Aging

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the train, the young woman is overflowing with happiness: last night, she met a school friend she had not seen for eighteen years, and now she has a date. We giggled together at the announcement that tickets sold on Easyjet planes are not valid on this service, and then as we passed the First Capital Connect stopping-service, we giggled again. “Easyjet passengers!”

Mmm. Young. 18 years since school. Hmmmm…

H is noticing aging, having just passed a Life Event: her 50th birthday. She celebrated, and she considers life, and doors closing. She notices that she does not recover from a pulled muscle as quickly as she would. My nephew broke his leg very badly, so that it was shorter than the other: he endured further treatment to lengthen the shorter leg, over about a year. I watched him walking, taking precise care to keep his pelvis level, and we walk through Regent’s Park in the sunshine mimicking this shorter-leg walking. I only notice her limp because of the noise her backpack makes.

S has also been thinking of aging, and of aches and pains, which frighten her.
-My father used to hang out in this café with other old Jews.
-Do you feel the need to hang out with [slight pause, concerned- should I say “Jewish people”?] other Jews?

“Some of my best friends are Jews”, she says, which makes me guffaw. She recognises the irony. She has the Synagogue choir, and various friends, and that is enough, really.

I do not “know what she feels”. I only have my own experience: being slightly alien, and wanting to honour that as well as to fit in and be normal and rub along with everyone, rather than retreating to a small group of particular like-minded folk. Just like everyone, I suppose.

F has been very ill, and her GP did not spot it in time. She explains precisely what it is, and how it may be cured. She went to him, and he checked one level which was abnormally low, and said he would want to see how it was in a week. The next week she could hardly walk, and the level was a quarter what it ought to be. She could see him protecting his back: her control makes the anger more frightening.

She drove herself to casualty, and was there six hours among the drunks and the suicide attempts, and then she saw a doctor, and as soon as she saw him she realised he was a Healer, and everything would be alright. Mmm. Some doctors are healers, some are scientists with no empathy at all.

I got irritated with her ascribing it to aging. If an ill is “because I am getting older”, then it can only get worse. If an ill is something going wrong, then it may be fixed.

Ted had cheese puns. What cheese gets a bear down from a tree? Come on, bear!!!

We went to the rose garden and smelled the roses. Some smelled of not much, but one or two were heavenly, and for a glorious moment knocked everything else out of my mind.

Hell II

volcanoIf you believe in Hell, you believe someone is going there. How do you feel about that?

Eliza commented, Embracing that sinful life will lead to untold sorrow and ultimately eternal destruction in hell. I asked her that question. I can think of various answers.

1. Quiet satisfaction. God’s wonderful purposes are being worked out, and that has to be good, right? God moves in a mysterious way. Well, the God of Love is torturing billions of people, either right now or in some Eternal fashion outside time, and feeling anything other than horror at that is psychotic.

Then I looked at a thesis by Trevor Johnson.

He quotes Tertullian: How vast a spectacle then bursts upon the eye! What there excites my admiration? what my derision? Which sight gives me joy? which rouses me to exultation?-as I see so many illustrious monarchs, whose reception into the heavens was publicly announced, groaning now in the lowest darkness with great Jove himself, and those, too, who bore witness of their exultation; governors of provinces, too, who persecuted the Christian name, in fires more fierce than those with which in the days of their pride they raged against the followers of Christ.

Johnson argues, this knowledge and sight of the condemned dead is not troubling to the saints, but rather gives more cause for praises. He argues that God perceives suffering, and is still joyful, because His ultimate plan is good. If God were merciful to the suffering, He would be unjust. God’s mercy would have no meaning if God could not http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/93/Stromboli_Eruption.jpg/322px-Stromboli_Eruption.jpgwithhold it from whom He chose. At p75, the depth of God’s nature is complex. It passes understanding.

If the unrighteous could make God unhappy by going to Hell, this would be some small victory for them. But no. Those who have rebelled against the Lord and moved beyond repentance will not be able to gloat that they have made the Almighty miserable. God is not defeated in the triumphs of his righteous judgment. Quite the contrary…they will unwittingly provide an occasion for God to rejoice in the demonstration of his justice and his power and the infinite worth of his glory.

OK, I am convinced. If you believe in Hell, quiet satisfaction- or delight- is the only allowable response, for the alternative is to judge God wanting. St Paul’s unceasing anguish that Israel had rejected God would turn to satisfaction. It is only permissible to feel pity for those outside God’s mercy before death.

