Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Notes from "Letters to a Young Contrarian", Letter XVII and XVIII

Shame on me for leaving the job of writing the quotes of such a wonderful book for such a long time. Nevertheless, here's the next to last post about it.

Letter XVII

So I entreat you; have no fear of being thought a monomaniac. (If you catch yourself being one, that may be different). It is one of those indicative insults that betrays the prickings of a poor conscience on the other side, or among those who have been easy on themselves. It must be a spur to further droning on your part.

The next one could be applied to more than one affair.

The great reward, if that's the right word, lies in the people you will meet when engaged in the same work, the lessons your will learn, and the confidence you will acquire from having some experiences and convictions of your own---to set against the received or thirdhand opinions of so many others.

Letter XVIII

Those who try to condemn or embarrass you by the company you keep will usually be found to be in very poor company themselves; in any case they are, as I was once taught to say, tackling the man and not the ball.

The high ambition, therefore, seems to me to be this: That one should strive to combine the maximum of impatience with the maximum of skepticism, the maximum of hatred of injustice and irrationality with the maximum of ironic self-criticism. This would mean really deciding to learn from history rather than invoking or sloganising it.
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