Monday, 19 March 2007

An Intellectual's Apology VI: Cassius

It seems some time since I wrote a post as part of this series. Since they're always well read, I shall continue with a look into my own consciousness for your perusal.


Many of you will have wondered over the years why my screen-name remains constant as Cassius. Actually, I spell it Cassivs, on account of Latin's absence of the letter u. But I'll use the anglicised spelling for the moment.

It was originally used as an experiment: see how long I can keep it, and what effect - if any - such constancy would have. But why choose that name? The inspiration is Shakespearean.

Let me have men about me that are fat;
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o' nights:
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.

Fear him not, Caesar; he's not dangerous;
He is a noble Roman and well given.

Would he were fatter! But I fear him not:
Yet if my name were liable to fear,
I do not know the man I should avoid
So soon as that spare Cassius. He reads much;
He is a great observer and he looks
Quite through the deeds of men: he loves no plays,
As thou dost, Antony; he hears no music;
Seldom he smiles, and smiles in such a sort
As if he mock'd himself and scorn'd his spirit
That could be moved to smile at any thing.
Such men as he be never at heart's ease
Whiles they behold a greater than themselves,
And therefore are they very dangerous.

I wouldn't usually quote that whole passage in its entirety; much of it would seem to arrogant to do so. It's not all accurate; I'm a musician. But the flaws of character apply, as well as most of the rest.

The issue at the heart of what I want to talk about is the line: He is a great observer and he looks / Quite through the deeds of men..

For several weeks now I have been in extremely arduous internal turmoil. That is not what I wish to go into, you'll be glad to know. But its relevance is this: it stops my observation. It's now gone entirely; so I can watch again. And I'm happier to be Cassius than emo-Phil.

My observations

There are many places where one can observe humanity in all its glory. Indeed, it's hard to find emptiness in life. I have three areas to comment on particularly: The Common Room, the After-Show Party, and Blogging.

The Common Room

This delightful room has been the womb of many observations, not just by me. I would refer you to Francis's Spheres of Consciousness as an example.

But my observations are somewhat more frequent. If only sine I can't turn off my mind. It is whom I am. What I have seen, however, are the motives behind actions. This age-old idea of seeing through the deeds of men. And women. It would be rude of me to comment specifically, or even so precisely that any guess can be made as to the identity of my subjects. But I'll give you a list of motives I've seen:

  • The need for personal acceptance, even amongst friends,
  • The need for wider personal acceptance,
  • The need for accademic acceptance,
  • The need for romantic acceptance...

I could go on, but I don't have permission to include specifics. It would be gravely improper. But I wonder if you can spot a theme. It really did seem tragic to me.

The After-Show Party

Last night, I decided to go to the post-Les Mis Party for cast, Band and crew. It was a remarkable experience, because I was able to stand, sober as always, and observe. And the alcohol brought it all to the top.

Many were very upset to see the end of the show; many were full of adrenaline. I think I can list examples, sans noms, here. If you recognise them, I have not erred in telling you what you didn't know. If you don't, I shan't tell you who they are. Please don't even ask.

  • One young lady was particularly distraught to see the end of the show. This I saw and respected. A lack of perspective, perhaps, but an understandable one. It should be noted that she did stunningly, of course. She was not alone in either description.
  • One young man - or boy - was particularly happy at the party. He had obtained what he wanted. But it will do him no good, since his wishes are not reasonable. What should my reaction be there? To be pleased for him? Is that not simply dissemblance of my knowledge of how his happiness is nothing but a wave tossed in the ocean? Why must we always be chasing the wind?
  • Another young lady seemed particularly concerned by a 'phone call. I do not know the matter discussed; I have no need to. But it made me question this: how little do we know of others' lives? I have no idea what was troubling her; she has no idea that I was watching her - like everyone else, I would add, to stop your immaturity - and contemplating. It occured to me, though, that we know nothing of each other. However far we walk in each ohters' shoes, we can never be anyone else. Empathy is empathy only, not a shared existence. Though, being sympathic, I do hope it wasn't as bad as it looked.
  • There was a huge amount of kissing. Not by me, I might add. I have no great interest in kissing drunk people. Not that I criticise others for doing so. But in terms of seeing through their deeds, it's very interesting indeed. Several thoughts occured to me. The first is the need for acceptance. I have often heard that the appeal of casual sex is that - for a moment - you are accepted in the most profound way possibly by another human being. And kissing, I would imagine, is the same. Someone - even a somewhat tipsy soneone - has chosen to share an intimate moment with you. That must be so pleasing for those who spend their lives desperately searching for acceptance. And there are so many for whom that is true.
  • There is a Latin saying - originally from Greek - which says In vino veritas: In wine, truth. When some people are drunk they show their true colours. That's truly intruiging. There were several embarrassing examples. But I shan't go into them for that very reason.
  • On the other hand, it must be observed that some people just do very silly things when drunk. They show their irrational side, not their inner self.
  • And thus is the observer presented with a delicious conflict. Which of the above applies? Do we have alcoholic honesty or intoxicated idiocy? I have no doubts that there are examples of each. The chap who started to lick my jumper was - I hope - being drunkenly silly, rather than revealing a deep lust for physical intimacy. But other events were surely truth.
  • Another observation was the differing reactions to alcohol. I find that getting drunk is a silly thing to do. But it's an imprecise term. I have no objections to disinhibited merriness. Even to a few rousing, out-of-tune, up-an-augmented-fourth-and-flat-by-a-quarter-tone recitals of the main themes of Les Mis. The harmonies were actually surprisingly good. But there were some there - those of lower years - who took advantage of the sixth-form organisation. Since sixth-formers predominated, there was plenty of intoxicating ethanol to go around. And many of the youngsters drank to seem mature. It didn't work. And some sixth-formers, it should be added, did the same. It didn't work there either.

