Tuesday, April 26, 2016

My kingdom for a humanist

Anyone who might see our letters,
honorable compare, and see their
variety, would be greatly astonish-
ed, because at first it would seem
we were serious men, completely di-
rected toward weighty matters and
no thought could cascade through
our heads that did not have probity
and magnitude.

But later, upon turning the
page, it would seem to the
reader that we - still the
very same selves - were 
petty, fickle, lascivious, 
and directed toward chimer-
ical matters. If to some
this behavior seems contemp-
tible, to me it seems laud-
able because we are imitat-
ing nature, which is change-
able; whoever imitates na-
ture cannot be censured ..

whoever seeks to act accord-
ing to others will accomplish
nothing, because no two men
who think alike can be found.

I don't like to forget the subtlest
mind on the passions, as well as on
politics at the sublimest apogee of
power's reach, in a time when I'm
lectured every day by social scien-
tists on the limits of their vision.
I especially don't like their prov-
ing Machiavelli wrong, about think-
ing alike, which must be counted as
the most grievous symptom of our es-
trangement from wisdom, first of all.

Possibly the second symptom is very
like it: the broad demand to do so,
to think alike with political lead-
ers whose changeability is only na-
tural, only certain, only false to

The question before one is whether
to go along, again, with travesty,
not of one's own nature, but nature
as it has thrived in other settings.
There's a quadrennial lurching in
this travesty which identifies it
as the staggerings of addiction to
the trendiest, in thinking alike,
as much as the pitchings of a bi-
nomially conditioned people.

If one is to endure a campaign of
daily admonition, to make decora-
tive progress now and then, within
a depleted and debauched political
pasture, would it not occur to one
to accept that pace, for better?

This is Conservatism's argument,
and if it had a humanist, there
would be a renaissance. You can't
get out of Wellesley without be-
can get Wellesley out of you.

Niccolò Machiavelli
  To Francesco Vettori
  January 31, 1515

Maurizio Viroli
Niccolò's Smile
  A biography of
Antony Shugaar
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000©

Pentti Sammallahti
Przeworsk, Poland
Gelatin silver print

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