The disappearance of nations would have impoverished us no less than if all men had become alike, with one personality and one face. Nations are the wealth of mankind, its collective personalities; the very least of them wears its own special colours and bears within itself a special facet of divine intention.
(Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Nobel Lecture in Literature, 1970).
“Man is more interesting than men. God made him and not them in his image.”
How would you define a stable community?
You’ve got to have people who talk to each other a lot and who have experiences in common. In a settled farming community old friends get together to work and one thing they do is tell each other again the stories they already know. This is a complex community function. They celebrate their old acquaintance in that way, they celebrate themselves. They alert each other to the realities of their lives and their history. And the effect that it has on story-telling is that it improves the stories.
But the stories in the media today cater to the wish people have for everything to be new. That’s very much the emphasis in our arts today, for example. That’s not different at all from the Madison Avenue ideal that thrives on the establishment and immediate wearing out of fashions and fads. Any culture building itself on this kind of novelty is bound to run thin.
(Wendell Berry; quoted in “Wendell Berry: Farmer, Ecologist and Author,” Mother Earth News, March/April 1973).
In reading the recently published letters of Edward Fitzgerald, we cannot fail to be struck with the amount of unmixed pleasure he derived from his books, merely because he approached them with such instinctive honesty and singleness of purpose. He was perfectly frank in his satisfaction, and he was wholly innocent of any didactic tendency. Those subjects which he confessed he enjoyed because he only partly understood them, “just as the old women love sermons,” he refrained from interpreting to his friends; those “large, still books,” like “Clarissa Harlowe,” for which he shared all Tennyson’s enthusiasm, he forbode to urge upon less leisurely readers. And what a world of meaning in that single line, “For human delight, Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Scott!” For human delight! The words sound like a caress; a whole sunny vista opens before us; idleness and pleasure lure us gently on; a warm and mellow atmosphere surrounds us; we are invited, not driven, to be happy. I cannot but compare Fitzgerald reading Scott “for human delight,” in the quiet winter evenings, with a very charming old gentleman whom I recently saw working conscientiously — so I thought — through Tolstoi’s “War and Peace.” He sighed a little when he spoke to me, and held up the book for inspection. “My daughter-in-law sent it to me,” he explained, resignedly, “and said I must be sure to read it. But,” — this with a sudden sense of gratitude and deliverance, — “thank Heaven! one volume was lost on the way.”
(Agnes Repplier, “Literary Shibboleths,” The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. LXV, No. 391, 1890, pp. 637–638).
I once knew, without knowing, an old man whom I saw on the bus every day at the same time when I was studying at the University of San Francisco after the War. This fellow always crouched in the back of the bus and muttered to himself: ‘Don’t give your money to her; put your money in the bank; don’t give it to her; put it in the bank.’ This was not, as some shallow people insist, a mark of insanity. Talking in this way to yourself is a last grip on sanity. Old people do this very often because there is nobody who cares to talk to them. Communication is identically intellection in man. The poor devil who is forced to live alone necessarily invents an alter ego and he carries on a lively dialogue with this self-created puppet who is the last moving shadow on the backdrop of his consciousness, separating him from the loneliness of insanity.
(Frederick D. Wilhelmsen, “Sign, Faith and Society,” Faith & Reason, Vol. XX, No. 2, Summer 1994).
When princes condescend to emerge from their miserable systems of etiquette it is never in favour of a man of merit, but of a wench or a buffoon. When women forget themselves it is never for love of an honest man but of a rascal. In short when people break the yoke of public opinion, it is rarely to rise above it, nearly always to descend below it.
(Nicolas de Chamfort, The Cynic’s Breviary. London: Elkin Mathews, 1902, p. 46).
We may deny or venerate the ideas of religion, it makes no difference; the fact remains that these ideas are, whether true or false, the sole bases of all lasting institutions.
(Joseph de Maistre; quoted in Thomas Molnar, Bernanos. New York: Sheed and Ward, 1960, p. 29).