Posted in Books

Liking the Philosophy

Some writers are very quotable. I find Derek Tangye confusingly rambly even while his books are brief, but in spite of (or because of) the rambling, I often stop to go over something he’s said, thinking “that’s good.”

Here are two examples from his Cottage on a Cliff:

“Good manners and truth are often enemies.”

(Sphere paperback 1974, p41)

“Hindsight… can be deceptive. Hindsight is inclined to ignore the mood and circumstances of the time concerned, dwelling instead on the logical steps one might have taken. Hindsight relies on the evidence of memory, and memory often forgets the influence of emotion.”

(Sphere papberback 1974, p62)

In addition there’s a conversation he has with a passing hitchhiker about overpopulation, motorways and so-called progress, but I don’t dare quote such a long passage! Sometimes I’m confused about what I really think. There’s my “leave everything be” attitude (i.e. don’t build things that weren’t there before, or cull this, or breed that, or modify genes, or spend money on space voyages instead of people) – then there’s the other attitude I also have; that we have to push out to space (despite any loss of life) and find out what we can via research… maybe one day it will all help. Or perhaps it’s the surest route to disaster, I don’t know.

It could be that he’s right when he says that hindsight is deceptive – we can’t really know what will happen until it happens. He said that sometimes something terrible happens, and when you analyze it later, you can see a trail of small, otherwise innocent events all coming remorselessly together to cause this thing. It’s all very well to say “if only” – but that’s ignoring the fact that it happened that way ‘just because’.

Comments for this entry (during its previous life on Blogigo):

1. Pacian wrote at May 6, 2007 at 12:21: “memory often forgets the influence of emotion”

On the contrary, we have every reason to believe that memory is all too easily influenced by emotion – whether that of the past or the present. Remember those who recalled Jean-Charles de Menezes as wearing a bulky jacket with wires sticking out of it.

Hindsight, though, especially with regard to large events, tends to rely on recorded facts more than memories, and in that case he’s right.

2. Mrs. Chili wrote at May 6, 2007 at 13:10: “Sometimes I’m confused about what I really think.”

I loved this quote, Diddums, mostly because I feel this way almost all the time. It’s why I write: writing helps me clarify what I think.

I think we can’t NOT build and explore, despite the fact that we know a lot of it is going to end badly. We humans are never satisfied. We never have enough; we never know enough. For better or worse, it’s who we are.

3. Diddums wrote at May 6, 2007 at 13:58: Pacian – you have a point there. We can only remember what we remember, which is partly why people seem to remember different things about the same event.

Mrs Chili – You’re right; even in a small way we are constantly thinking “is there a quicker way I can do this?” and “I wonder why it did that…” It’s almost unthinkable that we wouldn’t try to find out.



I live in the UK with two cats -- Samson and Delilah.

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