When one writes, inevitably some passages just catch one's fancy, others have an endearing mischief, and yet others, because one conjured them up from much deeper in one's soul, are loved for that reason alone. Here are some of my favourites...
"Fatima was very distressed to be thus abandoned, and Duda, still in Botticelli’s workshop, and with Maria no longer around to guard him, offered her a shoulder to cry on. As she then warmed to his charms, he again promised eternal love, started consoling her with other parts of his anatomy apart from just his shoulder, and she too got pregnant."

"The fact is that we all live in worlds of our own creation, we all construct grand edifices, palaces (we think) of Truth and Certainty. But they are built using a framework of yarns, of narratives distorted by the retelling, cracked by mis-understanding, and plastered over with stale and ancient lies. We decorate them too, as we navigate our course through life, with pretty fictions to fool ourselves, and mislead others."

"If we regard experience as the fruit of the Tree of Life, then naming slices off part of the wave of this experience, its crest perhaps, as if it were an object. And to be sure it stays apart, we give it a collar with its name on, separating it from its body. This allows us to refer to it, but also seduces us into thinking it is separate from the rest of the wave that moves it to its climax and destruction, it leads us to forget the winds that raised the wave and frothed the crest, to be oblivious to the effects of storms and the tides, and in general ignore the way that ‘crest’ is part of the rest of eternity. No other connections to the crest of this wave are summoned into our minds unless specifically mentioned with other words… and Lucifer is sparing with such sunbeams… So, in short, naming inherently hinders us from understanding the crest in its wholeness." 

"Language is a gift, a magic wand to conjure obedient Truth from an unruly world, no? Should I not honour it rather than put it in doubt? Well, if for even a moment you believe that narrative is omnipotent, then use your words to describe the drifting emotions and wandering feelings of a lilting lute… and then compare it to those of a lyre! Measure in words the rhapsody of a stream dancing over pebbles with that of rainfall in the forest! Balance the scent of nutmeg beside that of cinnamon… If you want to explore the limits of his power, have Apollo, with his sunbeams, pick out some words from a dictionary and have him express these wonders to someone who has never before experienced them. You will find that the universe of experience is infinitely richer than any universe made of words. Apollo may rule the narrow realm of talk, exposition and confabulation, he may be master of the stories words can tell, but the unfathomable shade of life’s experience has another master, of whom Leonardo was utterly unaware."

"We are doing things the Christian way. Count them and you will see. We hung one of them there for each of the twelve disciples, twelve candles as it were, and a thirteenth for our good Lord Jesus. We are teaching them respect for the Gospels. What better way? Do you think instead we should shoot them? Bishop Fonseca says that gunpowder against Indians is incense to the Lord, so perhaps that would be more to your taste?"

"The conditions on the ships were terrible, and at least half of the captives died during the journey, and their poor bodies thrown unceremoniously overboard, where they floated on the crests of waves like my inked letters on this pale parchment."    

"Books can be wonderful, but one only has to open the jaws of any one of them to find the most intriguing things stuck between its teeth. A few morsels have perhaps been freshly cooked, but most will be the half-digested relics of the author’s last meal, for example: something someone left to disguise an inconvenient lie, a few old misunderstandings, an occasional wild and completely false assumption… all delicately flavoured with a sauce of false metaphors and optimistic connotations. The unwary reader may then be caught between these greedy jaws, and end their days still unaware they have become the unwitting fodder of the ouroboros of ignorance. ‘Ouroboros’? Don’t worry… I hadn’t heard of it before either, until Leonardo enlightened me. It is the legendary serpent that survives by eating its own tail. Or, I suppose, in this case, ‘tale’."