But then I read on to Romans 11:32: For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

2. Horror. Eliza’s answer is that she feels “distress and discouragement”. I see people I cannot blame: Hitler was a product of his past and surroundings just as everyone else is. Many have alternative religions, which prevent them from affirming Christ.

My answer to the horror is that Hell does not exist, and God would just be monstrous to give someone a ghastly (or even luxurious) life on Earth followed by eternal torment.

Apropos of nothing but the fact that it is fun, here is Vlad Putin with Medvedev in a bra. St Petersburg police impounded the picture, making it world famous.

Putin

Child abuse II

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/da/Papa_Benedetto.jpgJoseph Ratzinger is directly responsible for the sexual abuse of children. He bears responsibility under international law for the rape and molestation of children committed on a widespread and systematic scale. As head of the Congregation for the Defence of the Faith from 1981 to 2005, he was responsible for the system whereby offenders were protected from exposure and victims were silenced. Complainants and witnesses were sworn to secrecy.

My authority is Geoffrey Robertson, QC., first president of the war crimes court in Sierra Leone, and distinguished jurist member of the UN Justice Council.

Child abuse was “endemic” in Irish Catholic boys’ institutions. In the US, dioceses had paid out over $1.6 bn in compensation settlements by 2010. (I can’t find a definitive figure now: This says $3bn in the US alone- there should be a figure, were the RC church not pathologically secretive.) The evidence shows a remarkably higher level of abuse in Catholic institutions: perhaps 6-9% of priests were abusers.

Aged 7, Catholic children may be taking communion, told that the priest who places the wafer directly into the child’s mouth has miraculously converted the bread and wine to the body and blood of Christ. That child is made to confess his sins to the priest, who like God dispenses forgiveness, according to the Catholic church on the direct authority of Jesus himself. The victims of abuse, their reverential fear of the priest inculcated from early childhood, cannot deny the priest’s abusive requests.

The commitment to celibacy and the Church’s condemnation of masturbation as a mortal sin sets up an unendurable tension for many priests, and up to half are “sexually active”. File:BentoXVI-29-10052007.jpgMasturbation is prevalent in seminaries, and the ready forgiveness at Confession forms a cycle of guilt that binds clerics and confessors together wherein secret sexual transgressions become minimalised and trivialised- even sex with minors becomes just another sin to be forgiven. Garry Wills: The infantilism of priests, the combined sexual inexperience and prurience arising from celibacy, the belief that a celibate male is more attuned to spiritual reality than a married man- all this created a framework where sins, when they occurred, had to be denied, the victims had to be blamed, the solution to the problem was simply one of praying harder.

The abuse has been covered up by the bishops, at the direction of the Vatican. Most abusers were moved to different parishes where their record was not known. In 2001, the pope and his cardinals congratulated a French bishop for hiding a paedophile priest from the police and then reassigning him to offend again. In the pope’s apology to his Irish faithful in 2010 he told the perpetrators that forgiveness was theirs for the asking: Christ’s redeeming sacrifice has the power to forgive even the gravest of sins, and to bring forth good from even the most terrible evil. To his brother bishops, Ratzinger wrote, grave errors of judgement were made and failures of leadership occurred. All this has seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness. How I loathe that passive voice!

The Vatican is a territory of 1.2 square miles in the city of Rome, home to the pope and a shifting population of several hundred bureaucrats. It was granted its current status by Mussolini in 1929. It conducts diplomatic relations of some kind with 178 countries. There is no factual basis for its claim to sovereign immunity.

I was fuzzy on the details, but like everyone I had known that large numbers of priests abused children, and the Catholic church covered it up. I have written this as an exercise in disillusionment. I still look up to authorities, and I seek to stop. The RC church perpetrates monstrous evil, in its abuse of children, and in its ludicrous “moral stances”, such as the refusal to countenance condom use, even to prevent the transmission of AIDS within marriage.

Churchill the Pacifist

File:Churchhill 03.jpgI have been reading “Churchill: The Power of Words”, edited by Martin Gilbert. It comprises two hundred extracts from his books, journalism and speeches, annotated by his definitive biographer. I love his language- “blood toil tears and sweat”, and all that- and know him as the great Leader in war, File:Churchhill 04.jpgbut here I see Churchill arguing against increasing the size of the army, and as a young adventurer in Cuba and South Africa. H, a sprightly 71, loathes him as the Tory breaker of the General Strike and Miners’ Strike of 1926: she was brought up by people who retained and communicated that loathing. Churchill had just “re-ratted” from the Liberal to the Tory side.

