“One very vile habit”

There is one very vile habit that the pedants have, and that is explaining to a man why he does a thing when the man himself can explain quite well — and quite differently.  If I go down on all-fours to find sixpence, it annoys me to be told by a passing biologist that I am really doing it because my remote ancestors were quadrupeds.  I concede that he knows all about biology, or even a great deal about my ancestors; but I know he is wrong, because he does not know about the sixpence.  If I climb a tree after a stray cat, I am unconvinced when a stray anthropologist tells me that I am doing it because I am essentially arboreal and barbaric.  I happen to know why I am doing it; and I know it is because I am amiable and somewhat over-civilised.  Scientists will talk to a man on general guess-work about things that they know no more about than about his pocket-money or his pet cat.  Religion is one of them, and all the festivals and formalities that are rooted in religion.  Thus a man will tell me that in keeping Christmas I am not keeping a Christmas feast, but a pagan feast.  This is exactly as if he told me that I was not feeling furiously angry, but only a little sad.  I know how I am feeling all right; and why I am feeling it.  I know this in the case of cats, sixpences, anger, and Christmas Day.  When a learned man tells me that on the 25th of December I am really astronomically worshipping the sun, I answer that I am not.  I am practicing a particular personal religion, the pleasures of which (right or wrong) are not in the least astronomical.  If he says that the cult of Christianity and the cult of Apollo are the same, I answer that they are utterly different; and I ought to know for I have held both of them.  I believed in Apollo when I was quite little; and I believe in Christmas now that I am very, very big.

Illustrated London News, 1 January 1910.

Published in: on December 7, 2011 at 8:21 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. spoken like a true republican, who doesn’t want to know the truth about anything, and substitutes only what he wishes were so.

  2. Spoken like a true bot?


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