06 July 2010

My aphorisms and the semi-permeable membrane

The following is part of a recent email sent by my colleague Dr Charles McCreery to Nigel Rees, presenter of the Radio 4 programme Quote ... Unquote.

Dear Nigel Rees,

I heard your appeal for listeners to write in with suggestions at the end of yesterday evening's Quote ... Unquote, and would like to suggest some of the aphorisms of the contemporary British philosopher and scientist Celia Green.

Ten of these are included in the Penguin Dictionary of Epigrams (ed. M.J. Cohen). The subject headings below are those under which Cohen lists them.

Boredom: There are two ways of living, one of which leads to astonishment and the other to boredom.

Differences: In the country of the blind the one-eyed man is lucky to escape with his life.

Governments: In an autocracy, one person has his way; in an aristocracy, a few people have their way; in a democracy, no one has his way

Marriage: People have been marrying and bringing up children for centuries now. Nothing has ever come of it.

Mind: The remarkable thing about the human mind is its range of limitations.

Morals: The human race has always been unable to distinguish clearly between metaphysics and morality.

Prejudice: When someone says his conclusions are objective, he means that that they are based on prejudices which many other people share.

Right: There are some things that are sure to go wrong as soon as they stop going right.

Science: The way to do research is to attack the facts at the point of greatest astonishment.

Superstition: One of the greatest superstitions of our time is the belief that it has none.

Some others I particularly like myself are:
The psychology of committees is a special case of the psychology of mobs.
Only the impossible is worth attempting. In everything else one is sure to fail.
There is nothing so relaxing as responsibility; nor any relief from strain so great as that of recognising one's own importance.
What everyone has against Ludwig of Bavaria is not that he ruined Bavaria but that he supported a genius in the process.
It is superfluous to be humble on one's own behalf; so many people are willing to do it for one.

If you are interested I could suggest more.

The situation about my epigrams (or aphorisms) illustrates the consistency of the semi-permeable membrane, which does not permit me to derive any positive feedback in society from any effort I am able to make.

Ten of the aphorisms are in the Penguin Dictionary of Epigrams, so one might imagine that I was a well-established author. But in fact I am still as unable as ever to publish anything except at my own expense and with great effort – i.e. no publisher would actually accept a book of mine for publication. And even if published, my books are not allowed to be known about in any way that would make them saleable.

All the more ironic when one considers that I started to write books in the hope of generating an income which would at least partially compensate me for not having the income normally derived from the salary of a high-flying academic career.

If I had been having such a career, I had thought I would be able to make a supplementary income by publishing my views as, say, Richard Dawkins does. Why can’t I do that just as well as if I were having the academic career which I should be having? But no, as it turns out, that is not at all the way it is and if I want to publish at all, to draw attention to my presence and need for support, it can only be as an extra drain on my own resources of money and energy.