"We both know the Bible includes many passages justifying mass murder, your Grace – the dashing out of infants brains on rocks, the tearing out of unborn children from their mothers’ bellies, and we have seen how wicked men still use these passages for evil – I saw it for myself in Hispaniola. The Bible, like those who wrote it, is both good and bad, and it needs to repent of the malice that rises like smoke from its pages, instead of idly preaching that repentance is ours alone to do. And since it will not do so by itself, we need to help, by removing the corrupt, evil texts added by wicked men. Jesus did not tolerate such cruelty, nor should we – and having removed the evil, we should add the valuable texts that these same men in their wickedness excluded. Do this most dramatic, most courageous of actions, blow through the Bible’s pages like a cleansing hurricane, and we will see the most wonderful opportunities emerge for a better world."
"This was the missing stepping stone. Once I had it, I could cross the river. It was the missing stitch in Ariadne’s thread. The Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life, both were in sight, the four faces of Janus accounted for, and I elaborated a plan far more deadly and far more certain even than that of knife or poison. I knew how to get the most fearsome assassin of all to do it for me. Surrey fell in love with the idea of the portrait, placing his head within every noose that threaded my tale…"

"Madeira, Tenerife, Cabo Verde, Trinidade… it was as if these were stepping stones in the mighty river of the Ocean Sea, or clues in that featureless maze, stitches that showed the guiding path of Ariadne’s thread. So too is Truth, I reflected… tiny islands of a hidden, but infinite landscape glimpsed peeping from the depths, island ‘facts’ true or falsified that lead us to our beliefs. We never have it all, just spots here and there separated by large protean gaps, and it is from these meagre peeks that we have to imagine how our world really is… Someone of Moorish wisdom, and wiser than most historians once said, “We experience life as a continuity, and only after it falls away, after it becomes the past, do we see its discontinuities. The past, if there is such a thing, is mostly empty space, great expanses of nothing, in which significant persons and events float.”

"The first night of our becalming we had a brief tempest with lightning and thunder, but the second was flat calm, and we amused ourselves taking the advice of one who had crossed this mirror surface before. We allowed a row-boat to drift at the end of a long rope from our ship, partly filled with seawater. We erected above it a lantern to glow in the dark, and attracted by the promise of the light, these flying fish would glide into the boat, only to find they had no space now in this corral to rebuild their speed and launch themselves anew. They were trapped, and as the boat filled, they were sullied by their contact with the others, and then in the morning slain and eaten by those who had laid the trap. I suggested to Philip we name the row-boat ‘Chimera’, but he suggested the better name: ‘Truth’. It was, he said, the most monstrous of all those that fish."

"I was in despair, and gazed from my window in Hatfield at the virginal willow outside, graceful in the early autumn’s afternoon light. Beneath, though, slithering shadows from its fronds stained the grass, undulating in the breeze like serpents. It was as if this Medusa were now hoping to colonise the palace grounds, and then the world."


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"As a sculptor I know that the better one chisels at the angel to free it from its marble prison, to loosen it from its enslaving rock, the harder it is to see anything else within that block of stone that could have been waiting to be released. All other aspects of that ‘angel’ have by now turned to sand and dust, and have flown away into the creative shadows to be forgotten. All that is left… is a Trojan Horse filled with our prejudices and desires. Our chisels reveal only which ‘Truth’ we want to reveal…"

"When we then stare at our angelic revelation, the closer we hold our torch to it, the more detail we can see of the part we are examining. We think we are seeing more, but the closer the lantern the bigger the shadow the statue casts. It is not just what else it could have been that is thus obscured, but hidden too will be the parts on which the light does not shine… On our angel’s origin, its purpose, its context, how it affects those who see it, indeed everything else in creation, past, present and future. That is to say, the closer the light to our creation, to this mask of our presuppositions, to this Trojan Horse, the more expansive grows its surreptitious adumbration, and the further it spreads into the world beyond. Truth narrows our full experience to what we want to say, and thus is as inseparable from deceit as light is from shade.”   

"Perhaps there is nothing wrong with ambiguity? Perhaps ambiguous is how the world really is? Perhaps it is nature’s question mark for us to ponder? Certainly nature endows us with strong emotions when it is around. We may find fascination and pleasure in the almost amorphous forms offered by a sponge thrown at a wall, and welcome it as the doorway to invention. But if instead we see ambiguity as a threat, then the anxiety it offers is as no other.