“Not practical people”

Most of those who profess to remove all international differences are not practical people. Most of the phrases offered for the reconciliation of severally patriotic peoples are entirely serious and even solemn phrases. But human conversation is not conducted in those phrases. The normal man on nine occasions out of ten is rather a flippant man. And the normal man is almost always the national man. Patriotism is the most popular of all the virtues. The drier sort of democrats who despise it have the democracy against them in every country in the world. Hence their international efforts seldom go any farther than to effect an international reconciliation of all internationalists.

What I Saw In America (1921).

Published in: on January 25, 2017 at 1:01 am  Leave a Comment  

“Spendthrifts of happiness”

The two great parties in human affairs are only the party which sees life black against white, and the party which sees it white against black, the party which macerates and blackens itself with sacrifice because the background is full of the blaze of an universal mercy, and the party which crowns itself with flowers and lights itself with bridal torches because it stands against a black curtain of incalculable night. The revellers are old, and the monks are young. It was the monks who were the spendthrifts of happiness, and we who are its misers.

Twelve Types (1903).

 

Published in: on January 19, 2017 at 12:38 am  Leave a Comment  

“They are in different universes”

Mr Stanley Lee, stepping out of his front door one fine day, may find two men wrestling for their lives…  He may afterwards discover that one of these persons firmly believes himself to be Azrael, the Angel of Death, while his opponent believes him to be an unfortunate gentleman escaped from medical care in a strictly guarded building in the neighbourhood. Now, it is useless for Mr Lee merely to blame both of them for fighting, or even to pity both of them for fighting. They are not engaged in any common activity at all. They do not exist, in any collective sense. They are in different universes. In one universe the Angel of Death is doing his duty and exercising his legitimate discretion, and a blasphemous anarchist is disputing his qualifications. In another universe a perspiring private citizen is trying ot master a bloody-minded maniac.

That is why there is war in Europe at the moment: simply because the Germans are as certain that they are the natural masters of mankind as we are certain that they aren’t. But it must be insistently noted that the quarrel is one about spirit and quality, and cannot be disputed by any discoveries about facts. The kind of madman who thinks he is an angel does not necessarily, or generally, think he has wings. Similarly, Germans do not actually think the Frenchmen have tails. But they do think that Frenchmen have the small vivacity and malice of monkeys; that they are a breed inferior to the German, in the same aboriginal sense as in the case of monkeys. And to this there is no answer except that Frenchmen do not think so; that persons conventionally considered sane and acquainted with Frenchmen do not think so; that, in fact, nobody in the world does think so, except the German who says so. But since, by his own hypothesis, he is the only person who is qualified to judge, of course he goes on saying it.

— Illustrated London News, 29 January 1916.

Published in: on January 15, 2017 at 5:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

“Though it is spiritual, it is also solid”

I always thought as a boy that the great objection to finding the North Pole was that even when you found it you could not see it. My fancies fluttered rather round something that one probably would be able to see if one came close to it — such as the Matterhorn. Nor do I even now think the distinction unphilosophical. Like all men who have grown more orthodox and doctrinal about religion, my mind has broadened since those days; and I have a sympathy with physical science that I could not feel when I thought it was destructive and victorious. I see now that the North Pole really is interesting. But I think still that the only real interest of it, which is a mathematical and astronomical interest, can be got quite as well without the Pole being seen, or even being discovered. There is an intellectual fascination about the spot that is neither East nor West, which is almost as entrancing as the castle in the fairy-tale that was east of the sun and west of the moon. There is a mental significance in the one minute spot that is motionless in universal motion, which is full of religious allegory. But all this sort of interest a man can get as well by turning a globe in a school-room as he could by sailing with Admiral Peary. But it is not true that all the interest and the poetry of the Matterhorn can be got as well by reading about its heights in a geography book in a school-room as it could be by going to look at it where it stands. The first pleasure is purely abstract; the second is rather a sort of sacrament: that is to say, that, though it is spiritual, it is also solid.

Illustrated London News, 10 January 1914.

Published in: on January 12, 2017 at 12:26 am  Leave a Comment  

“The object of a New Year”

The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective. Unless a man starts on the strange assumption that he has never existed before, it is quite certain that he will never exist afterwards. Unless a man be born again, he shall by no means enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

— The Daily News.

Published in: on January 4, 2017 at 12:03 pm  Leave a Comment