Jun 12, 2011
From Gibbon's "Memoirs of my life" - 2
If you think I like slashing up people, verbally or otherwise, you are mistaken, though there are exceptions, and I have some favourite writers who were very good at it and generally are a joy to read, also apart from satire
But this was just to sketch in
background, as I today return to more quotes from Edward Gibbon's Memoirs
of my life (*), who was a great historian, a
great writer, and who
had an excellent mind and wit, who was
- also - good in epigrams, which is one reason, among many
others, why you should read all of The
History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in an edition which has all of the footnotes,
in which some of his best epigrams are found, including my
and today I simply continue
quoting and commenting, and I quote by indenting:
As often as I was tolerably exempt from danger and pain, reading, free desultory reading, was the employment and comfort of my solitary hours. (p. 71)
It's the same for me, and the
reason Gibbon speaks of "danger
and pain" is that he seems to have
had a rather awful childhood, full of disease. Then again, this is the
only way to escape your own environment and time, and meet other minds
and unusual ideas and values, and indeed also folks who reason more
like you do or can than those in your own social environment do or can.
A state of happiness arising only from the want of foresight and reflection shall never provoke my envy; such degenerate taste would tend to sink us in the scale of beings from a man to a child, a dog, and an oyster, till we had reached the confines of brute matter, which cannot suffer, because it cannot feel. (p. 73)
I have two somewhat
philosophical remarks on this, the first touching on human and
especially on animal rights, that my countrymen - the Dutch - and I
mean here, of course: animal rights,
not human rights, have grown
very fond of the last decades, indeed to the extent of having The Party
Of Animals in the Zoo of moral misfits and willing servants of
Dutch drugs mafia (<- Dutch link) that is the Dutch Parliament:
and then the great Dr. Johnson
(who did not much love Gibbon, nor did Gibbon much love him, but they
did know each other and did meet) on the subject of the capacity for
"Sir, that all who are happy, are equally happy, is not true. A peasant and a philosopher may be equally satisfied, but not equally happy. Happiness consists in the multiplicity of agreeable consciousness. A peasant has not the capacity for having equal happiness with a philosopher."
And similar with a pig, dove,
chicken, yea even a dog or cat, while
indeed, to return to so trivial and unimportant a subject as human
happiness, that some - Epicurus,
Lucretius, the Founding Fathers of the
American Constitution, John
Mill, to name some, considered the central
value for a human
A school is the cavern of fear and sorrow: the mobility of the captive youths is chained to a book and a desk; an inflexible master commands their attention, which every moment is patient to escape. They labour, like the soldiers of Persia, under the scourge (**); and their education is nearly finished before they can apprehend the sense or utility of the harsh lessons which they are forced to repeat. Such blind and absolute dependence may be necessary, but can never be delightful. Freedom is the first wish of our heart; freedom is the first blessing of our nature; and, unless we bind ourselves with the voluntary chains of interest or passion, we advance in freedom as we advance in years. (p.74-5)
Indeed, as to education in
ordinary schools: That is also how it
appeared to me when I was seven or so, and how it appeared to Woutertje
Pieterse and Multatuli as
well: A complete waste of time, except
perhaps for the really stupid.
A composition of genius must be the work of one mind (p. 80)
Quite so. No committee, no
congregation, no corporate
write like Shakespeare, reason like Newton, or paint like Da Vinci: Everything of true human
excellence is individual excellence.
Dr. Winchester well remembered that he had a salary to receive, and only forgot that he had a duty to perform. (p.83)
He is like all Dutch
academics I have met in my life, except for three
or four: Hardly any of them cared for real science; almost
all were in
university because of the pay, the status, the ease of the work,
if male, the possibility of trading
course points for sexual favours of
female students, something
taught as highly laudable and moral by the
professor of ethics of the University of Amsterdam, who practised as he
preached, and got much satisfaction out of it.
Youth is sincere and impetuous (p. 86)
Indeed, much of the good and
much of the bad,
such as wars and revolutions, is done by young folks in their twenties,
fighting for ideals
- in which they may be much deceived, being
sincere and impetuous. It
is also true that, at least for ordinary men,
is insincere and constrained, which must be a main reason why
so many remember their childhood as happy, but not their adult lives,
even though they were then, in principle at least, much more free to
choose what they want.
(*) My source is: Edward Gibbon, Memoirs of my life, Edited with an Introduction by Betty Radice, Penguin English Library, 1984.
(**) Note from Memoirs of my life: "Xerxes' army were flogged as they worked to cut a channel through the isthmus of Mount Athos (Herodotus, VII, 22)."
P.S. Corrections, if any are necessary, have to be made later
As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):
Short descriptions of the above:
1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:
7. A space- and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
8. Malcolm Hooper puts things together status 2010.
9. I tell my story of surviving (so far) in Amsterdam with ME.
10. The directory on my site about ME.
See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources
The last has many files, all on my site to keep them accessible.
Maarten Maartensz (M.A. psy, B.A. phi)
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