‘E=mc²: The Most Urgent Problem of Our Time’

Einstein’s ‘E=mc²: The Most Urgent Problem of Our Time’ 1946

‘In order to understand the law of the equivalence of mass and energy, we must go back to two conservation or “balance” principles which, independent of each other, held a high place in pre-relativity physics. These were the principle of the conservation of energy and the principle of the conservation of mass. The first of these, advanced by Leibnitz as long ago as the seventeenth century, was developed in the nineteenth century essentially as a corollary of a principle of mechanics.

‘Consider, for example, a pendulum whose mass swings back and forth between the points A and B. At these points the mass m is higher by the amount h than it is at C, the lowest point of the path. At C, on the other hand, the lifting height has disappeared and instead of it the mass has a velocity v. It is as though the lifting height could be converted entirely into velocity, and vice versa. The exact relation would be expressed as mgh = mv /2, with g representing the acceleration of gravity. What is interesting here is that this relation is independent of both the length of the pendulum and the form of the path through which the mass moves.

‘The significance is that something remains constant throughout the process, and that something is energy. At A and at B it is an energy of position, or “potential” energy; at C it is an energy of motion, or “kinetic” energy. If this concept is correct, then the sum mgh + mv /2 must have the same value for any position of the pendulum, if h is understood to represent the height above C, and v the velocity at that point in the pendulum’s path. And such is found to be actually the case. The generalization of this principle gives us the law of the conservation of mechanical energy. But what happens when friction stops the pendulum?

‘The answer to that was found in the study of heat phenomena. This study, based on the assumption that heat is an indestructible substance which flows from a warmer to a colder object, seemed to give us a principle of the “conservation of heat.” On the other hand, from time immemorial it has been known that heat could be produced by friction, as in the fire-making drills of the Indians. The physicists were for long unable to account for this kind of heat “production.” Their difficulties were overcome only when it was successfully established that, for any given amount of heat produced by friction, an exactly proportional amount of energy had to be expended. Thus did we arrive at a principle of the “equivalence of work and heat.” With our pendulum, for example, mechanical energy is gradually converted by friction into heat.

‘In such fashion the principles of the conservation of mechanical and thermal energies were merged into one. The physicists were thereupon persuaded that the conservation principle could be further extended to take in chemical and electromagnetic processes – in short, could be applied to all fields. It appeared that in our physical system there was a sum total of energies that remained constant through all changes that might occur.

‘Now for the principle of the conservation of mass. Mass is defined by the resistance that a body opposes to its acceleration (inert mass). It is also measured by the weight of the body (heavy mass). That these two radically different definitions lead to the same value for the mass of a body is, in itself, an astonishing fact. According to the principle – namely, that masses remain unchanged under any physical or chemical changes – the mass appeared to be the essential (because unvarying) quality of matter. Heating, melting, vaporization, or combining into chemical compounds would not change the total mass.

‘Physicists accepted this principle up to a few decades ago. But it proved inadequate in the face of the special theory of relativity. It was therefore merged with the energy principle – just as, about 60 years before, the principle of the conservation of mechanical energy had been combined with the principle of the conservation of heat. We might say that the principle of the conservation of energy, having previously swallowed up that of the conservation of heat, now proceeded to swallow that of the conservation of mass – and holds the field alone.

‘It is customary to express the equivalence of mass and energy (though somewhat inexactly) by the formula E=mc², in which c represents the velocity of light, about 186,000 miles per second. E is the energy that is contained in a stationary body; m is its mass. The energy that belongs to the mass m is equal to this mass, multiplied by the square of the enormous speed of light – which is to say, a vast amount of energy for every unit of mass.

‘But if every gram of material contains this tremendous energy, why did it ho so long unnoticed? The answer is simple enough: so long as none of the energy is given off externally, it cannot be observed. It is as though a man who is fabulously rich should never spend or give away a cent; no one could tell how rich he was.

‘Now we can reverse the relation and say that an increase of E in the amount of energy must be accompanied by and increase of E/c in the mass. I can easily supply energy to the mass – for instance, if I heat it by 10 degrees. So why not measure the mass increase, or weight increase, connected with this change? The trouble here is that in the mass increase the enormous factor c occurs in the denominator of the fraction. In such a case the increase is too small to be measured directly; even with the most sensitive balance.

‘For a mass increase to be measurable, the change of energy per mass unit must be enormously large. We know of only one sphere in which such amounts of energy per mass unit are released: namely, radioactive disintegration. Schematically, the process goes like this: An atom of the mass M splits into two atoms of the mass MÅå and MÅç, which separate with tremendous kinetic energy. If we imagine these two masses as brought to rest – that is, if we take this energy of motion from them – then, considered together, they are essentially poorer in energy than was the original atom. According to the equivalence principle, the mass mum MÅå + MÅç of the disintegration products must also be somewhat smaller than the original mass M of the disintegrating atom – in contradiction to the old principle of the conservation of mass. The relative difference of the two is on the order of 1/10 of on percent.

‘Now, we cannot actually weigh the atoms individually. However, there are indirect methods for measuring their weights exactly. We can likewise determine the Kinetic energies that are transferred to the disintegration products MÅå and MÅç. Thus it has become possible to test and confirm the equivalence formula. Also, the law permits us to calculate in advance, from precisely determined atom weights, just how much energy will be released with any atom disintegration we have in mind. The law says nothing, of course, as to whether – or how – the disintegration reaction can be brought about.

‘What takes place can be illustrated with the help of our rich man. The atom M is a rich miser who, during his life, gives away no money (energy). But in his will he bequeaths his fortune to his sons MÅå and MÅç, on condition that they give to the community a small amount, less than one thousandth of the whole estate (energy or mass). The sons together have somewhat less than the father had (the mass sum MÅå+ MÅç is somewhat smaller than the mass M of the radioactive atom). But the part given to the community, though relatively small, is still so enormously large (considered as kinetic energy) that it brings with it a great threat of evil. Averting that threat has become the most urgent problem of our time.”‘

From Einstein Archives Online & Louisiana State University

Historic Karachi

“According to legend, this city of abundant sunshine and cool sea breezes began its life as a small fishing village named Kolachi-jo-Kun and later, Kolachi-jo-Goth. An early reference to a place called “Krokola” (which is believed to be the site of present day Karachi) can also be got from one of Alexander the Great’s admirals who used its natural harbor near the Indus delta as the point from where the Greek soldiers sailed home after defeat on the Indus.

