“Observe, however, that of man’s whole terrestrial possessions and attainments, unspeakably the noblest are his Symbols, divine or divine-seeming; under which he marches and fights, with victorious assurance, in this life-battle: what we can call his Realised Ideals.”

Excerpt From
The French Revolution
Thomas Carlyle

Without meaning to diminish either the thrust or gravity of Carlyle’s thesis, upon reading it I instantly fell to a more mundane interpretation of it; namely, those perfect things we cotton onto. Granted history has proven that the church and the king for example have both constituted inexpressible symbols. But in my opinion they have not altogether afforded victorious assurance in life’s battle. Indeed the symbiotic relationship between the two (“Praise be to God” and “God save the King”) is far from divine or divine-seeming; not to mention the constitutional paradox surrounding the divine right of kings adopted both by King James II of the Roman Church and King William and Queen Mary of the Church of England. As for the bloody battles which ensued in the clash of symbols between the Irish, the Scots and the Anglo-Saxons, they were as unspeakable and ignoble as the present day assault of Vladimir Putin against the children of Ukraine.

“But of those decadent ages in which no Ideal either grows or blossoms? When Belief and Loyalty have passed away, and only the cant and false echo of them remains; and all Solemnity has become Pageantry; and the Creed of persons in authority has become one of two things: an Imbecility or a Macchiavelism? Alas, of these ages World-History can take no notice; they have to become compressed more and more, and finally suppressed in the Annals of Mankind; blotted out as spurious,—which indeed they are. Hapless ages: wherein, if ever in any, it is an unhappiness to be born.”


Notwithstanding the stupidity and cunningness which now characterizes so much of our modern political symbols, people continue beholden to the “cant and false echo” of authority. These native symbols seep like infection into the broader hieroglyphs of nationality which have in turn been employed as a sham for cruelty to inhabitants both native and others beyond their borders.

Though I haven’t the pretence entirely to avoid sanctimony I attribute the allure of symbols to little more than the stripes on a football jersey. I get it, people need symbols to which align themselves. Indeed the word symbol derives from the Greek sumbolon mark, token, from sun with + ballein to throw’.  Symbols, like a football game, are of little more consequence than something temporal to throw oneself in with. But one mustn’t confuse our deliberate act of embracing a symbol as impregnating it with ideals to wrap one’s mind around. It is a self-fulfilling prophesy to do so.  Can the Scots really believe in the paramountcy of the lowlands or the highlands or of the difference by birth in one clan or another? And where exactly does this rubbish about a man’s or a woman’s duties stem? Surely by now we have exhausted the utility of allegory at this putative intellectual level.

I shall meanwhile – pending purification of the Universe – content myself with “Realised Ideals” of a my own. Today was I confess an unwitting consciousness of flawlessness. I begin by reporting to my eternal shamefulness that it wasn’t until almost precisely noon today that I enacted from beneath the duvet that tell-tale stretch and yawn which is Nature’s admission of the sufficiency of sleep; and that I thereafter plied my neuropathic limbs to the floor and considered once again the imperative of expiating my guilt. I knew I hadn’t time on my side if I were to accomplish my daily routine. Specifically I was wont to contaminate the afternoon station before the computer with my fresh lemon-squeezed tea at hand. That dubious literary production is precedent to the unquestionable leisurely relaxation in the evening with Stephen Colbert and whatever PBS drama follows.

There is little enterprise surrounding my morning ablutions. Once completed it is but a moment’s effort to don swim shorts and a linen shirt. Slipping into the boat shoes is moderately more engaging (though my surgeon assures me that the capacity to rotate my hips for that purpose is heartening).

It was thus shortly after 1:00 pm that I completed my summary breakfast routine, brushed my teeth, grabbed my stick and beach towel then opened the front door and set upon my tricycle with gear stashed in the basket behind. I tapped the Apple Watch and set off along the laneway. A glance now at the Apple Fitness App informs an Outdoor Cycle today of 6.10 Km which I consider appropriate although I note I didn’t venture upon the island because even the slight elevation there and back over the yacht inlet is arduous and punishing for my bony knees.

It was thereafter I fulfilled my dutiful ambition. I wheeled to the small beach, parked the device, doffed my clothing then waded into the salty sea. The water was placid and warm. As is my custom I floated upon the surface. Today’s remarkable achievement is to have swum beyond the raft to one of the round log-like buoys which demarcate the swimming area. The depth even at that extent was no more than up to my chin. The bottom was smooth and sandy. It is near impossible to stand in the water so great is the buoyancy.  One is therefore in a perpetual state of floating, face up or down. The sun was intermittently hidden behind wisps of clouds.