Thursday, December 09, 2010

James, "On a Certain Blindness In Human Beings"

I came across this essay by William James thanks to one of Cary Wolfe's pieces in The Death of the Animal. There are too many good lines even to know where to start. (Notice that I'm having a hard time knowing where to start with things today?) But here's one, that might be of especial interest to readers:
"To miss the joy is to miss all." [R.L. Stevenson] Indeed, it is. Yet we are but finite, and each one of us has some single specialized vocation of his own. And it seems as if energy in the service of its particular duties might be got only by hardening the heart toward everything unlike them. Our deadness toward all but one particular kind of joy would thus be the price we inevitably have to pay for being practical creatures. Only in some pitiful dreamer, some philosopher, poet, or romancer, or when the common practical man becomes a lover, does the hard externality give way, and a gleam of insight into the ejective world, as Clifford called it, the vast world of inner life beyond us, so different from that of outer seeming, illuminate our mind. Then the whole scheme of our customary values gets confounded, then our self is riven and its narrow interests fly to pieces, then a new centre and a new perspective must be found.
Right after this he pulls out a great line from Royce on who (or what) is our neighbor. It's good.

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