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Archive for April, 2010

Voltaire (1694-1778)

French Philosopher, writer

In 1715 Voltaire arrived in Paris just when Louis XIV died and the Regent who for economy sold half of the horses that filled the royal stables. This prompted Voltaire to remark how much sensible to have been to dismiss half the asses that filled the royal court.

2.

His cockiness galled many; and his wit demolished his detractors. As bad luck would have it, two libellious poems attacking the Regent made rounds and reached their victim; and he suspected Voltaire to be their author.

Meeting the youth in the gardens of Palais-Royal, the Regent said to him, “Monsieur Arouet, I am going to show you something you have never seen before: the Bastille.”

Ah Monsigneur!” the young Voltaire said, “I’ll take that as seen.”

Voltaire saw it on the Whit Sunday on April 16, 1717.(Ack: Nancy Mitford;Voltaire in Love-Penguin)

3.

Once Voltaire was speaking highly of a contemporary Said a friend, “It’s good of you to such pleasant things about Monsieur So and So, when he always says such unpleasant things about you.”

Whereupon Voltaire suggested mildly, “Perhaps we both are mistaken.”

4.

A contemporary of Voltaire was praising the qualities of his protégé whom he was pushing for promotion in the Government. He gushed among other things that he had a ready answer for everything.

Heavens,” exclaimed Voltaire, “ is he as ignorant as all that?”

5.

Once Voltaire was asked to join a symposium honoring a famous contemporary who had just passed away.

Voltaire spoke on the occasion thus: ‘ He was a staunch patriot, a talented writer, a loyal friend and a model father and husband- provided of course that he, really, is dead.’

6.

During his self-imposed exile in England he came to know the famous literati of the day. He pretended to no pedigree, and asked none of others. Voltaire sought out Congreve whom he held on a par with Molière.

When told of it Congreve sad thus:’ I had rather you wished to meet me because I am an English gentleman’.

Voltaire:’But there are so many of them!'(Ack: Nancy Mitford-Voltaire in Love.-Penguin)

There is another version which is as follows:

The English dramatist was known to dismiss his plays as trifles and desired to be known rather as a gentleman of leisure than as author, Voltaire ticked him off by saying, “If you have had the misfortune to be only a gentleman as any other, I should never have come to see you.”

7.

His final visit to the city of Paris at the age of 83 was one of the great events of that age. Voltaire was given a hero’s welcome and a rapturous crowd followed his carriage to the Academy. During the meeting the frail old man proposed a revision of the French dictionary. The famous man still had his youthful ardor to propose that he could undertake all such work as would come under the letter A. Before he sat down he thanked them in the name of the alphabets to which the Chairman Chastellux replied: “And we thank in the name of letters.”

8.

Old Voltaire had no quarrel with Christianity as with those who considered themselves the only competent authority. As his end was near a priest came to shrive him.

From whom do you come, M.l’Abbe?”

From God Himself.”

Well, well,” asked the sage, “your credentials?”

The priest went off without his prey.

9.

Voltaire lived at an age when France was slipping from Medieval thoughts and attitudes and man’s thoughts were becoming a valuable commodity and his individuality as prized as a duke’s coronet.’He never himself had an original philosophical idea, but he had a genius for simplifying the ideas of others so that society women and loungers in cafés could grasp them’.Regarding the scandal created by his Lettres Philosophiques his comment was thus:’If I had not cheered up the subject nobody would have been scandalized;but then nobody would have read me'(quoted from Voltaire in Love- Nancy Mitford..Pub: Penguin Books).

Man’s thoughts are the stuff that create art and literature; and spirit of an age may be measured by one man’s life as we now speak of the Age of Louis XIV or of Voltaire. But man is just the same and the envy of literary men lead to quarrels as mean as between whores.

One of Voltaire’s literary acquaintance, the Abbé Desfontaines,

(1685-1745)was arrested and sent to the criminal prison on the charges of sodomy. Punishment was burning at the stake in the Place de la Grève outside the Hôtel de Ville. Nobody would lift a finger to help the hapless Abbé. Voltaire though ill went to Fontainebleau where the Court was in residence. He saw people and pulled strings and got him out of an unpleasant end. But no sooner was Desfontaines out of the prison at Bicêtre than he had written a disgusting pamphlet against Voltaire. This mean and ill concealed virulence was evident in his later criticisms as well.

Voltaire, Rousseau and Piron

Voltaire’s origins were not far different than of Alexis Piron(1689-1773) who came from Burgundy. Voltaire seldom liked other middle-class writers many of whom needlessly incurred his displeasure. Jean-Baptiste Rousseau (1671-1741)was a case in point. Rousseau was twenty three years older than he. He showed his poem Ode à la Postérité and Voltaire unable to resist a joke remarked that he feared that the Ode would never reach its address. Rousseau who was in exile and disgrace never forgot the insult.

