Scribbles in the dust

Pyrrho, the ancient Greek sceptic, started out as a painter. He, and I, can’t forget the fact that all our representations, theories and ideas are so much spit and pigment, scribbles in the dust, marks against oblivion – possibilities of the moment, rendered obsolete almost as soon as they are formed. All our utterances are little more than the eloquence of crows or gulls or bees about the hive. Very occasionally we rise to the compass of song, the melodic fluency of a blackbird, or robin, or nightingale. No matter what we say or write or think, we can do no more than throw a murmur into the air. Like a leaf or feather it may catch the breeze and be lifted high or fall to the ground. Whatever happens it will eventually join all other feathers and leaves trampled underfoot, becoming in time leafmould, soil, the compost out of which new growth emerges.

So also for opinions, ideas and theories, however lofty, they are all subject to the laws of gravity, the pull of conditionality and uncertainty, the necessity of ‘perhaps’, ‘maybe’, ‘it seems’, or ‘it appears’ – never the certainty of ‘it is true’.

Likewise with decisions – all can be rationalised and confirmed as valid. Arguments can be mounted in support of this course of action and for the opposite course. One is probably no better, or no worse, than another. We can only act in the knowledge that we could have acted differently and our actions may well have been just as worthwhile or just as fruitless. To do something in the belief that we do the right thing, let alone the ‘only’ thing, is to believe the leaf or feather will never fall. To be attached to this belief is to be deluded – to defy gravity, to gobble like a turkey while thinking we sing like a starlight nightingale.

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