In the Zoological Garden there is always something new and something old that you had previously missed. There the quaint little absurdity was, all that long while, as ready to be seen as to-day, but you never saw him.
In my younger years, my father told me, “Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” In consequence, I’m inclined to reserve all judgement, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores.
I have always taken it for granted that pockets are places to put things into and have stuffed my pockets with anything that would go into them. My inside breast pocket, stuffed with unanswered letters, may make a bulge that suggests malformation; but I dress for use, not for beauty.
Wellington is said to have chosen his officers by their noses and chins. The lines of one’s noses are more or less arranged for one at birth. A baby, born with a snub nose, would be no use to Wellington. Even if he arrived in the world with a Roman nose, he might smash it up in childhood, and with it his chances of military fame.
Most mothers try to build for their husbands an authority in the family and tell their children to ask the permission of them. But mothers often set aside their decision, on condition that they are too severe or too generous. There is a very general tendency in America for the parent first approached to put the burden of decision on the other.
There are times in every man’s experience when some sudden widening of the boundaries of his knowledge has come and bring new life. The history of mankind has its parallels to these moments of illumination in the life of the individual. There are times when the boundaries of human experience suddenly widen themselves and the spirit of man leaps forward.
Science may be defined as the reduction of multiplicity to unity. Science seeks to explain the endless diverse phenomena of nature by ignoring the uniqueness of particular events, concentrating on what they have in common and abstracting some kind of “law.” Isaac Newton perceived what very dissimilar phenomena had in common and formulated a theory of gravitation.
No man can work long at any trade without being brought to consider much whether that which he is doing tends to evil or to good. Many writers of novels have also such thought. There is still wanting to them a just appreciation of the excellence of their calling, and an understanding of the high nature of the work.
For the sea as a whole, the alternation of day and night, the passage of the seasons, the procession of the years, are lost in its vastness. But Crossed by colours, lights, and shadows, sparkling in the sun, mysterious in the twilight, its aspects and moods vary hour by hour.
The world of art and literature and learning is international. What is done in one country is done for mankind. Those who wish to see mankind fruitful in the work which men can do will pay little attention to national boundaries and nationalities.
The most obvious way in which birds differ from men is that they can do all they have to do without being taught. An activity of flight comes untaught to birds for all its astonishing complexities. There is no instruction by the old in flight and no imitation by the young.
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all art and science. The insight into the mystery of life has given rise to religion. To know or to feel that what is impenetrable to us exists, is at the center of true religiousness.
The mind of youth is a room without an escape. Suddenly the shutters are drawn and the youth looks out onto the light and landscape of the real world. Some time after another window is opened and the world is seen from another aspect. And then windows are open on every side of the mind and the whole universe is visible to the enquiring eye.
Youth is like spring but rarely favoured and more remarkable for biting east winds than genial breezes. Autumn is the mellower season and we more than gain in fruits. Dr. Johnson placed the pleasures of old age far higher than that of youth. True, in old age we live under the shadow of death, but we chance it without much misgiving.
You can’t have your cake and eat it. This is putting the fact that you can’t use the same resources to produce two separate things at the same time. You have to choose which is your use, in the knowledge that you have given up all the other alternatives.
When I was about ten years old, my father intended to have me taught music. He expected a boy to excel in school work. He held that all children should be taught to play on something, and sing. But I had no ear for music. When I said I couldn’t sing, he said nonsense.
An English novelist asked me how old I thought she was. I replied thirty-eight, but she said she was forty-three. And then she asked me how old I was. Women imagine that men have no reticences and no vanities. What an error! I told my age to her curiosity and then afterwards the fact of my age remained with me, worried me, obsessed me.
“I’m too happy!” she murmured. She had everything. She was young and Harry and she were as much in love as ever and she had an adorable baby. They didn’t have to worry about money and they had this satisfactory house and garden and friends.
It occurred to Dora that she ought to give up her seat to the elderly lady who could then sit next to her friend. She felt the blood rushing to her face. While admitting that she ought to give up her seat, she might simply not do so out of pure selfishness. Not to give up her seat would be better than what would have been the case if it hadn’t occurred to her that she ought give up her seat.
An old lady was walking down the middle of a street to the great confusion of the traffic. It was pointed out that the pavement was the place for foot-passengers, but she replied: “I’m going to walk where I like. I’ve got liberty now.” It did not occur to her that the end of such liberty would be universal chaos.
All arts aspire to the condition of music. In music alone, the artist can appeal to his audience directly without the intervention of a medium of communication. The architect expresses himself by buildings, the poet by using words and the painter by the representation of the visible world. Only the composer of music is perfectly free to create his work of art with no other aim than to please.
Excursions into the literature of a foreign country much resemble our travels abroad. Sights that are taken for granted by the inhabitants seem to us astonishing. We seek out what is most unlike what we are used to and proceed to lavish upon it a credulous devotion, to build up upon it a structure of theory.
No one can look at the history of Western civilization during the present century without feeling dismayed at the spectacles of what modern man has done. Not only have we failed to realize the ideals of the nineteenth century, we are conscious of worse dangers to come.
Once upon a time I went for a week’s holiday on the Continent with an Indian friend. When the week was over, he was plunged in despair. “Buck up,” I said. He refused to buck up, and I left him plunged in gloom.
She was a tiny old woman and her face was deeply furrowed. She wore a wig and was heavily made up and dressed in gay clothes. She wore girlish hats and very small smart shoes with very high heels. Her appearance was so grotesque that people stared at her with open mouths.
Human beings, ever since their fathers invented language, have allowed themselves to be dominated by tradition. Even in the most progressive age, our activity is, and must be, based upon tradition. We can only rise above them by standing on their shoulders.
Our constant companion and playmate in those days was a dog. One summer evening the shepherd was trying to induce the sheep to move homewards. A strange-looking lame dog suddenly appeared on the scene. The dog drove the sheep straight home. After thus earning his supper, he established himself at our house.
When two foreigners understand the other’s language perfectly, a language difficulty arises which is beyond the difference of language itself. There is inevitably a collision of backgrounds, of tradition, of environment, which each language carries with it. To understand, each has to enter into the mental landscape, the history, the stage-setting of the other’s mentality.