Ode to Zeitgeist (Or, A Deliberately Ridiculous Satirical Caricature)
This is the age of electronic flirts
And digital greeting cards: to alerts
We our attention confer, with news feed
We from actual interactions recede.
An age where infatuation is known
As Facebook stalking, and affection shown
Through Instagram ogling; where we would “poke”,
“Wink”, and “gift” to tease, impress, and evoke;
Where we stay “friends” with exes just to keep
Tabs on them; where relationships can leap
From “Single” to “Engaged”, and straight away
Slide back to “Single”, all within one day.
Cinema indecision glorifies,
Reality shows vulgarity entice.
Social networks have quite flatly declared
Experience not worth having if not shared.
Why even care about the Syrians,
When we can follow the Kardashians?
Why bother reading Al Gore’s book “Our Choice”,
When we can watch the Idol and the Voice?
Onward march a generation of keen
Attention seekers, who would pounce and preen
At each chance of selfie to fill the crates
Of passive-aggressive status updates.
The only thing more loved than privacy
Is any kind of brief publicity.
So friend me, follow me, tweet me, tag me,
Start a fan page dedicated to me.
Guess what? If you keep playing your cards right,
One day when I feel generous, you might
Just score a courtesy follow — you do
Right by me and I will do right by you.
O, Mighty Like Button, this Great Decade’s
Incarnation of the Fifty Grey Shades
Of Approval and Schadenfreude — hence
Sprawls digitally practised transference.
The most futile thing in this world is any attempt, perhaps, at exact definition of character. All individuals are a bundle of contradictions — none more so than the most capable.
Theodore Herman Albert Dreiser, “The Financier” (1912), Ch. XIII
Was die Erfahrung aber und die Geschichte lehren, ist dieses, dass Völker und Regierungen niemals etwas aus der Geschichte gelernt und nach Lehren, die aus derselben zu ziehen gewesen wären, gehandelt haben.
What experience and history teach is this — that nations and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted upon any lessons they might have drawn from it.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, “Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Weltgeschichte” (1837)
#John Buchan, Lord Tweedsmuir
How if Space is really full of things we cannot see and as yet do not know? How if all animals and some savages have a cell in their brain or a nerve which responds to the invisible world? How if all Space be full of these landmarks, not material in our sense, but quite real? A dog barks at nothing, a wild beast makes an aimless circuit. Why? Perhaps because Space is made up of corridors and alleys, ways to travel and things to shun? For all we know, to a greater intelligence than ours the top of Mont Blanc may be as crowded as Piccadilly Circus.
John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir, “The Moon Endureth” (1912), Space
Rien ne se crée, ni dans les opérations de l’art, ni dans celles de la nature, et l’on peut poser en principe que, dans toute opération, il y a une égale quantité de matière avant et après l’opération ; que la qualité et la quantité des principes est la même, et qu’il n’y a que des changements, des modifications.
Nothing is created, neither in the operations of art, nor in those of nature, and it can be assumed that in any transaction, there is an equal amount of material before and after the operation, as the quality and quantity of the principles are the same, and there are only changes, modifications.
Antoine Laurent de Lavoisier , “Traité élémentaire de chimie”, (1864), p. 101
#Pliny the Elder
aut quid non miraculo est, cum primum in notitiam venit? quam multa fieri non posse prius quam sunt facta iudicantur?
Indeed, what is there that does not appear marvelous when it comes to our knowledge for the first time? How many things, too, are looked upon as quite impossible until they have actually been effected?
Gaius Plinius Secundus “Plinius Maior || Pliny the Elder”, “Naturalis Historia” (77-78), Liber VII, VI
It’s so easy to say, “That’ll do.” Everyone’s in a hurry. People are intellectually lazy, morally lazy, ethically lazy… When people get angry with a traffic warden they don’t stop and think what it would be like to be a traffic warden or how annoying it would be if people could park wherever they liked. People talk lazily about how hypocritical politicians are. But everyone is. On the one hand we hate that petrol is expensive and on the other we go on about global warming. We abrogate the responsibility for thought and moral decisions onto others and then have the luxury of saying it’s not good enough.
Stephen John Fry, From Fry’s interview with The Daily Telegraph promoting his book The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within
Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that numbers of people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience. Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running and robbing the country. That’s our problem.
Howard Zinn, “Failure to Quit: Reflections of an Optimistic Historian” (1993), p. 45
#Jorge Luis Borges
Somos nuestra memoria, somos ese quimérico museo de formas inconstantes, ese montón de espejos rotos.
We are our memories, we are that chimerical museum of ways, that heap of broken mirrors.
Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges, “Poema Cambridge del libro Elogio de la sombra” (1969)