Monday, June 26, 2023

Prodigious and Portentous and Immeasurable Affair'

 The most usefully pragmatic writing tips I’ve encountered can be found in “Writing on the Brain,” a book review by Joseph Epstein in the April 2004 issue of Commentary:


“I was recently asked what it takes to become a writer. Three things, I answered: First, one must cultivate incompetence at almost every other form of profitable work. This must be accompanied, second, by a haughty contempt for all the forms of work that one has established one cannot do. To these two must be joined, third, the nuttiness to believe that other people can be made to care about your opinions and views and be charmed by the way you state them. Incompetence, contempt, lunacy – once you have these in place, you are set to go.”

'One's Own Struggle Goes On.'

A reader has discovered, without realizing the writer’s identity, these lines from Oliver Goldsmith’s “The Traveller; or, a Prospect of Society” (1764): 

“How small of all that human hearts endure

That part which laws or kings can cause or cure!

Still to ourselves in every place consign’d,

Our own felicity we make or find.”

“What makes for freedom is not the extent of government or its lack of national boundaries but the way in which government is exercised. If there were a world government, why wouldn’t it simply end up as a world tyranny?” 

Humans crave power over other humans. It’s in our fallen nature to control, to impose our will on others, often in the name of some fashionable form of benevolence. War, slavery and rape are rooted in the same impulse. Quoted above is Jeremy Rabkin in his essay “Liberty and the Nation State,” collected in Liberty and Civilization: The Western Heritage (ed. Roger Scruton, 2010). He notes that even men as brilliant as Kant and Einstein touted various schemes of world government. Supporters of such intrigues tend to fall into one of two vast, overlapping camps: the naïve and the thuggish, idealists and criminals. Rabkin puts it rather nicely: “So the U.N. has contributed almost nothing to the advancement of freedom in the world.” And we have learned nothing from the twentieth century.

Prodigious and Portentous and Immeasurable Affair'