Wednesday, 17 September 2008

The Condition of Man

The condition of man imposes its own limitations: to an estimate of his significance and of the implications of his existence he can bring no more than the fallible and subjective processes of his capacity for conjecture. Isolated, wedged transiently at a point in infinity, careless of what has preceded his life, preoccupied and obsessed by the thoughts of what may succeed it, shackled and blinded by the problems and prejudices arising from it, his readiness to dogmatize will be proportionate to the intensity of his fears and the deficiency of his imagination.
An appetite for faith may be to some extent its justification: it is certainly not its proof – we do not build a fire to prove or disprove the existence of cold, but to keep ourselves warm. A traveller on a perilous journey may draw comfort from the knowledge that he has a pistol in his pocket, though, unknown to himself, his servant has neglected to load it. Like the traveller, we shall only learn whether or not our pistols were loaded when the issue will have transcended speculation; till then we must draw our comfort from whatever we care to believe or disbelieve. Truth, if it exists, will remain unaffected. A starving animal will suck the dug of its dead parent and a man in extremity can condition himself to believe what he calculates will bring him most consolation.
A.E. Ellis: The Rack

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