“Kolachi-jo-Goth meaning the village of Kolachi, was named after an old woman known as Mai Kolachi who first settled in this area…”

Image and text from Historic Karachi


From Plato’s Symposium

Alcibiades’ Panegyric:
“And now, my boys, I shall praise Socrates in a figure which will appear to him to be a caricature, and yet I speak, not to make fun of him, but only for the truth’s sake. I say, that he is exactly like the busts of Silenus, which are set up in the statuaries’ shops, holding pipes and flutes in their mouths; and they are made to open in the middle, and have images of gods inside them. I say also that he is like Marsyas the satyr. You yourself will not deny, Socrates, that your face is like that of a satyr. Aye, and there is a resemblance in other points too. For example, you are a bully, as I can prove by witnesses, if you will not confess. And are you not a flute-player? That you are, and a performer far more wonderful than Marsyas. He indeed with instruments used to charm the souls of men by the power of his breath, and the players of his music do so still: for the melodies of Olympus (compare Arist. Pol.) are derived from Marsyas who taught them, and these, whether they are played by a great master or by a miserable flute-girl, have a power which no others have; they alone possess the soul and reveal the wants of those who have need of gods and mysteries, because they are divine. But you produce the same effect with your words only, and do not require the flute: that is the difference between you and him. When we hear any other speaker, even a very good one, he produces absolutely no effect upon us, or not much, whereas the mere fragments of you and your words, even at second-hand, and however imperfectly repeated, amaze and possess the souls of every man, woman, and child who comes within hearing of them. And if I were not afraid that you would think me hopelessly drunk, I would have sworn as well as spoken to the influence which they have always had and still have over me. For my heart leaps within me more than that of any Corybantian reveller, and my eyes rain tears when I hear them. And I observe that many others are affected in the same manner. I have heard Pericles and other great orators, and I thought that they spoke well, but I never had any similar feeling; my soul was not stirred by them, nor was I angry at the thought of my own slavish state. But this Marsyas has often brought me to such a pass, that I have felt as if I could hardly endure the life which I am leading (this, Socrates, you will admit); and I am conscious that if I did not shut my ears against him, and fly as from the voice of the siren, my fate would be like that of others,–he would transfix me, and I should grow old sitting at his feet. For he makes me confess that I ought not to live as I do, neglecting the wants of my own soul, and busying myself with the concerns of the Athenians; therefore I hold my ears and tear myself away from him. And he is the only person who ever made me ashamed, which you might think not to be in my nature, and there is no one else who does the same. For I know that I cannot answer him or say that I ought not to do as he bids, but when I leave his presence the love of popularity gets the better of me. And therefore I run away and fly from him, and when I see him I am ashamed of what I have confessed to him. Many a time have I wished that he were dead, and yet I know that I should be much more sorry than glad, if he were to die: so that I am at my wit’s end.”

From Plato’s Apology

“Let us reflect in another way, and we shall see that there is great reason to hope that death is a good; for one of two things–either death is a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness, or, as men say, there is a change and migration of the soul from this world to another. Now if you suppose that there is no consciousness, but a sleep like the sleep of him who is undisturbed even by dreams, death will be an unspeakable gain. For if a person were to select the night in which his sleep was undisturbed even by dreams, and were to compare with this the other days and nights of his life, and then were to tell us how many days and nights he had passed in the course of his life better and more pleasantly than this one, I think that any man, I will not say a private man, but even the great king will not find many such days or nights, when compared with the others. Now if death be of such a nature, I say that to die is gain; for eternity is then only a single night. But if death is the journey to another place, and there, as men say, all the dead abide, what good, O my friends and judges, can be greater than this? If indeed when the pilgrim arrives in the world below, he is delivered from the professors of justice in this world, andfinds the true judges who are said to give judgment there, Minos and Rhadamanthus and Aeacus and Triptolemus, and other sons of God who were righteous in their own life, that pilgrimage will be worth making. What would not a man give if he might converse with Orpheus and Musaeus and Hesiod and Homer? Nay, if this be true, let me die again and again. I myself, too, shall have a wonderful interest in there meeting and conversing with Palamedes, and Ajax the son of Telamon, and any other ancient hero who has suffered death through an unjust judgment; and there will be no small pleasure, as I think, in comparing my own sufferings with theirs. Above all, I shall then be able to continue my search into true and false knowledge; as in this world, so also in the next; and I shall find out who is wise, and who pretends to be wise, and is not. What would not a man give, O judges, to be able to examine the leader of the great Trojan expedition; or Odysseus or Sisyphus, or numberless others, men and women too! What infinite delight would there be in conversing with them and asking them questions! In another world they do not put a man to death for asking questions: assuredly not. For besides being happier than we are, they will be immortal, if what is said is true.”

Dialogues of Plato – translated by Benjamin Jowett

Diogenes of Sinope

‘IV. He was very violent in expressing his haughty disdain of others. He said that the scholê (school) of Euclides was cholê (gall). And he used to call Plato’s diatribê (discussions) katatribê (disguise). It was also a saying of his that the Dionysian games were a great marvel to fools; and that the demagogues were the ministers of the multitude. He used likewise to say, “that when in the course of his life he beheld pilots, and physicians, and philosophers, he thought man the wisest of all animals; but when again he beheld interpreters of dreams, and soothsayers, and those who listened to them, and men puffed up with glory or riches, then he thought that there was not a more foolish animal than man.” Another of his sayings was, “that he thought a man ought oftener to provide himself with a reason than with a halter.” On one occasion, when he noticed Plato at a very costly entertainment tasting some olives, he said, “O you wise man! why, after having sailed to Sicily for the sake of such a feast, do you not now enjoy what you have before you?” And Plato replied, “By the Gods, Diogenes, while I was there I ate olives and all such things a great deal.” Diogenes rejoined, “What then did you want to sail to Syracuse for? Did not Attica at that time produce any olives?” But Favorinus, in his Universal History, tells this story of Aristippus. At another time he was eating dried figs, when Plato met him, and he said to him, “You may have a share of these;” and as he took some and ate them, he said, “I said that you might have a share of them, not that you might eat them all.” On one occasion Plato had invited some friends who had come to him from Dionysius to a banquet, and Diogenes trampled on his carpets, and said, “Thus I trample on the empty pride of Plato;” and Plato made him answer, “How much arrogance are you displaying, O Diogenes! when you think that you are not arrogant at all.” But, as others tell the story, Diogenes said, “Thus I trample on the pride of Plato;” and that Plato rejoined, “With quite as much pride yourself, O Diogenes.” Sotion too, in his fourth book, states, that the Cynic made the following speech to Plato: Diogenes once asked him for some wine, and then for some dried figs; so he sent him an entire jar full; and Diogenes said to him, “Will you, if you are asked how many two and two make, answer twenty? In this way, you neither give with any reference to what you are asked for, nor do you answer with reference to the question put to you.” He used also to ridicule him as an interminable talker. When he was asked where in Greece he saw virtuous men; “Men,” said he, “nowhere; but I see good boys in Lacedaemon.” On one occasion, when no one came to listen to him while he was discoursing seriously, he began to whistle. And then when people flocked round him, he reproached them for coming with eagerness to folly, but being lazy and indifferent about good things. One of his frequent sayings was, “That men contended with one another in punching and kicking, but that no one showed any emulation in the pursuit of virtue.” He used to express his astonishment at the grammarians for being desirous to learn everything about the misfortunes of Ulysses, and being ignorant of their own. He used also to say, “That the musicians fitted the strings to the lyre properly, but left all the habits of their soul ill-arranged.” And, “That mathematicians kept their eyes fixed on the sun and moon, and overlooked what was under their feet.” “That orators were anxious to speak justly, but not at all about acting so.” Also, “That misers blamed money, but were preposterously fond of it.” He often condemned those who praise the just for being superior to money, but who at the same time are eager themselves for great riches. He was also very indignant at seeing men sacrifice to the Gods to procure good health, and yet at the sacrifice eating in a manner injurious to health. He often expressed his surprise at slaves, who, seeing their masters eating in a gluttonous manner, still do not themselves lay hands on any of the eatables. He would frequently praise those who were about to marry, and yet did not marry; or who were about to take a voyage, and yet did not take a voyage; or who were about to engage in affairs of state, and did not do so; and those who were about to rear children, yet did not rear any; and those who were preparing to take up their abode with princes, and yet did not take it up. One of his sayings was, “That one ought to hold out one’s hand to a friend without closing the fingers.”‘

From Life of Diogenes by Diogenes Laertius, translated by C. D. Yonge

From Sophocles’ Philoktetes


O hands, what you suffer for lack of a bowstring,
the prey of that man!

