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Rendering unto Caesar

According to legend – or rather Plutearch’s Life of Caesar – Julius Caesar used the phrase “Veni, vidi, vici” [translation: “I came, I saw, I conquered”] in a report to his friend Amantius after achieving a swift victory during his war against Pharnaces II of Pontus at the Battle of Zela in 67 BC.

In the context of the human race’s transitory domination of the Earth, of course, history, legend – and indeed Caesar – got it wrong because nothing is ever certain or indeed permanent.

Because our understanding and appreciation of Time is inevitably limited, not to mention confined, by the human lifespan we find it nigh impossible to ‘take on board’ the (in terms of our perception) the apparently limitless scale and physical laws of the Universe.

I was reminded of this recently when beholding the horrendous fire that engulfed Notre Dame in Paris.

In bald terms, the world’s media trotted out the notion that the great Parisian cathedral had first seen the light of day about a thousand years ago.

One then found oneself imagining being alongside those who worked upon its foundations and the circumstances in which they had lived during their (compared to that of we 21st Century humans) brief period of existence, beginning with the realisation that only another thousand years previous to that Jesus Christ himself had been walking about on the planet and turning water into wine when the booze ran out at a party.

When I contemplate the issues that obsess those living in the modern world – e.g. poverty; Brexit; gender identification; LGBT rights; political correctness; climate change; a ‘living wage’; food banks; fracking; relegation from the Premier League; equality of opportunity; and our inalienable right – sorry perhaps that should be ‘entitlement’ – to enjoy such benefits as smartphones, cars, broadband internet, online shopping, package holidays three times per annum to foreign climes, somewhere to call home, parental leave, income tax relief or exemption, a free at the point of contact national health service, hundreds of television channels, attendances at major sporting events, a road and rail transport system allowing us a near limitless capacity to visit places and people, dedicated cycling lanes, authorities that deal with unwelcome factors such as crime, violence and anti-social behaviour for us, bank holidays and sewerage and rubbish-disposal systems that take away that which we don’t need or use anymore so that we can conveniently forget about them – just occasionally they ‘present’ as all being rather trite, petty, ridiculous and even irrelevant in the ongoing wider picture.

Like this week, for example, when – in the wake of a major David Attenborough documentary, the Extinction Rebellion protests in central London and the hullabaloo over the forthcoming (and now arrival of the) new Royal baby – a rather disturbing United Nations report comes out …

See here for a report by Jonathan Watts, Global environment editor, that features today upon the website of – THE GUARDIAN


About Lavinia Thompson

A university lecturer for many years, both at home and abroad, Lavinia Thompson retired in 2008 and has since taken up freelance journalism. She is currently studying for a distant learning degree in geo-political science and lives in Norwich with her partner. More Posts