What they did not understand

Gerringong, NSW

The philosophy of the ‘enlightened elite’

What they did not understand was how I would find their respective ideologies abhorrent, and that I would reject this philosophy even during the desolate hours. This would anger them more than their growing antipathy towards me. I had heard this philosophy of the ‘enlightened elite’ with its roots deep in Gnosticism a number of times, but never more persuasively argued than by these two charismatic figures in their attempts to draw me into their respective worlds: we are the enlightened ones and to us has been given the great responsibility to fix the course of the world. One of these was my Confessor. He entered my life when I was twenty-three, brimming with hope and preparing for the priesthood. The other was a mysterious entrepreneur. He would cross my path twenty-seven years later in a hotel on the outskirts of Bucharest after I had missed my flight to Sydney on account of a dream.

There is such a thing as dead water, and dead light. There is also dead spirit. And it was this which terrified me. For they were very fast to swoop down on their prey these two… my Confessor and the entrepreneur. Sometimes they would remind me of the peregrine falcon with its high-speed morphing of wings.

It was not until I had read John Banville’s exquisite novel Doctor Copernicus that I was able to find the exact paraphrase for the words which I had heard on those two occasions when these powerful individuals sought to convert me. The first of these conversations took place when I had informed the Confessor of my intention to leave the priesthood, and the second when I was presented with an employment opportunity which sounded too improbable to be true.

Later I will speak more on these temptations and of the big empty frames. And of beautiful porcelain, brittle like frozen petals, falling through my fingers.

"And yes, I know, Katina. There will be some price to pay for this. But you said, did you not, that I could write whatever I wanted?"

The makers of supreme fictions

“Ah. The common people. But they have suffered always, and always will. It is in a way what they are for. You flinch. Herr Doctor, I am disappointed in you. The common people?-pah. What are they to us? You and I, mein Freund, we are lords of the earth, the great ones, the major men, the makers of supreme fictions. Look here at these poor dull brutes… [t]hey do not even understand what we are talking about. But you understand, yes, yes. The people will suffer as they have always suffered, meanly, mewling for pity and mercy, but only you and I know what true suffering is, the lofty suffering of the hero. Do not speak to me of the people! ... [t]he people -peasants, soldiers, generals- they are my tool, as mathematics is yours, by which I come directly at the true, the eternal, the real. Ah yes, Doctor Copernicus, you and I –you and I! The generations may execrate us for what we do to their world, but we and those rare ones like us shall have made them what they are…!”[1]

[1] John Banville, Doctor Copernicus, (Picador, London, 1999), 136.