You whose thoughts are sick and slavelike,
how you have hunted me!
How you tricked me, how you stole up
with this boy as a shield, unknown to me.
He deserved a better master than you.
He is at a loss to do anything but what he’s told,
and he suffers now for his mischief
and the things he has brought upon my head.
Your evil, harmful soul has taught him
to be a wily criminal,
unwilling and unsuited though he was for that.
Now you have bound me and plan to take me
off from this place where you had cast me away,
friendless, homeless, a living corpse.

I curse you. I have cursed you many times before,
but the gods have granted me nothing I want,
and so you live happily, while I live in this pain,
and you and the Atreids mock my anguish,
those two generals, for whom you perform this deed.
You were yoked to the cause by deceit and force,
while I willingly went with my seven ships,
willingly to dishonor and my own destruction,
to being cast away on this lonely shore.
You say they did it, and they blame you.

Why must you take me?
I am nothing. For you, I’ve been dead for years.
Blasphemous man, could it be I don’t stink now;
am I no longer a cripple? If I sail with you,
how can you offer burnt sacrifices?
How can you pour your libations to the gods?
That was your reason for abandoning me.

May a horrible death overtake you.
It will for your crimes against me, if the gods
still care for justice. I know they do,
for you would not have come for my sake alone;
the gods’ urging must have brought you here.
Ancestral land and you gods who look on mortal crimes,
take vengeance on these men when the time is right,
take vengeance on them all, if you pity me.
If I could see them die, then I could also dream
that the sickness within me has fled my body.


He is bitter, this stranger; his words are, too,
for they do not bend to suffering.


    The Idea of the Continuum

20. Everything flows and nothing abides;. Everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.

21. You cannot step twice into the same river, for other waters and yet others go ever flowing on. (91, 12)

22. Cool things become warm, the warm grows cool; the moist dries, the parched becomes moist. (126)

23. It is in changing that things find repose. (8~)

24. Time is a child moving counters in a game; the royal power is a child’s.(52)

25. War is both father and king of all; some he has shown forth as gods and others as men, some he has made slaves and others free. (53)

26. It should be understood that war is the common condition, that strife is justice, and that all things come to pass through the compulsion of strife. (80)

27. Homer was wrong in saying, “Would that strife might perish from amongst gods and men. For if that were to occur, then all things would cease to exist.

Translation and arrangement by William Harris

Homer’s Humanity

Hector & Andromache:

Once the housekeeper spoke,
Hector left the house by the same route he’d come,
through the well-built city streets, across the great city,
and reached the Scaean Gates, beyond which he’d go
out onto the plain. There his wife ran up to meet him,
Andromache, daughter of great-hearted Eëtion,
who’d included a large dowry with her.
Eëtion had lived below wooded mount Placus,
in Thebe, king of the Cilician people. So she’d become
married wife to Hector of the shining helmet.
Now she met him there. With her came the nurse,
holding at her breast their happy infant child,
well-loved son of Hector, like a beautiful star.
Hector had named him Scamandrius, but others
called him Astyanax, lord of the city,
because Hector was Troy’s only guardian.
Hector looked at his son in silence, with a smile.
Andromache stood close to him, weeping.
Taking Hector by the hand, she spoke to him.

“My dear husband, your warlike spirit
will be your death. You’ve no compassion
for your infant child, for me, your sad wife,
who before long will be your widow.
For soon the Achaeans will attack you,
all together, and cut you down. As for me,
it would be better, if I’m to lose you,
to be buried in the ground. For then I’ll have
no other comfort, once you meet your death,
except my sorrow. I have no father,
no dear mother. For lord Achilles killed
my father, when he wiped out Thebe,
city with high gates, slaying Eëtion.
But he didn’t strip his corpse—his heart
felt too much shame for that. So he burned him
in his finely decorated armour
and raised a burial mound above the ashes.
Mountain nymphs, daughters of aegis-bearing Zeus,
planted elm trees all around his body.
I had seven brothers in my home.
All went down to Hades in one day,
for swift-footed lord Achilles killed them all,
while they were guarding their shambling oxen
and their white shining sheep. As for my mother,
who ruled wooded Thebe-under-Placus,
he brought her here with all his other spoils.
Then he released her for a massive ransom.
But archer goddess Artemis then killed her
in her father’s house. So, Hector, you are now
my father, noble mother, brother,
and my protecting husband. So pity me.
Stay here in this tower. Don’t orphan your child
and make your wife a widow. Place men by the fig tree,
where the city is most vulnerable,
the wall most easily scaled. Three times
their best men have come there to attack,
led by the two Ajaxes, the sons of Atreus,
famous Idomeneus, and Diomedes,
Tydeus’ courageous son, incited to it
by someone well versed in prophecy
or by their own hearts’ inclination.”

Great Hector of the shining helmet answered her:

all this concerns me, too. But I’d be disgraced,
dreadfully shamed among Trojan men
and Trojan women in their trailing gowns,
if I should, like a coward, slink away from war.
My heart will never prompt me to do that,
for I have learned always to be brave,
to fight alongside Trojans at the front,
striving to win fame for father and myself.
My heart and mind know well the day is coming
when sacred Ilion will be destroyed,
along with Priam of the fine ash spear
and Priam’s people. But what pains me most
about these future sorrows is not so much
the Trojans, Hecuba, or king Priam,
or even my many noble brothers,
who’ll fall down in the dust, slaughtered
by their enemies. My pain concerns you,
when one of the bronze-clad Achaeans
leads you off in tears, ends your days of freedom.
If then you come to Argos as a slave,
working the loom for some other woman,
fetching water from Hyperia or Messeis,
against your will, forced by powerful fate,
then someone, seeing you as you weep
may well say: ‘That woman is Hector’s wife.
He was the finest warrior in battle
of all horse-taming Trojans in that war
when they fought for Troy.’ Someone will say that,
and it will bring still more grief to you,
to be without such a man to save you
from days of servitude. May I lie dead,
hidden deep under a burial mound,
before I hear about your screaming,
as you are dragged away.”

With these words,
glorious Hector stretched his hands out for his son.
The boy immediately shrank back against the breast
of the finely girdled nurse, crying out in terror
to see his own dear father, scared at the sight of bronze,
the horse-hair plume nodding fearfully from his helmet top.
The child’s loving father laughed, his noble mother, too.
Glorious Hector pulled the glittering helmet off,
and set it on the ground. Then he kissed his dear son
and held him in his arms. He prayed aloud to Zeus
and the rest of the immortals.

“Zeus, all you other gods,
grant that this child, my son, may become,
like me, pre-eminent among the Trojans,
as strong and brave as me. Grant that he may rule
Troy with strength. May people someday say,
as he returns from war, ‘This man is far better
than his father.’ May he carry back
bloody spoils from his slaughtered enemy,
making his mother’s heart rejoice.”

