Aphorisms

This page contains a number of my aphorisms, some from the book and some not yet published. I will change the contents of this page periodically, with the aim of giving a flavour of what is included in On Modern Manners and my subsequent projects.

(This is sample 4 and was uploaded on 27 March 2019)

The most effective solution to any problem is to say we do not know. At least this does not limit our options.

 

In hindsight, most things can be made to appear respectable no matter how outrageous they appeared at the time. In fact, might this not be the very purpose of looking backwards? Respectability is something best served cold. It is this on which conservatives depend for their appeal and socialists only learn after many failures.

 

Is misanthropy the only safeguard against excess? If we have a low opinion of those around us does this not mean we will not expect much from them and consequently limit our disappointments? Where others exceed our expectations we can be pleasantly surprised, but without seeing it as forming any pattern for the future. Problems begin when we try to improve others and ourselves – attempts at human perfectibility almost inevitably leads to atrocity. We tend to forget the full effect of this by dwelling only on the atrocities of others rather than on our own.

 

How much better the conservative who views humanity as fallible and fallen and thus sees each person for what they are and not for what they ought to be in the best of all possible worlds. We are, and always have been, in the only possible world.

 

The main problem with cynicism is that one cannot believe in it fully oneself. And worse, it makes it impossible to believe in oneself.

 

Elegance depends upon staying intact. Many things appeal only when complete, they have a dignity, a roundness and proportionality.

 

The brain only wants its oxygen indirect not straight from the air.

 

Is it really being honest to pick and choose what one is sceptical about? For instance, how many sceptics doubt their scepticism?

 

Is it possible to think properly when our soul is restless? Often we are too busy to think, even if we are doing things with our brains rather than our hands. Emil Cioran might be right when he said that we cannot think when we are vertical. It is certainly the case that we cannot think when we are running.

 

With all my aches, pains and inefficiencies, if I were any other species I would be deemed nonviable. This is true of most humans above a certain age. This, I suppose, is progress of sorts.

 

Agitation and inertia are in reality close to each other. The one causes the other, and sometimes the flow is reversed. But never with much effect.

 

Morality comes best from the armchair. As does criticism of it.

 

I am often made to defend myself from appearing too certain and strident in my opinions. To express an opinion in a certain sort of way seems to matter more than what is said: the censorship of the normally reticent. Yet, being now too reticent and defensive myself, I am considered moody and misanthropic. It makes one want to laugh, but it would only meet with misunderstanding … or worse, with indifference.

 

 The most enlightening and uplifting literary collection would be of suicide notes … all written by the one person. What could be more encouraging than such persistence, such optimism in the face of continued failure?

 

Great improbabilities: Lenin having the patience for cricket; Heidegger playing pinball; Nietzsche with a kitten (which one would be safe?).

 

Can you question the meaning of life without meaning the question? Should one insist on a sincere answer?

 

If there is one thing worse than nostalgia, it is an ignorance of the past.

 

We spend our time studying social policy knowing it will not make any difference … neither the study nor the policy.

 

If reality did not exist, sceptics would have had to invent it.

 

Adults are those who are no longer naïve enough always to think their best years are ahead of them.

 

My nightmares are all of me being normal – how subversive of my self-respect. But the older I get these nightmares become more real. Soon I can envisage my nightmares will be reality and what I took for waking my nightmares. Is my problem merely that I have been slow on the uptake and rather naïve in where I’ve placed my scepticism?

 

 The sea teaches children the nature of implacability. They soon learn that there are things they cannot control or prevent. The sea would make a good – if cruel – parent.