The myth of Sisyphus is surely the easiest of all ancient parables to relate to. Every human life consists, in a sense, in waging an unwinnable war against gravity. From apocalyptic seismic upheavals to surgically unalterable sagging tits, the weakest of the universe's fundamental forces has her way with us all in the end. Still, it comes as a surprise - call me naive - to find oneself suddenly at the bottom of the anthill one has spent so many years laboriously climbing. I think in this situation it would be better to be an ant. I suspect that individual ants are fairly resigned to their lot in life, whereas I am not.
Mao Zedong's ascent to total power was enabled by the manner in which he turned a long series of defeats, retreats and retrenchments to his advantage. History has not, of course, been kind to Mao but he surely lived the dream in his own lifetime. It's not that I think I'm Mao or anything but they're not feeding me lithium yet, so I am still capable of fantasising that somehow I will yet snatch victory, or at least continence, from the jaws of defeat. Do I have the stomach, or the arsehole, for another assault on the anthill? I don't know.
Thank all the gods in whom I do not believe for giving me a hobby. When I was a child my profoundest wish was to be old and rich enough to be able to add a specimen of Conus gloriamaris to my shell collection. When I was old and rich enough, I found that I no longer wanted one. This constant failure of one's means to satisfy one's aspirations is another of life's bitter lessons. I have found however - and this may be my salvation - that the urge to collect, cultivate and share as many as possible of the world's plants has become a consuming passion that I hope will burn as ferociously as it does now, for the rest of my life.