“Nothing matters very much and most things don’t matter at all”

It’s a quote from Arthur Balfour which always comes to mind at moments when the direction of politics changes in directions I happen not to be fond of at the time. He apparently also said these, which really do need to be kept in mind.

I never forgive, but I always forget.

He has only half learned the art of reading who has not added to it the more refined art of skipping and skimming.

And this is his version of what George Polites, my old boss at CAI, always used to say. His version was, “It will all be the same in a thousand years”. This is Balfour’s version:

“We survey the past, and see that its history is of blood and tears, of helpless blundering, of wild revolt, of stupid acquiescence, of empty aspirations. We sound the future, and learn that after a period, long compared with the individual life, but short indeed compared with the divisions of time open to our investigation, the energies of our system will decay, the glory of the sun will be dimmed, and the earth, tideless and inert, will no longer tolerate the race which has for a moment disturbed its solitude. Man will go down into the pit, and all his thoughts will perish. The uneasy consciousness, which in this obscure corner has for a brief space broken the contented silence of the universe, will be at rest. Matter will know itself no longer. ‘Imperishable monuments’ and ‘immortal deeds,’ death itself, and love stronger than death, will be as though they had never been. Nor will anything that is be better or be worse for all that the labour, genius, devotion, and suffering of man have striven through countless generations to effect.”

All very nice, but the reality is that whilst we are still living, we care a very great deal about the events that surround us. No point looking forward to how I might look at things when I finally depart this life.

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