Friday, December 05, 2008

Of Caesar and Smoking


As I casually take out the packet from the inside pocket of my coat, I reach to open it and just as casually supply my lips with a cigarette. Closing the packet, I suddenly notice the big, black letters glaring at me with the forceful imposition of one of those 'TOXIC' warning signs you get on jars containing harmful substances. I have noticed it before, yet never had I shed a penny of thought concerning it. Indeed, as I keep staring at it for an unusual amount of time, I am suddenly bombarded with images inside my head - most humorous ones in fact. I picture Julius Caesar on the banks of the river Rubicon with his 13th legion behind him. His gaze is somewhat subdued - pensive, with a tinge of sadness. His conscience is weighing upon him. Does it crush his determination though? Does it have the potential to subvert his lofty ambitions? Indeed, no. His conscience is more like a strongly constructed chariot proving feeble still as it slowly and clumsily sinks into the quicksand of his determination, disappearing from view - no glory, no regrets! Nothing but ambition! He looks up and sees the still waters of this frontier, beckoning him to march over it and immerse himself in a bloody affair - a path beset with peril! He breathes in the air, with all the freshness of daybreak, holds this fresh, pleasant air hostage momentarily in his lungs, and for an instant looks up at the grey, wintry sky - the heavens obscured by smoky cloudiness! He holds this posture for a second or two, and abruptly though still with imperious dignity, he bows his head and closes his eyes with the intensity of a child playing hide-and-seek, and he sighs in resoluteness and determination! Behold this resoluteness! do not think one of its various nuances does not represent the tempting, tasty, creamy colour of submission! But Caesar - equally a Cicero and a dirty shepherd - as any human would traverse far and wide, overturn the earth if needs be to find his Mount Sinai! Oh, escapism - the most indomitable whim, a force of raw brutality! Immanent to even great Caesar!

Caesar still stands there - determined and brave. Sober-faced as a Roman bust, he eyes the horizon, and contemplates the lands beyond the river. His decision is now set in stone: he is to cross the Rubicon - a most certain war at stake! It'll be a journey, a formidable challenge!
He appropriates a trumpet and hails the men with a piercing blast - Advance!
He sets out to cross the river when suddenly, as though struck by Jove he stops and stands dead still. Right on the bank of the river, a sign is placed, on which big, black letters are warning the ambitious:

Danger!
Deep Water
Competent Swimmers Only!

Caesar, dumbfounded, staggers about - a frown clearly visible on his face, exposing his bewilderment and inadequacy. Slowly - the stupid expression not once departing from his face -he looks back at his men, who are all staring at him - their faces stony and cold.
'Is this a joke?' Caesar asks, still terribly confused.

I light up the cigarette clutched between my lips. One last look at the packet and the writing in big, black letters.
Ah Caesar, I know how it feels! Alea iacta est!


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