Friday, 8 February 2008

The Devil's Dictionary

(From Ambrose Bierce's - The Devil's Dictionary)

EUCHARIST, n. A sacred feast of the religious sect of Theophagi.
A dispute once unhappily arose among the members of this sect as
to what it was that they ate. In this controversy some five hundred
thousand have already been slain, and the question is still unsettled.

EVANGELIST, n. A bearer of good tidings, particularly (in a religious
sense) such as assure us of our own salvation and the damnation of
our neighbors.

FREEMASONS, n. An order with secret rites, grotesque ceremonies and
fantastic costumes, which, originating in the reign of Charles II,
among working artisans of London, has been joined successively by the
dead of past centuries in unbroken retrogression until now it embraces
all the generations of man on the hither side of Adam and is drumming
up distinguished recruits among the pre-Creational inhabitants of
Chaos and Formless Void. The order was founded at different times by
Charlemagne, Julius Caesar, Cyrus, Solomon, Zoroaster, Confucious,
Thothmes, and Buddha. Its emblems and symbols have been found in the
Catacombs of Paris and Rome, on the stones of the Parthenon and the
Chinese Great Wall, among the temples of Karnak and Palmyra and in the
Egyptian Pyramids - always by a Freemason.

FRIENDSHIP, n. A ship big enough to carry two in fair weather, but
only one in foul.

MARRIAGE, n. The state or condition of a community consisting of a
master, a mistress and two slaves, making in all, two.

NEIGHBOR, n. One whom we are commanded to love as ourselves, and who
does all he knows how to make us disobedient.

SATAN, n. One of the Creator's lamentable mistakes, repented in
sashcloth and axes. Being instated as an archangel, Satan made
himself multifariously objectionable and was finally expelled from
Heaven. Halfway in his descent he paused, bent his head in thought a
moment and at last went back. "There is one favor that I should like
to ask," said he.
"Name it."
"Man, I understand, is about to be created. He will need laws."
"What, wretch! you his appointed adversary, charged from the dawn
of eternity with hatred of his soul - you ask for the right to make
his laws?"
"Pardon; what I have to ask is that he be permitted to make them
It was so ordered.

SCRIPTURES, n. The sacred books of our holy religion, as
distinguished from the false and profane writings on which all other
faiths are based.

SELF-EVIDENT, adj. Evident to one's self and to nobody else.

SORCERY, n. The ancient prototype and forerunner of political
influence. It was, however, deemed less respectable and sometimes was
punished by torture and death. Augustine Nicholas relates that a poor
peasant who had been accused of sorcery was put to the torture to
compel a confession. After enduring a few gentle agonies the
suffering simpleton admitted his guilt, but naively asked his
tormentors if it were not possible to be a sorcerer without knowing

TEDIUM, n. Ennui, the state or condition of one that is bored. Many
fanciful derivations of the word have been affirmed, but so high an
authority as Father Jape says that it comes from a very obvious
source - the first words of the ancient Latin hymn Te Deum
Laudamus. In this apparently natural derivation there is something
that saddens.

UNCTION, n. An oiling, or greasing. The rite of extreme unction
consists in touching with oil consecrated by a bishop several parts of
the body of one engaged in dying. Marbury relates that after the rite
had been administered to a certain wicked English nobleman it was
discovered that the oil had not been properly consecrated and no other
could be obtained. When informed of this the sick man said in anger:
"Then I'll be damned if I die!"
"My son," said the priest, "this is what we fear."

UNIVERSALIST, n. One who forgoes the advantage of a Hell for persons
of another faith.


Toate slujbele Bisericii de la Răsărit ar trebui să fie una: fără diferenţe, fără să le poţi judeca, ierarhiza. Şi poate că sunt una, atunci când se slujeşte cu dreaptă socotinţă, cu măsură, cu firesc. Nu ştiu cum se face, dar astăzi – când am fost să-l conducem pe ultimul drum, cum se spune, pe tatăl prietenei noastre, MCB - mi se pare că am asistat pentru întâia oară la o înmormântare. Am ascultat, desigur, aceleaşi rugăciuni, s-a performat acelaşi ritual ca la orice altă înmormântare ortodoxă obişnuită, însă – n-aş putea spune de ce – am trăit altfel ceremonia, acum. Pe toţi apropiaţii celui care s-a urcat (mai repede ca noi, cei încă rămaşi în viaţă) la cer i-a consternat această „mare trecere”, această subită plecare la stele. Cum să nu te uluiască dispariţia, în doar câteva minute, a omului drag de lângă tine? Cum să nu rămâi neconsolat atunci când omul cu care ai vorbit de dimineaţă nu mai apucă seara? Emoţionantă mi s-a părut epistola pe care sacerdotul (tânăr după vârstă, deci mai liber în exprimare) a citit-o ca şi când ar fi fost compusă de însuşi cel decedat, pentru cei apropiaţi, dar şi pentru toţi cei prezenţi la îngropăciune. Într-un anumit sens, asta ne învaţă fiecare înhumare ortodoxă: toţi avem parte - when we leave the stage - de curtains, toţi - sooner or later - ajungem acolo. Restul e speculaţie.

Seara am ajuns – en fin - la filarmonică, unde Theo Wolters (din Olanda) a dirijat Concertul nr.1 pentru pian şi orchestră de Chopin (la pian: Vlad Dimulescu) şi Simfonia nr.7 în Do major op.60, Leningrad, a lui Şostakovici. Admirabile şi, pentru noi, inedite amândouă. Ritmul tobelor din simfonia lui Şostakovici (din partea I, Allegretto) mi-a amintit de una din liniile melodice ale filmului românesc Glissando (compozitor: Vasile Şirli). I-am zărit pe foştii mei dascăli: TG, HP. Când nu-i voi mai regăsi în sala de concert ceva îmi va lipsi.

Losing my religion

I fear many things: dogs, horses, fire-arms, the sea, thunder-storms, machinery, the country roads at night.’

‘But why do you fear a bit of bread?’

‘I imagine, Stephen said, that there is a malevolent reality behind those things I say I fear.’

‘Do you fear then, Cranly asked, that the God of the Roman catholics would strike you dead and damn you if you made a sacrilegious communion?’

‘The God of the Roman catholics could do that now, Stephen said. I fear more than that the chemical action which would be set up in my soul by a false homage to a symbol behind which are massed twenty centuries of authority and veneration.’

‘Would you, Cranly asked, in extreme danger, commit that particular sacrilege? For instance, if you lived in the penal days?’

‘I cannot answer for the past, Stephen replied. Possibly not.’

‘Then, said Cranly, you do not intend to become a protestant?’

‘I said that I had lost the faith, Stephen answered, but not that I had lost self-respect. What kind of liberation would that be to forsake an absurdity which is logical and coherent and to embrace one which is illogical and incoherent?'

(James Joyce – A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Chapter V)