The bathtub is the most fertile location for bloggery. How readily the unstructured ideas pour into the head when the torso is immersed in hot water. There must be waterproof keyboards around by now. Keyboards! What a laborious means of expressing oneself. No doubt some cunning cerebral implant will one day let us see the characters and pictures stream onto the screen just as we imagine them. Idleness is the mother of invention. Chewing and digesting raw meat is hard work; invent fire, cooking, ... the microwave. Thinking is such hard work; invent .... no let us not go down there! To the Cynic school of philosophy all the works of mankind, so laboriously developed, were superfluous shortcuts, sucked into existence by desire for idleness. Happiness, they asserted, can only be attained by rejecting what is not necessary. When Diogenes of Sinope saw a child cupping its hands to drink from a stream he threw away his cup.
There was a time, after the first World War, when the horizon was tinged with hope and optimism. Did you ever see one of those marvellous posters from the 1920s advertising a railway or maybe a charabanc company? A healthy glowing couple stride through a fabulous panorama of mountains, dressed in shorts, with knapsacks on their backs, beneath a magnificent skyscape of blue sky and towering white cumuli. She is blond and carrying a hiking staff. He is smoking a pipe and carries a map. From his face and her figure you can tell that they have just been discussing his translations of Proust and that she leads callisthenics classes at a Steiner school; their faces are flushed. This optimism can still be glimpsed in Nordic countries, the last refuges of the enlightenment.
The earth is the mother of all . It was the entrepreneurial greed of the corn dealers of Aspendus in the first century AD that brought famine to its inhabitants and this chilling threat from Apollonius of Tyana when he learned of their behaviour:
Apollonius to the corn dealers of Aspendus:
The earth is the mother of all, for she is just.
But you, being unjust, make out that she is the mother of you only
and if you do not stop I will not let you remain upon her.
These terse words, written (not spoken - Apollonius was under a self-imposed five-year vow of silence) so long ago still make the hair at the back of my neck stand up. We in the West are all encouraged to be the corn dealers now. The rising temperatures, winds and seas will be our rebuke. If the earth is our mother, the sun is our father. If you do not stop I am telling your father, I seem to hear. Apollonius of Tyana was revered as a sage throughout the ancient world. Hadrian erected a temple to him in Rome and there were many others in the cities round the Mediterranean. Centuries later, in 271 AD Queen Zenobia of Palmyra made a break for independence and proclaimed her son as a rival to the emperor, Aurelian. During the campaign against Palmyra, Aurelian arrived at Tyana to find its gates closed against him because its inhabitants had taken the side of Zenobia. In rage he swore In this town I will leave not a dog alive. That night Aurelian dreamed that Apollonius came and spoke to him, in Latin, saying
Aureliane, si vis vincere, nihil est quod de civium meorum nece cogites.
Aureliane, si vis imperare, a cruore innocentium abstine.
Aureliane, clementer te age, si vis vivere.
Aurelian, if you wish to win, do not think you need to kill my citizens.
Aurelian, if you wish to rule, abstain from the blood of the innocent.
Aurelian, be merciful, if you wish to live.
The next day the town was betrayed by one of its inhabitants, Heraclammon, who knew a secret entrance, and it was captured without bloodshed. Heraclammon was killed by Aurelian's soldiers by mistake, but because of Aurelian's dream nobody else died. When the soldiers, not knowing how to act, reminded him of his oath, he replied "Alright then; kill all the dogs".