Try it sometime

“Visit your love; take no heed of the envious,
Who will not help you in your affairs of love.
God in His mercy creates no finer sight
Than of two lovers lying on one bed
In one another’s arms, clothed in contentment,
Pillowed on one another’s wrists and arms.
If in your lifetime you find one true friend,
How good a friend is this; live for that one alone.
When hearts are joined in love,
The envious are striking on cold iron.
You who blame lovers for their love,
Have you the power to cure the sick at heart?
God in Your mercy, let us meet
Before death comes, if only by one day.”

The Arabian Nights (trans. Lyons, et al.)

That side is the toll gate

“It is easy to be cynical about government—and rarely does such cynicism go unrewarded. Take, for instance, policy towards women. Some politicians declare that they value women’s unique role, which can be shorthand for keeping married women at home looking after the kids. Others create whole ministries devoted to policies for women, which can be a device for parking women’s issues on the periphery of policy where they cannot do any harm. Still others, who may actually mean what they say, pass laws giving women equal opportunities to men. Yet decreeing an end to discrimination is very different from bringing it about. Amid this tangle of evasion, half-promises and wishful thinking, some policymakers have embraced a technique called gender budgeting. It not only promises to do a lot of good for women, but carries a lesson for advocates of any cause: the way to a government’s heart is through its pocket.” – The Economist, February 25th, 2017

Hand in hand

“There is no wisdom without power.
Were they to try to pawn me and my wisdom,
Together with my books and my inkstand,
For one day’s worth of food, it would not work
And such a bargain would be thought contemptible.
The poor, their state, their life,
How dark they are with troubles!
In summer they cannot find food, and in the cold
They have to warm themselves over a brazier.
Street dogs attack them and they are the butt
Of every despicable man.
When one of them complains about his lot,
There is none to excuse him among all mankind.
Such is the life of the poor man;
It will be best for him when he is in his grave.”

The Arabian Nights (trans. Lyons, et al.)

That’s just the way it is

“You have no power at all over your daily bread;
Neither learning nor letters will fetch it for you.
Fortune and sustenance are divided up;
One land is fertile while another suffers drought.
Time’s changes bring down cultured men,
While fortune lifts the undeserving up.
Come, death, and visit me, for life is vile;
Falcons are brought down low while ducks are raised on high.
Feel no surprise if you should see a man of excellence
In poverty, while an inferior holds sway.
How wretched is this kind of world
That leaves us in such trouble and distress!
In the morning it may be that things go well,
But I must drink destruction’s cup when evening comes.”

The Arabian Nights (trans. Lyons, et al.)

What it’s about

“Power concerns the organization, arrangement, and distribution of material objects in physical space. Whatever ideas and ideals are brought to bear on this process are necessarily corrupted and weighed down by their contact with decaying matter. Politics, in other words, is the art of juggling corpses and anyone whose highest value is power stinks of the grave.” – Hans Abendroth, The Zero and the One

Free falling

“Of all literary genres, tragedy alone remains free from the pretensions to arithmetic that, until history caught up with them, were still indulged in by German philosophers and English novelists, who compensated for their thematic anxieties as an ostrich might—by limiting their scope to the trifling situations of everyday morality. Such moralists are nothing more, in the final analysis, than the authors of etiquette manuals, dressed up in logic and argument, on the one hand, and narrative and dialogue, on the other. In their books, they were content to waltz and quadrille over the depths where tragedy is written because a century of improvements in shoe manufacture enabled them to forget that, in history, there is no floor.” – Hans Abendroth, The Zero and the One

Mad monkeys, angry apes

“Moderns regard violence as something internal to human beings: they often speak of the violence that originates in mankind, as if violence were a series of actions a man might perform, or—were he less ignorant, irrational, or superstitious—might as well not perform. That is why moderns are always surprised by sudden outbreaks of violence; it is why they ultimately cannot understand the phenomenon, even as their scientific and technological achievements multiply it exponentially. The ancients, however, knew better. Violence does not exist in man; man exists in violence. Man is merely a vessel for violence, the site where it occurs, the name given by violence itself to the instrument that enacts it. When the man in man is stripped away, he returns to his source and becomes his God.” – Hans Abendroth, The Zero and the One

