Good words.

I just checked out my ‘about’ page on Facebook to see if it needed updating and was reminded of one of my favourite quotations that I stuck in there a few years ago. I used this quote in the introduction to my honours thesis. (My thesis was not worthy of it, but it was relevant and I liked it, so in it went.) I thought I’d share it here because it’s extremely beautiful and extremely true. It’s tricky to wrap your head around it first (at least it was for me back when I first read it in the papery depths of UCT’s library) but once it clicked, it evaporated every shred of disillusionment I had about studying in the humanities, and it could do a similar job for all sorts of frequently scoffed-at branches of human thought and enquiry. Here it is:

“Masks are arrested expressions and admirable echoes of feeling, at once faithful, discreet, and superlative. Living things in contact with the air must acquire a cuticle, and it is not urged against cuticles that they are not hearts; yet some philosophers seem to be angry with images for not being things, and with words for not being feelings. Words and images are like shells, no less integral parts of nature than are the substance they cover, but better addressed to the eye and more open to observation. I would not say that substance exists for the sake of appearance, or faces for the sake of masks, or the passions for the sake of poetry and virtue. Nothing arises in nature for the sake of anything else; all these phases and products are involved equally in the round of existence…”

– George Santayana, Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies, 1922


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