Sunday, February 26, 2012

`Nothing Better Than a Waste of Energy'

“Make us alive to what does not exist—
Our sufferance to live so unaware
Of all that we have missed.”

Preternaturally early maturity. Athletic prowess. An easy way with foreign languages. Drive. The best schools and unlimited pocket money. A positive attitude. School spirit. Clubbability. Good bones. A gift for music. Leadership potential. Suavity, charm, charisma. Early, effortless sobriety.

Some of the best things in life never happen, fortunately. Fate? More like dumb luck. Success can spell failure. Most of us haven’t the faintest notion what’s best for us, though we’re certain we know what we want.

The lines above are from Deborah Warren’s "Absences." Edmund Gosse writes in Sir Thomas Browne (1905):

“We must do our daily round of duty; we may polish the bits of intellectual ornament which are our innocent occasional pastime, we may take refuge from the sad pressure of infinity in speculation, but to strive and cry, or to exaggerate the importance of things around us, or of ourselves, or of the world itself, would be nothing better than a waste of energy.”



Edmund Gosse single-handedly damaged Browne's reputation for many years with his vitriolic book, in particular his condemnation of Browne's role attending the 1665 Bury Saint Edmund's witch-trial. Probably the least reliable assessment of all literary criticism ever written on Browne, almost every page of it glowers with inferiority and jealousy of Browne's superior intellect.

elberry said...

The lucky ones are also too often superficial and unremarkable, save for their luck. Consider the usefulness of curses.