quite interesting to look at when I have more than a few months’ data gathered.

Of Forgiveness

Forgiveness — the ability to forgive anything (or near enough anything) — is quite an important part of everyday life as I see it. I guess, the question is why we need this emotion and why it could be useful, assuming it is so.

I would say that the main quality of being able to forgive lies in oneself: it removes any shackles that we might have to the present or the past, and it allows us to look into the future. A mistake will not make us downtrodden for we know that it was meant to happen — and as soon as it did, it was gone, it could keep us back for no longer. There are new heights to be conquered, and we may not allow ourselves to think that yesterday’s hill-top was as high as our heads could see.

I am not sure if these words make as much sense as I would like them to, but that is the main impression I have. If I position myself into a situation that someone else has been in, I can imagine making that mistake — a mistake that would require forgiveness from someone else. And by that same logic, if I can see myself stepping into it, I can also forgive myself for failing to avoid it. And if I am to forgive myself, I will also forgive others.

Indeed, I think it this empathy that makes me forgive nearly everything (forgive, yes, but not forget — there is a marked difference between the two). The fact that I am more or less able to position myself into a similar situation and go through the very same motions also means that I understand the steps which led to it (as much as someone else can). And it is this understanding that gives the ability to comprehend a situation entirely. Once that has been achieved, could a grudge or a complaint really be kept?

And, I guess, in the end that makes me slightly too understanding, too forgiving: for I see other people who try not to put themselves into the shoes of their compatriots and yet they decry others’ attempts at life. I could not do that, and that counts as strength and weakness both: strength for I try to know the struggle within other people, and weakness for allowing conflicting points of view in one mind.

But as there are no bounds, there are no limits. It is all a question of “If I was there, would I have been wise enough?” And always the answer is the same: “Maybe.”

A pointer on happiness…

I have been writing on rather serious topics lately, or at least that is how it seems to me. In a way, I like writing more serious things because I feel there is more reason to that. In any case, there are plenty of topics that I think about quite regularly and a number of them fall into the more serious category. One of these is “happiness” and how to maintain it.

This stems from me thinking that one of the main goals of life in general is for a person to remain happy. Therefore, it is very important to establish how exactly that can happen and what are the limitations we set upon our happiness. Because, in the end, it is only us who allow our happiness to be limited by other factors.

One way I tend to maintain my own happiness is by ignoring things that make me unhappier. Or, rather, that is an odd way of putting it when I mean is that I try to ensure that everything I do would add to the sum of how contented I am at any given moment. If I deem something to subtract from that, I avoid that action as much as humanly possible.

And, yet, even though that is what I do, I also avoid avoiding things for the sake of not liking them. There is a very important moment that comes by daily which asks how exactly can I make “this” beneficial for myself — how can I make sure that even if I don’t really enjoy this action that it would work for me, and by that how it would contribute to my day.

The second very important method could be summed up as “avoiding bullshit”. By this I mean that I have no wish or patience for things that take up my time and effort while only causing me grievance. Indeed, why should I waste myself on things that don’t give anything noteworthy back?

And I guess that’s the distinction that needs to be made: the border between what helps one be more positive in some way and what doesn’t. And when that distinction is made, let’s stay on that better side of that border!

What do I keep an eye out for these days?

I’ve often lately thought that the newsitems we see daily go very much into the same categories. This category could be summed up as “trouble”, but I would rather call it “life”. The problem with this “life” is that it is nearly always the same.

I’ll expand on this in a bit, but if we assume that a modern person should keep oneself aware of what is going on in the world there is only so much that one can do — for we have established a set of boundary criteria within which we exist. This means there’s a certain amount of news-sites to be visited, and a certain type of blogs to be visited — depending on the exact interests of a person.

The problem with all the information coming out of these news-sites and blogs for me is that it is more or less the same. Take, for example, BBC News: there’s probably some new article around every day which says that we are doing worse, and the Government is doing worse, and people are generally doing worse. How much of this am I supposed to take? Why is there nothing which broadcasts the new heights we can achieve?

Certainly the world is not in a happy spot at present, but I tend to be somewhat more positive about the general state of affairs than “everything is bad”. This needs a certain set of mind though.

This set of mind has brought me to expect a few good essays on people and philosophy and the general state of life (not to be confused with livelihood) every week. The places where I find these are varied, but there are a number of sources that help. For some reason or another, I’ve found that the Australian media is of particular quality here — the Sydney Morning Herald is my favourite publication therein. They have a rather interesting lifestyle section that I try to read every now and then, and I find SMH to be slightly better than the rest of media with regards to politics.

Because when we come down to the basest of levels, a certain awareness of politics must be preserved. I find, however, that the British are going round and round, achieving more or less nothing at present — I could try guessing the news daily, and I would probably get the items half right. There’s more that I am unaware of in Australia which also makes it slightly more interesting, but I get the feeling that there’s more happening there — more happening with a real sense of direction for the place as well. [Not to mention there’s a set of comedians as brilliant as John Clarke and Bryan Dawe who manage to make the politics into a very good performance.]

This is not true at all for Europe as I see it right now, and that probably has made me slightly despondent in looking for reasonable news from the Continent. But that in turn has made me appreciate certain things more: there’s a fair amount of good essays that do relate to people and education and technology, and there’s a certain look into the future with the question “What is coming up for us?”. And this is what I have been looking for — not the downtrodden tune of the news but something that would act as a whetstone for my mind.

I’m afraid though that I haven’t found any good collective place for this type of journalism, so whenever I do find anything it is more due to chance. And, yet, I know that they are out there — and that gives me hope. And that hope gives me the strength to look, and to share, when I can.

On Where People Live

For I had a discussion yesterday… and that discussion centered itself around the question of what would the place have to be so that I would want to live there. It is in itself an interesting question, and not quite how we posed it in our conversation, but that is probably how I tried to answer it.

Now, there were two points: my friend said that the sea, or the ocean, whichever one we specify, is important. It has to be there. There is no other way. I said that a river would do. There is no need for my mind to witness the torrents of the sea while it could be the small turbulences of a river that could give me all the comforts that my mind could want.

The argument here was that the other person thought that the wilderness of the sea was something that was important in itself. That this was the important part to her, and that she longed for it where she presently lived. I can see that, and yet I cannot. The sea is everywhere, and if it is in your soul, it will be there a thousand miles from the coast. And I think that might be the worst part about it — it is there and it can be sensed, but not touched. Not smelt. Nor felt.

But me? Why did I say what I did? I think it is that I would much prefer to have a small garden by a quietly flowing river. It would give so much more opportunity to think. It is not that I don’t want the sea, but I can live with the sea being further away. It is there. It won’t go anywhere. What I want from where I live is a water that doesn’t move as fast, a water that would allow itself to be shaped into a garden of peace and tranquility. And if that is not possible, then a gently sloping river through my lands will do just fine.

But probably, in my mind’s eye, I see something much like one of those gardens where the stones are arranged in a set order and water flows around them. And where one can sit down and close the eyes that otherwise need to see things. For in my garden, seeing would be a hindrance to experiencing beauty.

Which is probably why I would not want the sea to be in my garden but rather a short walk away. I can stand the walk if I want to see the sea and talk to the waves, but I don’t think I would kindly take to them talking to me when I would prefer to listen to quiet sounds of running water…