Enough of such ponderings. You may now be wondering where this is going. I on't tell you yet. Read on, dearly beloved, read on.


Since brevity is the soul of wit, and tediousness the limbs and outward floursihes, I shall be brief. I also do not wish to enflame anger amongst my kind readers. We all put up our thoughts for others to comment upon. Why? Why do we share our thoughts and ponderings for the world to comment upon. An intruiging thought. How close do our reasons correspond with our real motives? This blog war has given me plenty of grist to the mental mill. But more generally, I'm watching you all......


Each example truly deserves a post on its own. But - if only because I'm discussing people - I have talked to briefly (I pause for your disbelief at such a claim) to merit such a laboriously worked thesis. Anyone with a spare year and intimate knowledge of all the gossip may pick my brain more deeply.

Distilled and over-simplified, however, what I see is a desperate need amongst all of humanity for acceptance. I see poiltical ambition and scheming. To be successful. Ergo to be well respected. Ergo to be accepted. I see desperate teenage 'love'. Just to be accepted. I see people expounding their opinions. To be accepted as thinkers, perhaps, or as correct. And I do not mean you bloggers, of course.

We can never be each other. We can never be omniscient. But sometimes, I see what I'd really rather not. That is often why I am so bleak in my outlook.

"I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.
I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.
For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.
All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.
Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?
Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?"


Francis said...

This is a very interesting post, although, and this may just be me, I struggle to see the marriage of the opening and the conclusion!

As for acceptance, I think you're right. After all, why wouldn't this be the case? Does anybody really like the idea of rejection? Even those of us who enjoy a bit of time to ourselves also (I hope) prize human company and human relationships extremely dearly.

In my opinion, other people make life brilliant, and although I may have wandered away from Phil's post a little, I think that this may explain the behaviour that he describes. In a peverted way.

N said...

Wow. I can see why you're rather pleased with this post, LC. Very perceptive and insightful!

I would agree with you regarding the common feeling of the need to be 'accepted': we all feel it, and it would be folly to suggest otherwise.

I find it funny, how many of us discuss so many abstract concepts, as if we are entirely neutral and independent. I know that all of us do realise that we far from immune from everyday emotions, but it is fascinating to see how each of us deal with different problems.

I don't suppose you feel a slight connection between yourself and Cassius by any chance, Phil?!


Phil' said...

Just in case others have been left in the dark and it's not just Francis...

I've been asked about the name's origin several times, so I thought I'd combine that into the post. Particularly since it occured to me that I'd lost that curse-like ability to observe recently, but that it is now returned.

So it's sort of two posts in one: one for the name, and a second following from 'My Observations'.


Anonymous said...

A very intruiging post...

I must say i agree with all the points, alcohol brings out true colours...but does augment them somewhat. To quote a particular person at this party, "iv seen you round" to someone he hardly knew from Adam. He may have seen her and liked the way she looked, but did not go any further than this, the thought merely sat in his subconscious, only to be aroused by the intoxicating liquour.

And as to the emo-phil/Cassivs, i am here for you as a friend phil. If you wish to divulge anything to me, i shall listen readily. You know who i am

Gavin said...

Cassivs you shall remain, dear Phil. This post is of the highest quality - one of the best I've read. If only I could be bothered to catalogue my own abstract thoughts as systematically as you manage to achieve.