He placed his son in the hands of his dear wife.
She embraced the child on her sweet breast, smiling
through her tears. Observing her, Hector felt compassion.
He took her hand, then spoke to her.

“My dearest wife,
don’t let your heart be sad on my account.
No man will throw me down to Hades
before my destined time. I tell you this—
no one escapes his fate, not the coward,
nor the brave man, from the moment of his birth.
So you should go into the house, keep busy
with your own work, with your loom and wool,
telling your servants to set about their tasks.
War will be every man’s concern, especially mine,
of all those who live in Troy.”

Having said these words,
glorious Hector picked up his plumed helmet.
His beloved wife went home, often looking back,
as she went, crying bitterly. She quickly reached
the spacious home of Hector, killer of men.
Inside she met her many servants and bid them all lament.
So they mourned for Hector in his own house,
though he was still alive, for they thought he’d not come back—
he’d not escape the battle fury of Achaean hands.

From Homer’s Ilaid, translated by Ian Johnston

From Montaigne’s On Experience

“I have a special nomenclature of my own; I “pass away time,” when it is ill and uneasy, but when ’tis good I do not pass it away; “I taste it over again and stick to it;” one must run over the ill, and settle upon the good. This ordinary phrase of pastime, and passing away the time, represents the usage of those wise sort of people who think they cannot do better with their lives than to let them run out and slide away, pass them over, and balk them, and, as much as they can, ignore them, and shun them as a thing of troublesome and contemptible quality; but I know it to be another kind of thing, and find it both valuable and commodious, even in its latest decay, wherein I now enjoy it; and nature has delivered it into our hands in such and so favorable circumstances, that we have only ourselves to blame if it be troublesome to us, or slide unprofitably away: “Stulti vita ingrata est, trepida est, tota in futurum fertur.” Nevertheless, I compose myself to lose mine without regret; but withal as a thing that is perishable by its condition, not that it troubles or annoys me. Nor does it properly well become any not to be displeased when they die, excepting such as are pleased to live. There is good husbandry in enjoying it; I enjoy it double to what others do; for the measure of its fruition depends upon the more or less of our application to it. Now especially that I perceive mine to be so short in time, I will extend it in weight; I will stop the promptitude of its flight by the promptitude of my grasp; and by the vigor of using it compensate the speed of its running away; by how much the possession of living is more short, I must make it so much deeper and more full.

“Others feel the pleasure of content and prosperity; I feel it too, as well as they, but not as it slides and passes by; one should study, taste, and ruminate upon it, to render condign thanks to Him who grants it to us. They enjoy the other pleasures as they do that of sleep, without knowing it. To the end that even sleep itself should not so stupidly escape from me, I have formerly caused myself to be disturbed in my sleep, so that I might the better and more sensibly relish and taste it. I ponder with myself of content; I do not skim over, but sound it; and I bend my reason, now grown perverse and peevish, to entertain it. Do I find myself in any calm composedness? is there any pleasure that tickles me? I do not suffer it to dally with my senses only, I associate my soul to it too; not there to engage itself, but therein to take delight; not there to lose itself, but to be present there; and I employ it, on its part, to view itself in this prosperous state, to weigh and appreciate its happiness, and to amplify it. It reckons how much it stands indebted to Almighty God that its conscience and the intestine passions are in repose; that it has the body in its natural disposition, orderly and competently enjoying the soft and soothing functions, by which He of His grace is pleased to compensate the sufferings wherewith His justice at His good pleasure chastises us. It reflects how great a benefit it is to be so protected, that, which way soever it turns its eye, the heavens are calm around it. No desire, no fear or doubt, troubles the air; no difficulty, past, present, or to come, that its imagination may not pass over without offense. This consideration takes great luster from the comparison of different conditions; and therefore it is that I present to my thought, in a thousand aspects, those whom fortune or their own error torments and carries away; and those, who more like to me, so negligently and incuriously receive their good fortune. Those are men who pass away their time, indeed; they pass over the present, and that which they possess, to give themselves up to hope, and for vain shadows and images which fancy puts into their heads:

Morte obita quales fama est volitare figuras, Aut quae sopitos deludunt somnia sensus:Like those phantoms which, so it is said, flit about after death or those dreams which delude our slumberings senses

which hasten and prolong their flight, according as they are pursued. The fruit and end of their pursuit is to pursue; as Alexander said, that the end of his labor was to labor:

Nil actum credens, cum quid superesset agendum;”Believing he had not done anything, while anything remained to be done

Translated by Charles Cotton (Latin translation by M. A. Screech)

From Freud’s Dream Psychology

‘Who can foresee the importance of a thorough knowledge of the structure and activities of the psychic apparatus when even our present state of knowledge produces a happy therapeutic influence in the curable forms of the psychoneuroses? What about the practical value of such study some one may ask, for psychic knowledge and for the discovering of the secret peculiarities of individual character? Have not the unconscious feelings revealed by the dream the value of real forces in the psychic life? Should we take lightly the ethical significance of the suppressed wishes which, as they now create dreams, may some day create other things?

‘I do not feel justified in answering these questions. I have not thought further upon this side of the dream problem. I believe, however, that at all events the Roman Emperor was in the wrong who ordered one of his subjects executed because the latter dreamt that he had killed the Emperor. He should first have endeavored to discover the significance of the dream; most probably it was not what it seemed to be. And even if a dream of different content had the significance of this offense against majesty, it would still have been in place to remember the words of Plato, that the virtuous man contents himself with dreaming that which the wicked man does in actual life. I am therefore of the opinion that it is best to accord freedom to dreams. Whether any reality is to be attributed to the unconscious wishes, and in what sense, I am not prepared to say offhand. Reality must naturally be denied to all transition—and intermediate thoughts. If we had before us the unconscious wishes, brought to their last and truest expression, we should still do well to remember that more than one single form of existence must be ascribed to the psychic reality. Action and the conscious expression of thought mostly suffice for the practical need of judging a man’s character. Action, above all, merits to be placed in the first rank; for many of the impulses penetrating consciousness are neutralized by real forces of the psychic life before they are converted into action; indeed, the reason why they frequently do not encounter any psychic obstacle on their way is because the unconscious is certain of their meeting with resistances later. In any case it is instructive to become familiar with the much raked-up soil from which our virtues proudly arise. For the complication of human character moving dynamically in all directions very rarely accommodates itself to adjustment through a simple alternative, as our antiquated moral philosophy would have it.

‘And how about the value of the dream for a knowledge of the future? That, of course, we cannot consider. One feels inclined to substitute: “for a knowledge of the past.” For the dream originates from the past in every sense. To be sure the ancient belief that the dream reveals the future is not entirely devoid of truth. By representing to us a wish as fulfilled the dream certainly leads us into the future; but this future, taken by the dreamer as present, has been formed into the likeness of that past by the indestructible wish.’ From Freud’s Dream Psychology, translated by MD Eder


‘Today, as he has done for the past 6 decades, Ramrang spends his waking moments immersed in the contemplation and creation of music. True to his calling as one of the greatest vaggeyekaras of all time, Ramrang’s intellectual wanderlust shows no sign of abating; every day turns in a new insight or a new asthAi. In this context he lends meaning to Einstein’s memorable words: “Only in Science and Art are we permitted to remain children all our lives.”

