Moreover many kinds of beauty require that a man should take himself more seriously than is possible for an intelligent modern. A prominent citizen in a small city State, such as Athens or Florence, could without difficulty feel himself important. The earth was the center of the Universe, man was the purpose of creation, his own city showed man at his best, and he himself was among the best of his own city. In such circumstances Æschylus or Dante could take his own joys or sorrows seriously. He could feel that the emotions of the individual matter, and that tragic occurrences deserve to be celebrated in immortal verse. But the modern man, when misfortune assails him, is conscious of himself as a unit in a statistical total; the past and the future stretch before him in a dreary procession of trivial defeats. Man himself appears as a somewhat ridiculous strutting animal, shouting and fussing during a brief interlude between infinite silences.The essay was written in 1930.
Sunday, December 05, 2010
Several events in my life over the past few weeks repeatedly reminded me of this thought from Russell's essay, On Youthful Cynicism: