Friday, 6 March 2009

It all fits

Here are two famous quotations which -- if I can find enough room -- I might one day have tattooed on my body somewhere. They're an essential corrective for those, like me, with a mystico-egotistico cast of mind but no balancing religious beliefs.

"Your pier-glass or extensive surface of polished steel will be minutely and multitudinously scratched in all directions; but place now against it a lighted candle and lo! the scratches will seem to arrange themselves in a fine series of concentric circles round that little sun. It is demonstrable that the scratches are going everywhere impartially, and it is only your candle which produces the flattering illusion of a concentric arrangement. These things are a parable. The scratches are events, and the candle is the egoism of any person."

George Eliot, Middlemarch, 1871, Chapter XXVII

"This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in. Fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for."

Douglas Adams, Speech at Digital Biota 2, 1998

Words to recall the next time your Inner Anthropocentrist pipes up, "It all means something, and what it means is ME!" ... As one of my teachers was fond of insisting, "Yes, but..."

Not a "pier-glass" (in fact, the bottom of a roasting tin)

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