In 1895, when he was 21, he went as a guest of the Spanish army to Cuba, to witness the rebellion there. He wanted that lure of youth, adventure for adventure’s sake. It is a great moment in our lives, one of the best we have experienced. We hope devoutly that something will happen. A volley rings out, and a bullet passes within a foot of Winston’s head, to kill a horse behind him. I began to take a more thoughtful view of our enterprise than I had hitherto done.

In 1898 he considered colonial warfare: The Akhund of Swat, Kruger, Lobengula, and the Mad Mullah, each with his complete set of crimes, File:Winston Churchill 1874 - 1965 Q113382.jpghorrible customs, and ‘minor peculiarities’, march one by one from the dark wings of barbarism up to the bright footlights of civilisation, like a pantomime scene at Drury Lane.

He did not admire Islam. How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries. Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathythe influence of religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it.

In 1899 he was captured by the Boers. It matters very little whether your judgments of people are true or untrue, and very much whether they are kind or unkind. He escaped from Pretoria, and made his way to Durban. I have read elsewhere that he might have been disingenuous with his parole, but that is not discussed here. He rejoined the army, and sent reports to the Morning Post after each battle. After one battle, Anger had turned to pity in an instant. The desire to kill was gone… the soldiers succoured the Boer wounded.

Ah, horrible war, amazing medley of the glorious and the squalid, the pitiful and the sublime, if modern men of light and leading saw your face closer, simple folk would see it hardly ever.

He toured Britain, Canada and the US, speaking about the war, and made nearly ÂŁ6000, which with his war correspondent’s salary and the profits from his books was a fortune enough to keep him independent so he could devote himself to politics.

File:Churchill 1904 Q 42037.jpgHis maiden speech to Parliament concerned the continuing Boer war. If I were a Boer, I hope I should be fighting in the field…This war in South Africa has been on the whole carried on with unusual humanity and generosity. This is not the book to inform me of the British use of Concentration camps in which nearly 28,000 Boer civilians, and an unknown number of Black Africans, died. He said the Army should be reinforced, not only to cover the losses from battle and disease, but to increase its strength by 2000 or 3000 men monthly, to overwhelm the enemy.

On 13 May 1901, as Tory MP for the working class constituency of Oldham, he argued against increasing the size of the army: a European war would demand, perhaps for several years, the whole manhood of the nation, the entire suspension of peaceful industries, and the concentrating to one end of every vital energy in the community.

What I fear is that these costly and beautiful army corps which are to be kept ready almost at a moment’s notice for foreign war will develop in the country feelings of pride and power… when popular newspapers are prepared almost every morning to urge us into war against Great Powers, surely we ought not to make it seem so easy, and so attractive, to embark on such terrible enterprises?

Churchill the pacifist. Who would have thought it? This is a good argument, but it leaves so many questions: how does it fit with his other thought, writing and political action, at the time or any other- is it unique? If it were mere political opportunism, what made it opportune for him then?

The poor will be with you always

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/97/William_Holman_Hunt_-_Isabella_and_the_Pot_of_Basil.jpg/363px-William_Holman_Hunt_-_Isabella_and_the_Pot_of_Basil.jpg-So we needn’t bother trying to help?

At the house of Simon the Leper, or Lazarus, at Bethany, an unnamed woman, or Mary, who was Jesus’ friend and Lazarus’ sister, pours pure nard, an expensive perfume, on Jesus’ head. The disciples, some of those present, or Judas Iscariot object, saying the perfume could have been sold for a large amount, and the money given to the poor. Jesus said,

The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. In Mark, he adds, and you can help them any time you want. The perfume was for his burial. Matthew and Mark then tell of Judas agreeing to betray Jesus. John says Judas was a thief, who would have taken that money.

Footnotes refer us to Deuteronomy 15:11: There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open-handed towards your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

Work like you don’t need the money.
Love like you’ve never been hurt.
Dance like nobody’s watching.
Sing like it’s Heaven on Earth

We may always give to the Poor, but this could only be done now. It is a Sign of beautiful, extravagant Love, or a Sign that Jesus will die.

