Insist on yourself; never imitate. You can give your own gift any time with the accumulated power of a whole life's work. But if you copy someone else, you'll never have more than temporary half-ownership.
That which each can do best,
none but his Maker can teach him.
No one knows what it is, nor can they, till that person has expressed it. Where is the master who could have taught Shakespeare? Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Lincoln, or Kennedy?
Every great man is unique. The Kafkaesqueness of Kafka is precisely that part he couldn't borrow. Another Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare. Do what's assigned to you, and you can't hope too much or dare too much. Right now there is something for you to say as huge as the chisel of Michelangelo, or the trowel of the Egyptians, or the pen of Moses or Dante, but different from all of them.
A rich, eloquent soul with a thousand-branched tongue will never repeat itself. But if you can hear what these masters say, you can surely reply to them in the same tone of voice, because the ear and the tongue are two parts of the same whole. Live in the simple and noble regions of your life, obey your heart, and you'll recreate the Wonders of the Ages.
Fourth, as our religion, education, and art look abroad, so does the spirit of our society. Everyone prides himself on the improvement of our society, and no one improves.
Society never advances.
It recedes on one side
as fast as it gains on the other.
It undergoes continual changes; it's barbarous, it's civilized, it's Christianized, it's rich, it's scientific; but this change isn't better. For everything given, something is taken. Society acquires new arts and loses old instincts.
What a contrast between the well-dressed, reading, writing, thinking American, with a pager, a cellular phone, and a credit card in his pocket, and the naked aborigine, whose property is a club, a spear, a mat, and an undivided twentieth of a shed to sleep under!
But compare the health of the two men and you'll see the civilized man has lost his aboriginal strength. If the reports are true, you could strike the savage with an ax and in a couple of days the flesh will heal as if you had struck the blow into soft tar. The same blow will send the American to his grave.
The civilized man has built cars,
but has lost the use of his feet.
He is supported on crutches, but has lost the corresponding support of muscle. He has a nice digital watch, but he doesn't know how to tell time by the sun. He has a precise road atlas and, being so sure of the information when he wants it, doesn't know a star in the sky.
He doesn't observe the solstice; the equinox he knows as little, and the whole calendar is without a dial in his mind. His notebooks impair his memory; his libraries overload his wit; the insurance company increases the number of accidents. Could it be that computers limit us? Have we lost by our refinement some energy? By a moral state, entrenched in establishments and forms, the vigor of wild virtue? In old times, every Stoic was a Stoic, but in Multiculturalism where is the Multiculturalist?
Last Edited: May 03, 2000
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© 1997 Richard Brodie. All rights reserved.