Fickle as a Prince

[T]he prince must consider…how to avoid those things which make him hated or contemptible….It makes him contemptible to be considered fickle, frivolous, effeminate, mean-spirited, irresolute, from all of which a prince should guard himself as from a rock.

—Nicolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Fickle as Donald Trump

Come on, admit it–you knew this one was inevitable.

It isn’t so much that he is a strict disciple of radical ideology, but rather that he is devoid of fixed principles, willing to do anything and everything to gain fame, fortune and power. He has an endless, consuming need for perpetual affirmation. This is a bully who just wants to be liked, a man-boy nursing a nagging internal emptiness. 

He is fickle and spoiled and rotten.

–Charles M. Blow, “Donald Trump, Terroristc Man-Toddler” (Article)

Fickle as a Woman, Part Infinity

Marinus gazes at the easy-to-swallow pill.

My evoked heart in my evoked body beats a little faster. 

I look back. Jonah puts a glass of Evian water by the dish.

“Thank you.” Still bleary, Marinus picks up the pill.

I look away. Swallow it, I think. Swallow it whole.

“No worries,” says Jonah, unworriedly, as if our metalives aren’t dependent on this fickle woman doing as he bids her.

–David Mitchell, Slade House

Fickle as a Narrator Demeaning a Rape Victim

Wow, Nabokov really knew how to create the most atrocious characters simply by letting them speak in his fiction. This quote comes from Pale Fire. Note that the gender of the “young creature” is most likely male. The fact that it’s hard to figure out the victim’s gender suggests that such details are less important to rape culture than whether victims are some combination of young, vulnerable, and/or forgettable.

I now felt a new, pitiful tenderness toward the poem as one has for a fickle young creature who has been stolen and brutally enjoyed by a black giant but now again is safe in our hall and park, whistling with the stableboys, swimming with the tame seal.

Fickle as Want

Rereading the paper afterward, I found the authors warning that doctors would sometimes have to go farther than just interpreting people’s wishes in order to serve their needs. Wants are fickle. And everyone has what philosophers call “second-order desires”–desires about our desires. We may wish, for instance, to be less impulsive, more healthy, less controlled by primitive desires like fear or hunger, more faithful to larger goals. Doctors who listen to only the momentary, first-order desires may not be serving their patients’ real wishes, after all….At some point, therefore, it becomes not only right but also necessary for a doctor to deliberate with people on their larger goals, to even challenge them to rethink ill-considered priorities and beliefs.

–Atul Gawande, Being Mortal

Fickle as Charcoal

I don’t know, Hypothetical Corinthian Woman Who Drew a Portrait of Her Lover and Thus Invented Art. I kinda like the impermanent feel of charcoal…

Jan Blencowe, “Landscape with Castle”

Pencils are all very well, but our Corinthian artist would probably have rejected graphite. She was, we can assume, not out for profit but for permanence, and she was most likely looking for a nice stable ink instead of a fickle charcoal or an erasable pencil. Ink would be far more symbolic of the longevity of her love and, of course, would also be particularly useful for writing letters to her sailor on his foreign travels.

–Victoria Finlay, Color: A Natural History of the Palette