Menis Yousry told us to listen to the cabin crew when next we fly: when the oxygen masks drop down, put your own on first, or you will be unable to help anyone else with theirs. I thought of GJ, the Wise Woman in Top of the Lake, who speaks so contemptuously of her followers- first they look for love, and can’t find it, so they look for Enlightenment, and they don’t find that either.

So you’re on your knees? Good. Now die to yourself. To your idea of yourself. Everything you think you are, you’re not. What’s left? Find out.

Stop. Stop thinking. –What are these crazy bitches doing? Meditating? You’ve got to work. No-one will pay you for closing your eyes.

You people all want to help someone. That one wants to help Africa. Help yourself first.

Why should I tell you when you don’t listen? All you hear are your own crazy thoughts, like a river of shit, on and on. See your thoughts for what they are. Stop your helping. Stop your planning. Give up. There’s no way out. Not for others, not for you. We are living out here at the end of the road, in a place called paradise. How’s it going? Perfect? No. You are madder than ever. You are tired? So lie down right here. Be like a cat. Heal yourself. There is no match for the tremendous intelligence of the body. Rest.

I copy it out, because I am thinking about Enlightenment.

At rest

North side

Child grave I was surprised Terry did not use the word “died”, but a euphemism. What is wrong with “died”? It is short and clear, and has no particular connotations, unlike “passed on”, “shuffled off this mortal coil”, or “kicked the bucket”. He agreed “died” is the word to use. I like to see architecture myselfChildren's areaIn the Woodford graveyard, so many graves have “fell asleep” or “passed over”, he complains. With an hour to kill in Irthlingborough- the charity shop? The coffee shop? Sitting on a bench with a magazine? – I decided to check out the church, which was there in the 17th century. Did people “pass on”? I start near the church. In these 19th century gravestones, the word used is “died”.

Flowers south of church

AngelGranite and slate seem to last the longest. Some cheapskates used other materials, which erode in the rain, though I suppose it does not really matter 150 years after death. There are few angels or particularly high memorials, though one angel prays over a grave paved in stone: the moss started growing in the now-illegible words, and is spreading to the rest. Carving on the vertical stone is the way, or the slope on these stones: the last I find here died in 2008.

Changing fashionsMost of the graves have a low stone wall enclosing them, to keep feet out, though there is little room between to walk. Quaker graves do not have such a wall, and our stones are small and uniform.

Children's areaThere is about an acre of land in this graveyard, which goes down the incline towards the river. The 20th century gravestones further South of the church have a sprinkling of “fell asleep” rather than “died”. I suppose it depends what you notice- Terry might be shocked by far fewer “fell asleep”s, I am reassured by the majority being “died”. One or two say how they died. A woman left her home in health never to return, and died after a few hours’ illness. She was 32. A child died in an accident. Several gravestones have the crest of the Northamptonshire Regiment, and one, for the Scouts of Irthlingborough, has a wreath of “poppies”. One grave from the 1970s has flowers- imitation flowers, but still.

CrossOne grave has logorrhoea. This stone […] in memory of Thomas Treeman Su—-, who after a […] and painful illness which he bore with Gl[adness??] fortitude and resignation was removed from time to Eternity on the 9th day of October 1812 in the [5/6?]2nd year of his age. Also in this place lieth the remains of John and Susannah Su—-. He died …1807, aged 84 years, She died August the 6th 1799 aged 77 years. Note how much of the inscription relates to the son, who did not care to erect a stone for his parents.

fallen angelPalaeography is easier: the whole letter is visible. Here, I am guessing. Some epitaphs are touching, some memento mori, some in hopes of heaven:

The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the [obscured beneath the earth]

Flowers after 40 yearsWatch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the son of man cometh

All you that come my grave to see
As I am now so you must be
Repent in time make no delay
I in my prime was called away

Oh death thou didst unto us come
and took from us our only son
And oh how grieved we were to part
with that dear loved one of our heart
A loving son his earthly load lays down
[…]

granite roofsThere is no death {…]
This life of […]
Is but a suburb of the life Elysian
whose […] all death

I would particularly like to know the full text of that one, as it sounds unChristian.

Sloping angelWhat is your life? It is even a vapour that appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away

Who fell asleep on 4th September 2006 aged 91 years/ so he bringeth them unto their desired haven

The Cross as a living treeSeveral are “At rest”, and couples are “reunited”:

By the grace of God, reunited
The Lord bless them and keep them
Sweet rest at last

South side

Ritual

Nine_order_of_angels 1What is incense for?Nine_order_of_angels

-It smells nice.
-I heard that they buried bodies in the floor of churches, and it covered up the smell of the bodies.
-Yes, there was that church in Bath where the floor was subsiding, and they had to remove a lot of bodies.
-It might need to cover the smell of the living!
-In the 1960s, it covered up the smell of pot.

