Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Seeing Caesar as he is

From Pascal's Pensees:

"Caesar was too old, it seems to me, to go off and amuse himself conquering the world. Such a pastime was all right for Augustus and Alexander; they were young men, not easily held in check, but Caesar ought to have been more mature." #49

"It would take reason at its most refined to see the Grand Turk, surrounded in his superb seraglio by 40,000 janissaries, as a man like any other." #44

(#44 is a very impressive little essay by itself on the Imagination as it relates to the vanity of man. Reading these sentiments by Pascal is refreshing after reading what struck me as excessive praise of Caesar by Eric Voegelin recently. Interestingly enough the subject of Caesar converged in three separate books I am reading through in my readings this evening, in Voegelin's History of Political Ideas: Vol. 1 Hellenism, Rome and Early Christianity and in David Hume's An Inquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals and in the above. I would quote Hume and Voegelin but I think it more to the point to consider a passage in The Wonderful Fool by Shusaku Endo. Endo's main character, Gaston, is held hostage by a hitman (named Endo) who plans to use him to accomplish his plan of revenge on the superior officers who used his brother as the fall guy for warcrimes committed during the WWII. Gaston realizes in the time he is held captive that Endo is like this beaten little dog he had previously taken under his wing. Endo is a feared hitman, but it takes someone like Gaston, considered a fool by most in the world, to see Endo's true nature. In Grahame Green's Gun for Hire the hitman in the story in the opening goes to the house of a minister he is to murder, of whom it was said that he was a lover of humanity and had no friends.

Alexander the Great was reported to have said, "Had I not been Alexander, I should have liked to be Diogenes." Once, while Diogenes was sunning himself, Alexander came up to him and offered to grant him any request. "Stand out of my light," he replied. When asked why he went about with a lamp in broad daylight, Diogenes confessed, "I am looking for a [honest] man."

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