‘Although Ramrang is known to devotees and students of music as the author of the Abhinava Geetanjali classics and as a composer extraordinaire, he has spent most of his musical life in relative isolation, away from the glare of public adulation, and on the fringes of the community of active performing musicians. This is entirely in keeping with his character and inner conviction that music is a lifelong sAdhanA of intellectual and emotional discipline, not a source of pelf.

‘In summing up the musical life of Ramashreya Jha “Ramrang,” the understated flourish of Professor G.H. Hardy in his essay A Mathematician’s Apology comes to mind: “Whatever we do may be small, but it has a certain character of permanence; and to have produced anything of the slightest permanent interest…is to have done something utterly beyond the powers of the vast majority of men.”‘ From A Stroll in Ramrang’s Garden by Rajan Parrikar

Allah Rakha

Ustad Allah Rakha was born in Muzaffar, a village in Sialkot District, in 1932. During early childhood, his family moved to Amritsar where he was raised. He acquired his initial education in classical music and sarangi playing from his father, Ustad Lal Din. Later, he became the student of three renowned sarangi players, Ustad Ahmadi Khan, Ustad Allah Diya, and Ustad Nathu Khan.

His talent was first appreciated in his early teenage years when he performed in a contest at a local wedding, and was lauded for his performance of Raga Desi.

After partition, Allah Rakha migrated to Pakistan, and settled temporarily in Karachi, where he also remembers to have had the honor of playing live for Mohammad Ali Jinnah. It was also here that he met Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and honed his skills as a sarangi accompanist.

He moved to Lahore in 1948, and for almost two decades, he worked at the Radio Station, and in the film industry as a recording artist. In Lahore, his knowledge of music was further broadened during his association with Ustad Sardar Khan(vocalist), son of Umrao Khan, and grandson of Tanras Khan.

He moved to Rawalpindi in 1968, and became a regular employee of Radio Pakistan, Rawalpindi, where he served till his retirement in 1992. In 1994, he was awarded the Pride of Performance for his lifelong devotion to classical music.

He has also traveled abroad several times and performed in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, India, China, Dubai, France, Hungary, Italy, England and Germany.

Presently, he leads a frugal life, teaches sarangi to one regular student, and performs rather infrequently.

Click here for recordings of Allah Rakha.

Amir Khan 1912-1974

“The music of Khansaheb was pansophic in its conception, manna for the soul, an afflatus to purification of the self. In sum, the distillate of the most sublime in the Bharatiya tradition. To borrow a bit from a sentiment expressed in a similar context by Shri Bertrand Russell: it is artistry of men like Amir Khan that makes the human race worth preserving.” Rajan Parrikar

Click here for recordings of Amir Khan.

Kishori Amonkar

“…Kishori Amonkar, L’Enfant Terrible de Hindustani Music. Born in 1932, this music genius from Goa has attained such mastery over her art that she can justifiably claim to be the sole heir to the exacting standards set by her predecessors- her illustrious mother, Mogubai Kurdikar, and the formidable Surashree Kesarbai Kerkar.” Rajan Parrikar

You may like to listen to Kishori Amonkar’s Bilaskhani Todi featured in the Vijaya Parrikar Library

Bismillah Khan’s Interview

Ustad Bismillah Khan, the greatest living exponent of an evocative instrument, the shehnai, received the Bharat Ratna in 2001. The 91-year-old maestro talks to The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta on NDTV 24×7’s Walk the Talk programme about his riyaaz, the oneness of divinity, his unflagging love for music, and above all, his faith in humanity

• Ustaad Bismillah Khan, I am very grateful to you for agreeing to speak to us on our programme.

Let me tell you I have very little to say, if it’s to talk nonsense. I don’t know anything but music; if you ask about that, I can say many things.

• You must practice for hours on end.

Oh endlessly. These temples of ours in Benaras—Balaji and Mangala Gauri—Balaji is a little lower, you have to go down the stairs, but Mangala Gauri is at a height. I don’t visit them nowadays; but the stones are the same, aren’t they? You bring gangajal, you go inside to offer it—but the stones outside are just the same. All you need to do is put your hand to them.

• And where you place your hand, music and the heart become one.

Yes, yes—just put your hand there and what joy you’ll feel. You can’t see it though, I’m afraid, it’s not something to be seen.

• You have such power. If you sing just a few phrases from the Raag Malhar it begins to rain.

My forefathers used to perform at the Balaji temple. Do you know what they were paid? Rs 35 or 40 for a whole month. When my grandmother performed, do you know what the deal was fixed for? 14 annas.

• Khan saheb, you have never differentiated between religions, you believe all are one.

They are one, absolutely one. It’s impossible for there to be division. This voice you hear, it’s that that we call sur.

• I heard you once had an argument with a maulana from Iraq. He said music was blasphemy, and you made him understand that music is also a means to God.

Yes, I set him right.

• Tell us how you did it.

It was nothing. He said music is evil, a trap of the devil, and you mustn’t fall into it. I said to him: Maulana, all I ask is that you be fair. Then I started singing, and when I finished I asked if this was blasphemy.

• You reached out to Allah through music. What did the maulana say then?

He was speechless, he had nothing left to say. I told him not to fall into these errors. I asked him if taking Allah’s name in the raag was wrong—that was all I was saying, though it was in Raag Bhairav.

• So there is no difference between Hindu and Muslim in music—all music goes to one end?

Yes—that same Bhairav I sang—any number of Hindus would agree that it was Raag Bhairav.

• Khan saheb, among your contemporaries, you’re in a league of your own. When you got the Bharat Ratna, no one was in disagreement, everyone said it was long overdue.

Look, this is the tool I use (holds up shehnai)—it is very dear to me.

• You keep it with you always—you sleep with it near you.

Yes I do. This is such a thing that when I lift it, I start thinking from my heart. As I said, the stones are the same, both inside and out. People sprinkle gangajal inside, but they never make an offering outside. I put my hand on the stones outside.

• I heard that Lata Mangeshkar called to congratulate you when you received the Bharat Ratna. What did she say to you?

Lata was overjoyed. She called me and said: Khan saheb, you’ve got the Bharat Ratna. By that time, other people had also told me, so I said: Yes, it’s come to me too.

• Both of you had received it.

Yes, I congratulated her. Lata is very melodious, it must be said.

• Do you like listening to her?

Immensely. She has a magic in her voice that very few have. There was also Begum Akhtar…

• Yes, she used to sing ghazals and thumris.

She sang Deewana Bana De—it was a couplet. Many people have sung it, but when she sang, I would make it a point to go to the studio to hear her. And how she sang. I was asleep once—it must have been an hour or so after midnight. Somewhere, someone was playing one of the Begum’s records.

• Which one?

The same one—Deewana Bana De. There was a strong breeze—I awoke and sat up to hear her sing. I was enjoying myself so much, I woke my wife up—she was very annoyed and she said, What’s all this in the middle of the night? I told her to get lost.

• You said that to her?

Yes, I did. Well, she was my wife after all. The next day, I got to know that what I’d heard at two o’clock in the morning wasn’t a record, but was Begum Akhtar herself.

• And which of Lata’s songs do you like?

