Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context.
Paris, 4 March 2012
After launching the blog experimentally on 7 October 2011 and then for real on 1 January 2012, today we publish our 100th post. For this post, we have selected a key extract from Walter Pater’s Conclusion to his “Studies in the History of the Renaissance”(1873). Aesthete and critic, Walter Horatio Pater was a Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford, who lived from 1839 to 1894. The text below is variously regarded as one of the greatest passages of mandarin prose in the English language or, alternatively, an egregious purple patch of turgid Victorian tosh. A vous de choisir.
4 March 2012
A HARD GEMLIKE FLAME
The service of philosophy, of speculative culture, towards the human spirit, is to rouse, to startle it to a life of constant and eager observation. Every moment some form grows perfect in hand or face; some tone on the hills or the sea is choicer than the rest; some mood of passion or insight or intellectual excitement is irresistibly real and attractive to us,–for that moment only. Not the fruit of experience, but experience itself, is the end. A counted number of pulses only is given to us of a variegated, dramatic life. How may we see in them all that is to be seen in them by the finest senses? How shall we pass most swiftly from point to point, and be present always at the focus where the greatest number of vital forces unite in their purest energy?
To burn always with this hard, gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life……it is only the roughness of the eye that makes any two persons, things, situations, seem alike. While all melts under our feet, we may well grasp at any exquisite passion, or any contribution to knowledge that seems by a lifted horizon to set the spirit free for a moment, or any stirring of the senses, strange dyes, strange colours, and curious odours, or work of the artist’s hands, or the face of one’s friend. Not to discriminate every moment some passionate attitude in those about us, and in the very brilliancy of their gifts some tragic dividing of forces on their ways, is, on this short day of frost and sun, to sleep before evening.
You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts. For instance:
1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
2. Das Vierte Reich/The Fourth Reich (6 Feb 2012)
3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
4. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)
5. What would Gandhi have said? (30 Jan 2012)
Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.