Piron, a Burgundian came to Paris and he wanted to meet Voltaire whom he adored. Mme de Mimeure, also a Burgundian was the celebrated wit’s mistress and she took Piron under her wings. One day he called on her who told him that Voltaire was present and said,’Go into my dining-room,’ and he found him huddled over the fire. As he saw Piron enter he pretended asleep. Piron sat there long and Voltaire could not keep up.. He got up and started nibbling on a piece of bread which he took out from his pocket. He explained that he had an illness that necessitated him to eat all day. Piron forthwith produced a flask from his pocket and said he had an illness that made it imperative for him to drink all day. Voltaire was not amused.(Ack: Nancy Mitford-Voltaire in Love-Penguin)

benny

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  1. ‘The Church of Rome became all mighty because St.Peter’s hand by a sleight of hand touched and made the Pope infallible;His infallibility rested on a mistaken assumption that clergy anointed by His Holiness were infallible too. It went on till the priests found their hands rested on every boy they could lay hands on. His eminence the Pope meanwhile turned over to sleep over the complaints piled high. Pope Benedict XVI has done a terrific job at this.’(Joe F. 12. his essay on Church -excerpt) benny

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1.

Have you have ever lived in a street where only doctors lived and the  word ‘quack’ was ever uttered only by a duck?

2.

I know a doctor who had loan sharks for his clientele and none of them ever came to him with a heart complaint?

3.

The only croupier in my neighborhood had spent his lifetime in Las Vegas. He retired and went for a medical check up. He was told by his G.P he might have had Parkinson’s disease from his kindergarten days and he didn’t notice it?

4.

Do you the know Mr. Rip Van Winkle, the congressman from New York,  who lounged in Washington DC, among other lawmakers who made infernal din and could  sleep? He asked, as he went at the end of term to the sergeant ‘Who is this Bill I heard so much lately?’

5.

Bob Ripley who made Believe it or not a household name spoke when he was first taken by a midwife and slapped? He said,’I did not even do a thing!’

6.

Richard Wagner had never heard the word Israel; nor did ever pass a racial slur on Jews? Do you know there are Jews who never listen to his Twilight of the Gods without thinking  it would make a beautiful musical score for ‘Bombs over Gaza’?

7.

The writer of this piece never descended to silliness but the Web  raised it to inspired silliness?

benny

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I can still recall the time and place I realized I was too superstitious for my good.

After a hectic day at the office I went to this restaurant to catch a late dinner. While salting my chops I spilt my salt. Quickly I threw some salt over my shoulder for luck. Unfortunately the chef  ‘midget’ Joe was behind me. He didn’t think much of a customer who salted his eyes for no good reason.

Knock on wood? Forget it. I tried it and happened so I knocked on a blockhead who hit on my nose. It wasn’t wood but a nose that bleeds. Since then I dread when superstition rears its head.

I cannot find a good reason why I should follow silly practices if I could not even follow a single one right. I mean I follow them as prescribed but the circumstances do not permit me.

benny

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Luk 24:5-6

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6He is not here; he has risen!

I consider Christian living quintessentially is a point of view of an individual correctly understood and lived from that standpoint. Unless one knew his mind it would be a constant struggle to right himself and hold the position where he ought to be. If we seek thus a clear point of view others also are entitled to theirs. As a Christian my concern is with the living. Of these Risen Christ is like the pole star that mariners of old took their bearing. If others seek their salvation from dead works what am I to fault them? They serve their masters gurus,shamans and preachers. I have found my savior and it suits me to live in the land of the living and to seek His Will in charting my course.

Nu 21: 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.

We read in the Old Testament of putting up a bronze snake. Material to make the snake came from the free will offerings of the people. There were also men whose art excelled in fashioning snakes as well as ark of the covenant.

The saving of their lives was not in their own works, art or in their symbols. Instead it counted on their faith. We read that their murmurings didn’t end with it. They were rebellious people whose attention span for things of God was indeed very short. Like Simon Peter who could receive the revelation from God and could not mind the things of God just as easily he received it. The same Simon Peter wanted to experience what it is to be Jesus. But his faith was so little he could not keep up with his master.(Mt.14:28-31)The children of Israel were of divided mind so God’s majesty could not be appreciated or kept in their rebellious hearts. Bronze serpent or a miracle of Jesus to men of little faith are dead works. Then there are false preachers who wish to establish their control over others. Even this day we are of little faith we can only be moved by supposedly miracles performed by preachers and healers who are in most cases dubious and of little merit. Those who seek Christ among the dead works remain like the proverbial house divided.