-I thought it was prayer, an aroma ascending before God, said the Retreatant. Brother Herbert just smiled.

It smells nice and it gives you something to do. I used to serve at the altar: we used to walk perpendicular to the walls of the church, North-South or East-West, never diagonally. It makes the sanctuary special, other-worldly, different from outside; it is a way of showing respect, in that I do not walk the obvious way but a different way; it lets me do a 90° turn, and make my cassock-alb swing, which is theatrical for the watchers: it makes it special for me, but also for them, and deepens the experience of approaching the sanctuary from the nave.

It is the same with the thurifer, priest, and boat-boy who carries the Navicula, a metal container which holds incense. Preparing the thurible beforehand, with charcoal, then opening it, putting on the incense, swinging it correctly so it neither burns too quickly nor goes out, all the ritual around that, then censing the altar, priest, servers and congregation, is great theatre-business. Where I worshipped, we rarely or never used such things, but one of my earliest memories is being in a different Episcopal church with the procession going in, the colours and the robes. I might have been around four.

Brother Herbert’s reading was on faith coming from worship, and not the other way around. My summary, through my biases- opening up to God/the Other/ Reality by performing ritual and saying ritual words; and thereafter comes theology. It is like writing a poem, and then along come the dogmatists, to make a system or Understanding of it which can be taught and learned by rote; and then, some worship the dogma rather than the Reality.

-I heard “you have to take your dogma out for a walk”, show it round to a community, test it out with them.

A paradox! In the Eucharist, we recite the Creed: the Nicene Creed, which unites the churches, and standardises the dogma. (Again, Brother Herbert just smiles.)

We shall not cease from exploration. Relationship to The Other/ Infinite/ Whatever may grow, along with reading about it, as long as the words are a spring-board rather than a box, curtailing us. I said something like that, and the Retreatant nodded and smiled enthusiastically.

I was struck when sprinkled with holy water, on the top of my head: I did not feel it, and this brought on regret that I wear a wig, stronger than I have felt for some time. Then I reflected on the oddness of that: sometimes I regret, when I see the beauty of another’s hair, sometimes I think well it’s not all that bad, really, when I hear them complain about it, because few are entirely satisfied with their hair; perhaps this is a new reason to regret my need to wear a wig, and so the regret becomes acute again. I had thought I had come to terms with it.

We also discussed the Tao Te Ching. We love the Tao. It is a cosy little spiritual club we have here, quite delightful.

Bedtime Story

This is for Trifecta. How can you possibly write a bedtime story in 33 words?

Bedtime stories thrive on repetition. “I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll Blow your house down.” “All the better to see you with.” “Somebody’s been sleeping in my bed.” “Are you my mother?” “My doctor has forbidden me to push.” Repeat one of those, and that is half the words. Another thing I like about children’s storytelling is the niceness of the characters. In Postman Pat or Fireman Sam, all the characters are really lovely, and when there is a problem they work together to sort it.

So here is my bedtime story.

Everyone lived happily ever after. The beautiful Queen 
reigned,  wise and good, adored by her Prince and her 
contented people. In peace and  prosperity, Mummies 
and Daddies loved their children, who slept well.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/12/Snow_White_Mirror_3.pngThis is my first attempt at fiction since school.

Followers

I wonder why people follow my blog, sometimes. Far fewer read or comment than follow. Is it any more than saying “Hi there, come and look at my blog”? One or two recent followers are worth a look, and not all of them because they are unintentionally amusing weirdos.

Nicole I am delighted to find Nicole Moseley, Bipolar Christianity. I get the email announcing she follows me, recommending “great posts” of hers I might want to read. Hers was “Saved from Hell“, a collection of Bible quotes which might be used to argue that all humanity is saved, and none will go to eternal damnation. As she believes all judgment is in the hands of God, this is not a definite statement of belief, but worth considering, for those like me who admire the Bible but not Evangelical readings of it. I am glad to find her.

spookchristianHowever, what prompted this post is Spookchristian. His “great post” is here: I do not recommend it. He argues that the Pope is the Antichrist because he referred to Muslims as “brothers”, and his objection is not that the Pope used sexist language. I am delighted that he should follow my blog, but would be even more pleased if he would read one post right through. He would be exposed to a different point of view.