Just the routine stuff

“In practice, everyday morality rarely ever rises to the level of the tragic. Most moral decisions are as simple as basic arithmetic; just so, failures are not matters of knowledge but of social training. Where genuine moral problems are encountered—that is, what are called tragic dilemmas—it is the nature of the dilemma that none of the possible responses ultimately suffices. Any decision, therefore, made in response to a tragic dilemma, will still be, to some more or less pardonable extent, immoral, and any moral agent, when faced with such a dilemma, no matter how much he deliberates, according to whichever ethical system he favors, will not fail to be responsible for this immorality. Nor, if he is truly a man of conscience, will he fail to be permanently damaged by the outcome of his response, whatever it may be.” – Hans Abendroth, The Zero and the One

The cover-up

“The origins of clothing should be sought in man’s desire to forget that his skin is already a kind of uniform. Masks, disguises, costumes—these are worn above all to conceal something from the wearer, who wishes to appear as someone or something else, in order to convince himself that his body is not what it really is: a mask, a disguise, a costume worn by Nature. Just so, we are never more deceived than when we speak of the nakedness of truth. Truth is something tailored, something we have sewn together, stitched up, embroidered, woven, hemmed, and cut. It is something that has to be put on—one leg at a time.” – Hans Abendroth, The Zero and the One

Taking a stand

“Beneath each of us shifts the sand of a desert vaster than the Sahara, the desert of our past, over whose dry dunes memory can only skim, blowing temporary patterns of recollection and reinterpretation across the surface of a noumenal landscape wherein the ever-changing is indistinguishable from the eternally-the-same.” – Hans Abendroth, The Zero and the One

Wandering the wilderness

“Thought exiles man from being, being exiles him from his self, his self exiles him from the external world, the external world exiles him from time, and his tomorrow will exile him from his today just as surely as his today exiled him from his yesterday. Never and nowhere is man truly at home. In order to experience this all he needs to do is to return, after even a short absence, to the city of his birth.” – Hans Abendroth, The Zero and the One

Ordering the good

“There are three orders of good ; viz. that which is imparticipable and superessential ; that which is imparticipable and essential ; and that which is essential and participable. Of these, the last is such as our nature contains; the good which ranks among forms is essential; and that which is beyond essence is superessential. Or we say that the good which subsists in us may be considered as a habit, in consequence of subsisting in a subject; the next to this ranks as essence, and a part of essence, I mean the good which ranks among forms; and the good which is beyond essence, is neither a habit, nor a part. With respect to the good, also, which subsists according to essence, it must be observed, that since forms are twofold, some alone distinguishing the essences of the things fashioned by form, but others their perfections, the genus of essence, same and different, and the form of animal, horse, and man, and every thing of this kind, give distinction to essence and subjects; but the form of the good, the beautiful, and the just, and in like manner the form of virtue, of health, strength, and every thing of a similar nature, are perfective of the beings to which they belong: and of some, essence is the leader, but of others the good.” – Thomas Taylor, On the Mysteries

No telling what they may choose

“Since the ignorance of, and deception about, divine natures is impiety and impurity, but a scientific knowledge of the Gods is holy and beneficial, the ignorance of things honourable and beautiful will be darkness, but the knowledge of them will be light. And the former, indeed, will fill men with all evils, through the want of erudition, and through audacity; but the latter will be the cause to them of every good.” – Porphyry, “The Epistle of Porphyry to the Egyptian Anebo” (trans. Thomas Taylor)

Mebbe you doan wanna know

“It’s a terrible thing, at any age, to be able to point to some period of your past and say, Those were the best days of my life. For it means that when you divide what is to come by what has already been, the remainder will be the same decimal repeating repeating repeating to infinity. Happiness, when ill timed, can maim a life just as thoroughly as sorrow.” – Hans Abendroth, The Zero and the One (emphasis in original)