There are certain things in which mediocrity is intolerable: poetry, music, painting, public eloquence. What torture it is to hear a frigid speech being pompously declaimed, or second-rate verse spoken with all a bad poet's bombast.
Suffering is by no means a privilege, a sign of nobility, a reminder of God. Suffering is a fierce, bestial thing, commonplace, uncalled for, natural as air. It is intangible; no one can grasp it or fight against it; it dwells in time / is the same thing as time; if it comes in fits and starts, that is only so as to leave the sufferer more defenseless during the moments that follow, those long moments when one relives the last bout of torture and waits for the next.
But let's be clear. We're talking about a country where there's no opposition. As leader he can ignore Parliament and - sorry that's Tony Blair isn't it? Um, so he doesn't even have to ask the country before he goes to war - sorry that's still Tony Blair. No, the difference is Saddam rules Iraq through a combination of terror and brutality, backed up by a vicious regime of intimidation and torture - or is that David Blunkett? As absolute ruler Saddam recently claimed 100% victory in a Presidential Election."
What has here happened is that the instinct of cruelty, which has turned inwards, has become self-torture, and all mans animal instincts have been reinterpreted as guilt towards God. Every Nay man utters to his nature, to his real being, he flings out as a Yea, an affirmation of reality applied to Gods sanctity
Within a system which denies the existence of basic human rights, fear tends to be the order of the day. Fear of imprisonment, fear of torture, fear of death, fear of losing friends, family, property or means of livelihood, fear of poverty, fear of isolation, fear of failure. A most insidious form of fear is that which masquerades as common sense or even wisdom, condemning as foolish, reckless, insignificant or futile the small, daily acts of courage which help to preserve man's self-respect and inherent human dignity. It is not easy for a people conditioned by fear under the iron rule of the principle that might is right to free themselves from the enervating miasma of fear. Yet even under the most crushing state machinery courage rises up again and again, for fear is not the natural state of civilized man.
If I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul.
I would also want a God who would not allow a Hell. Infinite torture can only be a punishment for infinite evil, and I don't believe that infinite evil can be said to exist even in the case of Hitler. Besides, if most human governments are civilized enough to try to eliminate torture and outlaw cruel and unusual punishments, can we expect anything less of an all-merciful God?
I feel that if there were an afterlife, punishment for evil would be reasonable and of a fixed term. And I feel that the longest and worst punishment should be reserved for those who slandered God by inventing Hell.
The act of love strongly resembles torture or surgery.
I am so superstitious that if I had arrived when there was no sunshine I should have been wretched and most anxious until after my first performance. It is a perfect torture to be superstitious to this degree, and, unfortunately for me, I am ten times more so now than I was in those days, for besides the superstitions of my own country, I have, thanks to my travels, added to my stock all the superstitions of other countries. I know them all now, and in any critical moment of my life, they all rise up in armed legions for or against me. I cannot walk a single step or make any movement or gesture, sit down, go out, look at the sky or ground, without feeling some reason for hope or despair, until at last, exasperated by the trammels put upon my actions by my thought, I defy all superstitions and just act as I want to act.
I stumbled, slipped... and all was gone
That I had gained. Once more I lay
Before the long bright Hell of ice.
And still the light was far away.
There was red mist before my eyes
Or I could tell you how I went
Across the swaying firmament,
A glittering torture of cold stars,
And how I fought in Titan wars...
And died... and lived again upon
The rack... and how the horses strain
When their red task is nearly done. . .
I only know that there was Pain,
Infinite and eternal Pain.
And that I fell and rose again.
I crawled. I could not speak or see
Save dimly. The ice glared like fire,
A long bright Hell of choking cold,
And each vein was a tautened wire,
Throbbing with torture and I crawled.
My hands were wounds.
So I attained
The second Hell.
Our Constitution, by its separation of powers and its system of checks and balances, acts as a restraint upon efficiency by denying exclusive power to any branch of government. The logic of governmental efficiency, unchecked, runs straight on, not only to dictatorship, but also to torture, assassination, and other abominations.