Monday, January 23, 2006

Memoirs of Hadrian

Like Claudia, I find Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian to be irresistibly quotable. I am reading it much more slowly than other books, going forwards then backward to re-read entire pages or passages. Hadrian is writing long letters to the young Marcus Aurelius, conveying both his own intimate amazement of the world and also a wisdom arrived at by tireless observation.


Of all our games, love's play is the only one which threatens to unsettle the soul, and is also the only one in which the player has to abandon himself to the body's ecstasy.


What also reassures is that sleep heals us of fatigue, but heals us by the most radical of means in arranging that we cease temporarily to exist.

And, the search for truth:

Like everyone else I have at my disposal only three means of evaluating human existence: the study of self, which is the most difficult and most dangerous method, but also the most fruitful; the observation of our fellowmen, who usually arrange to hide their secrets from us ... and books, with the particular errors of perspective to which they inevitable give rise.

Historians propose to us systems too perfect for explaining the past, with sequence of cause and effect much too clear and exact to have been every entirely true; they rearrange what is dead.

When all the involved calculations prove false, and the philosphers themselves have nothing more to tell us, it is excusable to turn to the random twitter of birds, or toward the distant mechanism of the stars.

1 comment:

Justine said...

The written word has taught me to listen to the human voice, much as the great unchanging statues have taught ne to appreciate bodily motions.