The lesson of Easter teaches us to fix our standpoint correctly. The Word, Life and Vision are three legged stool to give us stability. Many stranded rope is, as the Bible teaches us, not easily broken. A tripod is stable. Our stability is established on His Word,our life and in our vision. Of the last our vision is focused on Risen Christ and not an historical Jesus.  Simon Peter looked at the boisterous waves rather than his master and he began to sink. Easter celebrates Risen Christ and life, and not death. Not dead works either.

Simon Peters plight in this context teaches us to keep our focus on the Risen Christ. ‘I am the Resurrectiion and life, said he. If what we believe cannot be translated into action it is of little use. Apostle James speaks analogy of Christian living to the mirror. We see our lives reflected in the Word but we soon forget what we saw thereon since we do not do what we need to do.

We live in an age of instant gratification; we also have cultivated many attitudes to prove we are in the swim of things. There are buzz words like quality time,tough love and proactive. Do they really mean anything worthwhile? Of course not. If we cannot make our time count in quality we are wasting it. In driving our children on the wrong path by our negligence and foolishness any toughness we imagine by doling out love is non starter.

The angel announced to the women to proceed to Galilee but we read that Jesus himself appeared to them. Angels are all  right but salvation is not for them to give. (Mt 28:5-9)The sign of New Age it must be that people are talking of their guardian angels as though they are talking of houseplants. They will need much more than pruning and quality of mulch to make sense of what they mean by angels. A guardian angel for them is like a security blanket to hold on to in times of their stress. Well it suits them to feel secure with their buzz words. These buzz words are short cuts to thinking. As a Christian my point of view is set on Christ whose words are unchangeable. Since he has overcome death, his words also shall live on. We need to seek him among the living.

Mt 28:”All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. vs.18.And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” vs.20

benny

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Paul Fischer was a man whom all looked with envy. Why you might ask. He checked his bank account Friday night and found his balance like the bean in the Jack and the beanstalk story had shot up to $88,888,888,888.88.

Of course, the balance was a technical error by SunTrust Bank which they fixed in a matter of five hours. If Mr. Fischer was a recipent of Sun Trust I would not be surprised if others also were picked out to their largess, which is always unmerited and uncalled for as the bonus to CEO s in AIG or any other.

The Sun for a symbol suits the finance sector: while the brilliant malefeance of financial wizard blazes skyhigh (like Bernard Madoff or the CEO of Enron) his fortune rises and falls when least expected, we have banks also showing  similar ups and downs.  Sun Trust Bank luckily saved their money for now.

No bank has yet gone under a technical error.  Perhaps if a moron of a robot ( by a mechanical error or an electrical shortcut) transfers / teleports the entire assets, liquid and other, to another robot in another galaxy well my statement will not hold.

benny

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When my sons came of age I gave the eldest a stamp I had but no envelope to stick it on; nor had a friend except one blind count in Florence who couldn’t read a  thing any way. Of course he left his villa to me and I gave to the second oldest. My third son got a painting that I had picked from one of the flea markets on the left bank of Seine, Paris. To my fourth I entrusted a paperweight.  Of course to my last I gave a denture with initials GW.

Before  I could leave this world my eldest son came smug and self assured and said, “You gave me a Penny Black,1840.”

“You have made a fortune?”

“Oh no my dog just chewed to pulp.” said my son Fred.

The second son managed to arrive at my death bed and we hugged and he replied to my queries he had converted his villa into an orphanage for stray dogs. With beating heart I asked what of that western wall on the piano nobile ?

Oh the figure of Christ was nude; so were apostles. So I painted over the whole thing.”

“Son, it was by Michaelangelo.”

“Never heard of him. I had to protect the feelings of the house keeper’.

The next one said the painting was so unlike a face he could live with.

“Matt, it was by Picasso. One from his cubism period”. My son Matthew said, “Picasso or Pickaxe, what do I care? Either you get the face right or use a Canon for gods sake.’

‘My fourth son George, only cared for his own feelings. He was too self centred but he still made my day. I asked what he did with the paper weight.

“How long do I think I can go on feeling a piece of  glass in my pocket?”

“So what did you do?’

“I threw it into the garbage of course.”

I murmured,”Hope Diamond, my paperweight and my nest egg.” What George did not know didn’t hurt him. I greeted my last son and he said,’Pop the denture you gave belonged to some fellow called George Washington. “You think I’ll keep some one’s dentures, the one that didn’t fit him, will sit well with me?’  So my son had smashed it and threw into dust bin. A man’s whole life in the face of such calamity is likely to speed up and mine was in a flash.

Such a stroke made me cured.

“Well, well” I said.  I got up from my bed and said,” A bunch of hopeless idiots I raised up.  I must get down to business.”

All my sons were aghast and tried to restrain me. “No you are  in your death bed.  Stay”

“Oh no,” I was sure. “I must make some money for myself at least. My sons never learned how.”

benny

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