Not anything in particular, but it’s her voice. As I said, not everyone has what she has. From the first time I heard her, I wanted to see whether or not she would keep her voice. But it’s still there, intact till today. Other people lose their voice, not Lata.

Whenever she sings, it is always a pleasure.

• There was also that song you composed for Gunj Uthi Shehnai.

That, yes—Dil ka khilona— I composed it. What people have to say about it doesn’t concern me, so long as they liked the melody. You can say anything you choose—if you want to call me names, I’m ready to take them, but only, please, be in tune. I composed and played that song for the world, and the world enjoyed it. But this sort of thing isn’t to my liking.

• Is that why you didn’t do any other work for film?

There’s no way I would.

• Khan Saheb, your contemporaries—Pandit Ravi Shankar, Bhimsen Joshi, Balamurali Krishna from the South—what do you think of these musicians?

They are all very good—there’s no doubt of that. Bhimsen Joshi and I were great friends.

• They’re all your friends. Khan Saheb, all your contemporaries have made so much money—they’ve built huge homes, they have several cars, they live abroad. And here you are: still in your old neighbourhood, living so simply at your old home. Have you ever had regrets?

No, none. Here’s what I say—if anyone wants to meet me, they will have to come here. I will not go anywhere, whether it’s for a raja, a maharaja or anyone else. If I’m not in the mood, I won’t go anywhere for any amount of money. Look, this is my means (touches shehnai to forehead). By the grace of God, when this is in my hands, all the wealth of the world could be brought to me, and I’d say: Get about your business, take it away. So long as this one thing is with me, what need do I have for anything else?

• No one should be grasping, agreed. But don’t you think it would have been better, with your large family, if you had organised your records and performances, built a house, accumulated some wealth?

Yes, I have a family—but it isn’t in my nature, all this nonsense. Is there no joy in music—is it all to be this foolishness? There is beauty in my voice—I could sing, and after a while there would be tears in your eyes.

• Everyone who hears you has tears in their eyes, and while they cry, they laugh as well.

Yes, but that doesn’t happen for money.

• So, you are not bothered with money.

No, not at all.

• But you would say that other musicians have been greedy, that this isn’t right?

Yes, there shouldn’t be that. You don’t know this—I had gone to Pakistan once, and I didn’t feel at all at home there. There was this fence—look at one side and it’s Pakistan, look at the other and it’s Hindustan. I said to hell with it. I would say namaskaar to the Pakistanis and salaam alaikum to the Indians. I was there for about an hour—I couldn’t take the place, but I had a good laugh.

• You didn’t like it there?

No, not in the least. I just crossed the fence to say: I have been to Pakistan.

• But when Partition happened, didn’t you and your family ever think of moving to Pakistan?

God forbid. Me, leave Benaras? Never.

• When India became independent, you performed at the Red Fort. Could you tell us about that?

How can I tell you about it? I can’t express those feelings. I performed at the Red Fort—I went inside, there was a stage set up and it was a thrilling experience. But what exactly happened, who was there, I can’t recall.

• You have seen so much of the world. You were born in 1914, when the First World War was on; you’ve also seen the Second World War, India’s Independence—the whole world has changed. But at this time, what’s happening in the world, violence, terrorism—what do you feel about it all?

Nothing. Tell me, how many people are there in Hindustan?

• More than a hundred crores.

Everyone has a mind, right? Everyone thinks differently. Each one of them can’t be good, there will have to be some who will do bad.

• But, Khan saheb, the world has started talking about ‘Islamic terrorism’, as though terror were intrinsic to Islam. Do you feel bad about that?

No, it’s not like that. Didn’t I just tell you, there’s only God. I can sing to Allah in Raag Bhairav.

• And you say that if you sing, it will start to rain.

Yes, it does.

• Well, it’s started to rain now.

It’s not like that. But a raag is a raag, you can’t change a raag.

• What would you like to tell the world, and specially Muslims, about handling this problem?

I do not want to say anything to Muslims. (claps) These claps are the rhythm, the flow.

• You mean, when you are with the flow, you think of good things, bad thoughts will vanish of their own?

How many people will you reform? How many thousands of people there are.

• Yes, there’ll always be a few bad guys left.

That will always happen. All the maulavis say one shouldn’t drink liquor, but people still do, don’t they? If others do wrong, let them. One should be firm about not doing so oneself.

• Khan saheb, tell me—you’re 91 years old. You’re playing still, and there’s a glow in your face. How have you kept your health all these years—your health and your spirit? To look at you would lift a sad man’s heart.

I’ll tell you, it’s not like that. When my wife passed away, I was very disturbed for a year. Everyone wanted me to remarry, but I listened to my heart. I have children, girls—what would become of them? I decided I wouldn’t marry. This is my companion. (picks up shehnai)

• When your begum left, this was by your side?

Yes, this is all I have.

• So, who are you teaching now; who will take care of the shehnai after you?

My sons will be there.

• When you listen to today’s film music—do you ever listen to A.R. Rehman?

No. I am not in that line. I went into films once or twice. They wanted me to do things their way. I said: Am I here to learn from you? I just packed up and quit. They think they have so much money—they’ll throw a bit here and there, and I will be ready to do whatever they want. They could be playing all their lives, but they will never learn anything. I couldn’t stand it. They thought they would dictate terms—that I should do what they told me. It’s the other way around—I tell them what to do and they follow.

• Khan saheb, you played when the country attained independence, and you played at our 50th Independence Day.

My elder brother and I had ordered new clothes made of thick khadi specially for the occasion. There must be a recording of that somewhere, the country’s independence celebrations. I don’t know who would have it.

• What is your message now for the country?

I would say only this: all is still not lost. If you dedicate yourself to what you learn, if you practise it sincerely, you will lose all fear of what may befall you.

• You can forget all your troubles in music?

Things will happen around you, and you will stop minding them. It happens to me. I was waiting for you before the interview. That’s alright. But I will not play for any and everyone. It takes two hours for me to tune this, and then it plays the way I want it to. It won’t be that I’ll wish it to do one thing and it will do something else. No. I will tell it what to do and it will do just what I say.

• Your message to the world is that people should think about peace, rhythm and harmony, and they will be freed of their troubles.

Look, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian—whoever they are, they’re all one. Once people realise that and come into harmony with each other, there will be no more division.

Bismillah Khan’s Jaunpuri from the SAWF Music Articles Archive.

