Contrary to the Ordinary Way of the World

‘And in general Cato esteemed the customs and manners of men at that time so corrupt, and a reformation in them so necessary, that he thought it requisite, in many things, to go contrary to the ordinary way of the world. Seeing the lightest and gayest purple was then most in fashion, he would always wear that which was the nearest black; and he would often go out of doors, after his morning meal, without either shoes or tunic; not that he sought vain-glory from such novelties, but he would accustom himself to be ashamed only of what deserves shame, and to despise all other sorts of disgrace.’

Plutarch, ‘Life of Cato the Younger’, Parallel Lives, translated by John Dryden.


”Dishonour is what becomes a poet, not titles or acclaim.’

She looked startled, not perhaps so much at what he’d said as at his expressing an opinion at all.

‘What makes you say that, Luke?’ What indeed! Feelings and instincts were stirring to become thoughts so that he could express what was bursting to be said.

‘A poet must be contercurrent to the flow around him. That’s what poetry is: the other way of feeling and looking at the world. There’s the world as it is, I mean everything that keeps most people content and busy, becoming whatever they can – doctors lawyers, politicians, priests, tradesmen, and so on, and as well, of course, husbands and wives with families. And however much they may disagree over things like politics or religion, they’re all intent in keeping the whole thing intact and functioning.”

Francis Stuart, Black List, Section H.


‘Faith embraces many apparently contradictory truths, ‘a time to weep and a time to laugh,’ etc., ‘answer, answer not.’ The origin of this is in the union of the two natures in Christ. And also the two new worlds. The creation of a new heaven and a new earth. New life, new death. Everything duplicated and the same names remaining. And finally the two men who are in the righteous. For they are the two worlds, and a member and image of Christ. Thus all the names fit them: righteous sinners; living dead; dead living; reprobate elect, etc.’

Blaise Pascal, Pensées, translated by A. J. Krailsheimer.