'At the risk of being written off as a spiritual wakey-wakey man, it is worth asserting that to tear one's fascinated gaze away from the raree-show of one's own dilemmas, to value Mr Pickwick higher than Raskolnikov, to try to be a bit pleasant occasionally, are aims worth making an effort for.'
That's Kingsley Amis, reviewing Colin Wilson's smash-hit existentialist primer The Outsider in 1956 (he was not impressed). Here he is again, on the Big Questions that Wilson's archetypal Outsider is forever ruminating:
'These, of course, are real questions, the most real questions. Are they? Admittedly, to ask oneself: "How am I to live?" is to ask something real, though even here it could be argued that the continual taking of moral decisions, a fairly common activity, needs no encrustation of internal catechising to make it valid. But it would be hard to attach any meaning, except as an expression of lunacy or amnesia, to: "Who am I?"'
Quite. The best answer to the question 'Who am I?' has always been 'Who's asking?'
As the dismal EU referendum 'debate' drags on, the broadcasters are understandably looking for new angles all the time. One result of this has been a number of looks back at the 1975 referendum, sometimes with accompanying archive - which has illustrated, if nothing else, that politicians' accents tended to be unashamedly posh in those days (no sign of the Blair-Osborne glottal stop) and that the standard of public discourse was rather higher, or at least more articulate. This morning on the Today programme, it was the 1975 Oxford Union referendum debate that was revisited, with archive of Peter Short in full flow and Ted Heath under full sail. What is seldom pointed out on these occasions is that in 1975 the UK was voting for something entirely different from what's on offer now - for continued membership of an eight-nation Economic Community, rather than a 28-nation, ever expanding pan-European political entity with hugely extended powers and the avowed aim of 'ever closer union'. The political ambitions of the Euro elite were already very much there in 1975 - they had been from the start - but a combination of hectoring and mendacity ensured that the voting public were not let in on what the 'economic community' was really about.
Ever since I ventured into the strange world of FaceBook, I have been targeted by a steady stream of irrelevant advertising. Mostly I just ignore it, but I always look out for the latest from my new hero and role model, the cravat-wearing supermale Stirling Gravitas. And I'm not the only one - these ads have become something of a cult. I assume I'm being targeted because of my advanced years, which is fine by me - keep 'em coming, Stirling!