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788-1860

“For every animal, and more especially for man, a certain conformity and proportion between the will and the intellect is necessary for existing or making any progress in the world. The more precise and correct the proportion which nature establishes, the more easy, safe and agreeable will be the passage through the world. Still, if the right point is only approximately reached, it will be enough to ward off destruction. There are, then, certain limits within which the said proportion may vary, and yet preserve a correct standard of conformity. The normal standard is as follows. The object of the intellect is to light and lead the will on its path, and therefore, the greater the force, impetus and passion, which spurs on the will from within, the more complete and luminous must be the intellect which is attached to it, that the vehement strife of the will, the glow of passion, and the intensity of the emotions, may not lead man astray, or urge him on to ill considered, false or ruinous action; this will, inevitably, be the result, if the will is very violent and the intellect very weak. On the other hand, a phlegmatic character, a weak and languid will, can get on and hold its own with a small amount of intellect; what is naturally moderate needs only moderate support. The general tendency of a want of proportion between the will and the intellect, in other words, of any variation from the normal proportion I have mentioned, is to produce unhappiness, whether it be that the will is greater than the intellect, or the intellect greater than the will. Especially is this the case when the intellect is developed to an abnormal degree of strength and superiority, so as to be out of all proportion to the will, a condition which is the essence of real genius; the intellect is then not only more than enough for the needs and aims of life, it is absolutely prejudicial to them. The result is that, in youth, excessive energy in grasping the objective world, accompanied by a vivid imagination and a total lack of experience, makes the mind susceptible, and an easy prey to extravagant ideas, nay, even to chimeras; and the result is an eccentric and phantastic character. And when, in later years, this state of mind yields and passes away under the teaching of experience, still the genius never feels himself at home in the common world of every day and the ordinary business of life; he will never take his place in it, and accommodate himself to it as accurately as the person of moral intellect; he will be much more likely to make curious mistakes. For the ordinary mind feels itself so completely at home in the narrow circle of its ideas and views of the world that no one can get the better of it in that sphere; its faculties remain true to their original purpose, viz., to promote the service of the will; it devotes itself steadfastly to this end, and abjures extravagant aims. The genius, on the other hand, is at bottom a monstrum per excessum; just as, conversely, the passionate, violent and unintelligent man, the brainless barbarian, is a monstrum per defectum”.

From Psychological Observations, translated by T. Bailey Saunders

From Goethe’s Conversations

Goethe talked with me about the continuation of his memoirs, with which he is now busy. He observed that this later period of his life would not be narrated with such minuteness as the youthful epoch of “Dichtung und Wahrheit.” “I must,” said he, “treat this later period more in the fashion of annals: my outward actions must appear rather than my inward life. Altogether, the most important part of an individual’s life is that of development, and mine is concluded in the detailed volumes of ‘Dichtung und Wahrheit.’ Afterwards begins the conflict with the world, and that is interesting only in its results.

“And then the life of a learned German—what is it? What may have been really good in my case cannot be communicated, and what can be communicated is not worth the trouble. Besides, where are the hearers whom one could entertain with any satisfaction?

“When I look back to the earlier and middle periods of my life, and now in my old age think how few are left of those who were young with me, I always think of a summer residence at a bathing-place. When you arrive, you make acquaintance and friends of those who have already been there some time, and who leave in a few weeks. The loss is painful. Then you turn to the second generation, with which you live a good while, and become most intimate. But this goes also, and leaves us alone with the third, which comes just as we are going away, and with which we have, properly, nothing to do.

“I have ever been esteemed one of Fortune’s chiefest favourites; nor will I complain or find fault with the course my life has taken. Yet, truly, there has been nothing but toil and care; and I may say that, in all my seventy-five years, I have never had a month of genuine comfort. It has been the perpetual rolling of a stone, which I have always had to raise anew. My annals will render clear what I now say. The claims upon my activity, both from within and without, were too numerous.

“My real happiness was my poetic meditation and production. But how was this disturbed, limited, and hindered by my external position! Had I been able to abstain more from public business, and to live more in solitude, I should have been happier, and should have accomplished much more as a poet. But, soon after my ‘Goetz’ and ‘Werther,’ that saying of a sage was verified for me—‘If you do anything for the sake of the world, it will take good care that you shall not do it a second time.’

“A wide-spread celebrity, an elevated position in life, are good things. But, for all my rank and celebrity, I am still obliged to be silent as to the opinion of others, that I may not give offence. This would be but poor sport, if by this means I had not the advantage of learning the thoughts of others without their being able to learn mine.” – Eckermann

From Kaufmann’s Faith of a Heretic

“Job’s forthright indictment of the injustice of this world is surely right. The ways of the world are weird and much more unpredictable than either scientists or theologians generally make things look. Job personifies the inscrutable, merciless, uncanny in a god who is all-pow­erful but not just. . . .

“Those who believe in God because their experience of life and the facts of nature prove his existence must have led sheltered lives and closed their hearts to the voice of their brothers’ blood. “Behold the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of the oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive; but better than both is he who has not yet been, and has not seen the evil deeds done under the sun.” Whether Ecclesiastes, who “saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun,” retained any faith in God is a moot point, but Jeremiah and Job and the psalmists who speak in a similar vein did. Pagan piety rose to similar heights of despair and created tragedies.

“The deepest difference between religions is not that between poly­theism and monotheism. To which camp would one assign Sophocles? Even the difference between theism and atheism is not nearly so pro­found as that between those who feel and those who do not feel their brothers’ torments. The Buddha, like the prophets and the Greek trage­dians, did, though he did not believe in any deity. There is no inkling of such piety in the callous religiousness of those who note the regu­larities of nature, find some proof in that of the existence of a God or gods, and practice magic, rites, or pray to ensure rain, success, or speedy passage into heaven.” Walter Kaufmann

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg 1742-1799

“(Lion) fell in love in his tenth year with a boy named Schmidt (best pupil in the school), the son of a tailor, liked to hear him talked about and got all the boys to converse with him, never spoke to him himself but it gave him great pleasure to hear that the boy had spoken of him. Climbed up on a wall after school to see him go out of school. Now he still remembers his physiognomy very clearly, and he was far from handsome, a turned-up nose and red cheeks. But he was first in school. I should be sorry if by this free confession I should increase the world’s mistrust, but I was a human being and if happiness is ever to be attained in this world it must not be sought through concealment, not at all, nothing firm can come about in that way. Lasting happiness is to be found only in uprightness and sincerity…” From The Waste Books, translated by R. J. Hollingdale

“Lion” is one of the names Lichtenberg adopted when he wrote about himself in the third person, i.e. objectively.

Schiller’s Letters


But perhaps there is a vicious circle in our previous reasoning! Theoretical culture must it seems bring along with it practical culture, and yet the latter must be the condition of the former. All improvement in the political sphere must proceed from the ennobling of the character. But, subject to the influence of a social constitution still barbarous, how can character become ennobled? It would then be necessary to seek for this end an instrument that the state does not furnish, and to open sources that would have preserved themselves pure in the midst of political corruption.

I have now reached the point to which all the considerations tended that have engaged me up to the present time. This instrument is the art of the beautiful; these sources are open to us in its immortal models.

Art, like science, is emancipated from all that is positive, and all that is humanly conventional; both are completely independent of the arbitrary will of man. The political legislator may place their empire under an interdict, but he cannot reign there. He can proscribe the friend of truth, but truth subsists; he can degrade the artist, but he cannot change art. No doubt, nothing is more common than to see science and art bend before the spirit of the age, and creative taste receive its law from critical taste. When the character becomes stiff and hardens itself, we see science severely keeping her limits, and art subject to the harsh restraint of rules; when the character is relaxed and softened, science endeavors to please and art to rejoice. For whole ages philosophers as well as artists show themselves occupied in letting down truth and beauty to the depths of vulgar humanity. They themselves are swallowed up in it; but, thanks to their essential vigor and indestructible life, the true and the beautiful make a victorious fight, and issue triumphant from the abyss.