BroussardSomewhere in between the two comes Jerry Broussard. I have seen him on the homosexuality tag: inexplicably, he finds arguments condemning it persuasive. Perhaps he is an idiot. A lot of his posts on that subject are paranoid, for example this one on a preacher arrested outside Wimbledon. Thank God for the Public Order Act, is all I can say. The bigot who thought it right to preach to the tennis queue that gays will go to Hell was only arrested, and not charged. He was not worth the magistrate’s time. However here the “preacher” Tony Miano says, just after condemning lying as a sin, So if a homosexual walked up to me and said, I’m hungry and I need something to eat. Michelle WI would walk them to the nearest restaurant, give them something to eat, and share the Gospel with them because I love them. Here is his public facebook page: he really should publish his address, so that people can take him up on his offer. The conversation would be tedious, but a free meal is a free meal.

On the tag surfer, there is a great big “follow” button, by selected blogs. “Followed by people with similar interests.” “Followed by sites you’ve liked.” “Followed by bloggers you follow.” Some of these links are pretty tenuous, and I just followed someone by accident: my finger slipped. Some follows come when I comment on a blog, but I don’t think I had commented on Michelle W before she followed. Her great post was about being sexually assaulted. She called her writing curmudgeonly, but it manages to make complaining entertaining, and I would be delighted if she were reading here, especially if she commented.

Cynicism

i_-_Diogenes_and_Alexander.jpg/472px-Giambattista_Langetti_-_Diogenes_and_Alexander.jpgMatthew Chiglinsky, whose blog I find hilarious though depressing in large doses, defines cynicism as “contemptuously distrustful of human nature and motives”. I thought, the Cynics were not as bad as all that.

Cynical: distrustful and incredulous of human goodness and sincerity; sneering. George Meredith wrote that cynics are only happy in making the world as barren to others as they have made it for themselves. Cynic: originally doglike, or churlish. That from the OED.

All this is merely negative: if you only look for what you despise, what you despise is all you see.

Stephen Clark, in the Oxford Companion to Philosophy, finds something positive: what we need to know is only how to live here-now, reducing our wants to what can easily be achieved, and entertaining no opinions about how things happen. He finds echoes in the Gospels: “take up your cross and come, follow me” is the cynic way, the path of laborious virtue.

Two Diogenes stories I had known: Alexander http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/4e/Bastein-Lepage_Diogenes.jpg/300px-Bastein-Lepage_Diogenes.jpgasks what he may do for Diogenes, and Diogenes says, “get out of my light”. He only possessed a cloak and a cup, and seeing a boy drink from his hands, threw away his cup. They show the philosopher master of his surroundings. His asceticism purges him of desire, which can therefore no longer master him. From Clark: ‘Being sold into slavery, he pointed out a potential purchaser with the words, “Sell me to him, he needs a master” and devoted himself to bringing up his master’s children’. I wish Clark had enlarged on his saying What survives is the image of dogged devotion to the “natural life”. He claims they were dedicated moralists, not nihilists.

Bertrand Russell sees philosophy changing in response to political reality. Plato, bornFile:Pietro Bellotti - Diogenes.jpg in the Athenian city state, wrote of political reform. Diogenes, living after its conquest by Alexander, could only reform himself, Perhaps the fall of Athens revolutionised the ascetic Antisthenes’ view: “I had rather be mad than delighted” is one response to inability to believe in delight.

Diogenes, living in his burial-pitcher, found all that was praised as honourable, wise, happy, or as wealth, was worthless. Still there is the positive here: he held worldly goods of no account. He sought virtue and moral freedom in liberation from desire: be indifferent to the goods that fortune has to bestow, and you will be emancipated from fear. All is vanity.

External goods are the gift of fortune, not the reward of our own efforts. Only virtue, and contentment through resignation, are secure, and therefore only these will be valued by the wise man. If that is true, effort in art, or science, or statesmanship, is pointless, and the cynic surrenders these fields to those he despises.

Russell says that popularisers drained cynicism of its limited virtue, approaching nihilism. It despised honour and obligation, rather than worldly goods. Of course there is wickedness, and self-seeking, and hypocrisy, and foolishness: but to imagine that is all there is, is to descend into Hell.