BULLGOOSE: Finding consolation in the words of the wise
March 6, 2022 June 26, 2022
ABOVE: This handsome fellow is Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius.
It’s been a tough week.
Bullgoose could probably crank out some funny flood stories, but that doesn’t feel quite right.
Not that there isn’t consolation in shared humour, but how could you outdo Stan Cross’s immortal 1933 cartoon, Stop Laughing: this is serious!
Perhaps substitute a tree branch above the Wilsons River for that girder?
I wouldn’t presume to attempt to come up with some sure-fire consolation for the people right in the midst of these harrowing events.
No, this is more for the people watching the tragedy unfold or maybe out helping and trying to process it all.
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius. What a handle! (Anicius Manlius Severinus Bullgoose – that’s got a ring to it.)
What a guy! A Late-Roman philosopher and scientist, he knew a fair bit about bad luck and tragedy.
Political winds turned ferociously against him and he fell heavily from grace.
In those days, as we know, falling from grace was a euphemism for “They’re going to kill you as brutally as possible”.
So, while he was locked up, facing what he knew was going to be an execution of world-class nastiness, he wrote The Consolation of Philosophy.
It was written in the form of a long conversation with Philosophy itself, with Philosophy personified as a woman.
“My looks are fading. Does my bum look bigger in this toga?”
“But must I just accept that which I can’t change?”
“It is merely the natural way of things.”
“That’s just what you say. How do I know you exist? And what need does the Universe have for enormous bums?”
“We can’t go to Galenia’s barbeque on Saturday because the Tiber’s burst its banks.” “Bummer. Do you think that was ordained, or is it just because the glaciers in the Alps are melting?”
“If it wasn’t meant to flood, why do we have buckets?”
And so on.
And it was a hit.
Unfortunately, it was a posthumous hit because, yep, they did for him, nast-nast-nastily.
Further unfortunately, Boethius was not one for concise zingers: he was more of a drone on for seventy pages and then take a breath sort of Late-Roman dude.
Of course, the philosophers lapped it up for centuries and thunk it through, thirty-seven days from Tuesday, but I think we need something more concise, succinct and able to be read, digested and assimilated in a matter of seconds.
Enter Wexforde Brandish: little known, but highly-cherished, writer, rationalist and occasional thinker.
He shunned the title Philosopher, claiming “Everybody thinks about Life. Why should only some of us get paid for it?”
Brandish didn’t perish from a slow garrotting or a spike through the forehead.
No, s/he just mysteriously faded from view after a long and brave fight against the forces of superstition, cognitive dissonance and poor punctuation.
But he/she has left us with a tiny treasure trove of succinct observations that just might offer some consolation in times such as these.
Here are a few that resonated with me.
I hope they bring you something, or whatever.
Living is just about the most dangerous thing anyone can do, but I still recommend it.
Help somebody you can’t stand, and don’t expect their gratitude. It’s a weird feeling, but I’ve grown to like it.
If prayers make you feel better about my suffering, fine. But if they’re the best you can do, don’t send them to me: they’ll only bounce off and hurt themselves.
Be as the humble cow: keep walking those fences. One day you’ll find a broken wire.