Cloister and Crowd

What if you were to read this phrase: "We all seek happiness so eagerly, that in the pursuit we often lose that joyous sense of existence and those quiet daily pleasures, the value of which our pride alone prevents us from acknowledging."
Would you think, no, I do not seek happiness, or no, I do not have such pride. Or yes, I do forget moments that have their joy but that lose their potency as I am in pursuit of Important Things. What if you found out that the author of that phrase was an advisor to the monarchy. Does that not lend a certain gravity, or ethos, to the sentence? (Or not?)
I have been thinking a lot about people in power ever since I saw Scent of a Woman, which raised the question of whether one ought to tell on one's colleagues if one is being offered some kind of monetary or career gain by doing so. Sir Arthur Helps, who I was referring to above, is quoted as having said one ought to "employ our imagination in the service of charity" - i.e. if there are more plausible, honourable constructions to be said of someone, one ought to defer to them despite different evidence.
This may refer to the principle that one ought to bury the faults of others if one wants one's own to be buried. We do not live in such an age, on the whole: mega media industries thrive on muckraking (where this departs from the role of guardian-of-truth). It is interesting that the word muckraking has swopped the true for the false. One can muse upon what that means.
And as for leaders, I will say nothing but return to Helps, who has a beautiful surname. I have read two pages of his Thoughts in the Cloisters and in the Crowd, and am already struck at the breadth of reference: from (successfully applied) philosophy (and philosophy was once a way of life - implied by Ruskin's explanation of measures and guidelines in Queen of the Air: how can we even speak of spirituality if one has not learned first to manage the every day?) to ancient history and myth, to Elysian mystery, to poetry (and poetry influenced by Hindu theology at that).


I could digress to wonder at the influence of Hindu theology on the Victorian mind. We think we are so global today, but in Victorian times, there were very significant cultural exchanges: from Robert Southey's Zoroastrian references in Curse of Kehama, to the supposed influence of Indian logic on Charles Babbage (and the significant Indian-British cultural connections embodied by George Everest).
Therefore, we speak of the Victorian polymath, but do we dwell on the extent of its meaning and do we have the range of references they had to talk about the technology we developed thanks to them? When I contemplate Help's book title, I think of two things: the crowds Arnold feared due to their lack of critical apparatus and the resulting philistinism and the meaning of the university emerging from monastery.
To study necessitates withdrawal from the world if for the only reason that it takes so much time in the day to do the required reading and writing. I find that not everyone understands that (I am treated like I hold a 9 to 5 job). Withdrawal also implies (if it does not mean) a different perspective: cloisters imply meditation.
I was about to write that such things are thrown out like babies in bathwater in contemporary society, but then I thought of Seneca's "Scipio's Villa" where he similarly critiques changing mores: with their marble baths with ornamental fixtures so distant from the murky but perfectly functional bath of the manly Scipio. Character ages well, and foppery ... aren't those fleeting pleasures, anyway? The ones that feed our pride with ersatz candies?


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