No doubt the artist is the child of his time, but unhappy for him if he is its disciple or even its favorite! Let a beneficent deity carry off in good time the suckling from the breast of its mother, let it nourish him on the milk of a better age, and suffer him to grow up and arrive at virility under the distant sky of Greece. When he has attained manhood, let him come back, presenting a face strange to his own age; let him come, not to delight it with his apparition, but rather to purify it, terrible as the son of Agamemnon. He will, indeed, receive his matter from the present time, but he will borrow the form from a nobler time and even beyond all time, from the essential, absolute, immutable unity. There, issuing from the pure ether of its heavenly nature, flows the source of all beauty, which was never tainted by the corruptions of generations or of ages, which roll along far beneath it in dark eddies. Its matter may be dishonored as well as ennobled by fancy, but the ever-chaste form escapes from the caprices of imagination. The Roman had already bent his knee for long years to the divinity of the emperors, and yet the statues of the gods stood erect; the temples retained their sanctity for the eye long after the gods had become a theme for mockery, and the noble architecture of the palaces that shielded the infamies of Nero and of Commodus were a protest against them. Humanity has lost its dignity, but art has saved it, and preserves it in marbles full of meaning; truth continues to live in illusion, and the copy will serve to re-establish the model. If the nobility of art has survived the nobility of nature, it also goes before it like an inspiring genius, forming and awakening minds. Before truth causes her triumphant light to penetrate into the depths of the heart, poetry intercepts her rays, and the summits of humanity shine in a bright light, while a dark and humid night still hangs over the valleys.

But how will the artist avoid the corruption of his time which encloses him on all hands? Let him raise his eyes to his own dignity, and to law; let him not lower them to necessity and fortune. Equally exempt from a vain activity which would imprint its trace on the fugitive moment, and from the dreams of an impatient enthusiasm which applies the measure of the absolute to the paltry productions of time, let the artist abandon the real to the understanding, for that is its proper field. But let the artist endeavor to give birth to the ideal by the union of the possible and of the necessary. Let him stamp illusion and truth with the effigy of this ideal; let him apply it to the play of his imagination and his most serious actions, in short, to all sensuous and spiritual forms; then let him quietly launch his work into infinite time.

But the minds set on fire by this ideal have not all received an equal share of calm from the creative genius—that great and patient temper which is required to impress the ideal on the dumb marble, or to spread it over a page of cold, sober letters, and then intrust it to the faithful hands of time. This divine instinct, and creative force, much too ardent to follow this peaceful walk, often throws itself immediately on the present, on active life, and strives to transform the shapeless matter of the moral world. The misfortune of his brothers, of the whole species, appeals loudly to the heart of the man of feeling; their abasement appeals still louder: enthusiasm is inflamed, and in souls endowed with energy the burning desire aspires impatiently to action and facts. But has this innovator examined himself to see if these disorders of the moral world wound his reason, or if they do not rather wound his self-love? If he does not determine this point at once, he will find it from the impulsiveness with which he pursues a prompt and definite end. A pure, moral motive has for its end the absolute; time does not exist for it, and the future becomes the present to it directly; by a necessary development, it has to issue from the present. To a reason having no limits the direction towards an end becomes confounded with the accomplishment of this end, and to enter on a course is to have finished it.

If, then, a young friend of the true and of the beautiful were to ask me how, notwithstanding the resistance of the times, he can satisfy the noble longing of his heart, I should reply: Direct the world on which you act towards that which is good, and the measured and peaceful course of time will bring about the results. You have given it this direction if by your teaching you raise its thoughts towards the necessary and the eternal; if, by your acts or your creations, you make the necessary and the eternal the object of your leanings. The structure of error and of all that is arbitrary must fall, and it has already fallen, as soon as you are sure that it is tottering. But it is important that it should not only totter in the external but also in the internal man. Cherish triumphant truth in the modest sanctuary of your heart; give it an incarnate form through beauty, that it may not only be in the understanding that does homage to it, but that feeling may lovingly grasp its appearance. And that you may not by any chance take from external reality the model which you yourself ought to furnish, do not venture into its dangerous society before you are assured in your own heart that you have a good escort furnished by ideal nature. Live with your age, but be not its creation; labor for your contemporaries, but do for them what they need, and not what they praise. Without having shared their faults, share their punishment with a noble resignation, and bend under the yoke which they find it as painful to dispense with as to bear. By the constancy with which you will despise their good fortune, you will prove to them that it is not through cowardice that you submit to their sufferings. See them in thought such as they ought to be when you must act upon them; but see them as they are when you are tempted to act for them. Seek to owe their suffrage to their dignity; but to make them happy keep an account of their unworthiness: thus, on the one hand, the nobleness of your heart will kindle theirs, and, on the other, your end will not be reduced to nothingness by their unworthiness. The gravity of your principles will keep them off from you, but in play they will still endure them. Their taste is purer than their heart, and it is by their taste you must lay hold of this suspicious fugitive. In vain will you combat their maxims, in vain will you condemn their actions; but you can try your moulding hand on their leisure. Drive away caprice, frivolity, and coarseness from their pleasures, and you will banish them imperceptibly from their acts, and at length from their feelings. Everywhere that you meet them, surround them with great, noble, and ingenious forms; multiply around them the symbols of perfection, till appearance triumphs over reality, and art over nature. Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man

Mill on Marriage

“I have considered, thus far, the effects on the pleasures and benefits of the marriage union which depend on the mere unlikeness between the wife and the husband: but the evil tendency is prodigiously aggravated when the unlikeness is inferiority. Mere unlikeness, when it only means difference of good qualities, may be more a benefit in the way of mutual improvement, than a drawback from comfort. When each emulates, and desires and endeavours to acquire the other’s peculiar qualities, the difference does not produce diversity of interest, but increased identity of it, and makes each still more valuable to the other. But when one is much the inferior of the two in mental ability and cultivation, and is not actively attempting by the other’s aid to rise to the other’s level, the whole influence of the connexion upon the development of the superior of the two is deteriorating: and still more so in a tolerably happy marriage than in an unhappy one. It is not with impunity that the superior in intellect shuts himself up with an inferior, and elects that inferior for his chosen, and sole completely intimate associate. Any society which is not improving is deteriorating: and the more so, the closer and more familiar it is. Even a really superior man almost always begins to deteriorate when he is habitually (as the phrase is) king of his company: and in his most habitual company the husband who has a wife inferior to him is always so. While his self-satisfaction is incessantly ministered to on the one hand, on the other he insensibly imbibes the modes of feeling, and of looking at things, which belong to a more vulgar or a more limited mind than his own. This evil differs from many of those which have hitherto been dwelt on, by being an increasing one. The association of men with women in daily life is much closer and more complete than it ever was before. Men’s life is more domestic. Formerly, their pleasures and chosen occupations were among men, and in men’s company: their wives had but a fragment of their lives. At the present time, the progress of civilization, and the turn of opinion against the rough amusements and convivial excesses which formerly occupied most men in their hours of relaxation—together with (it must be said) the improved tone of modern feeling as to the reciprocity of duty which binds the husband towards the wife—have thrown the man very much more upon home and its inmates, for his personal and social pleasures: while the kind and degree of improvement which has been made in women’s education, has made them in some degree capable of being his companions in ideas and mental taste, while leaving them, in most cases, still hopelessly inferior to him. His desire of mental communion is thus in general satisfied by a communion from which he learns nothing. An unimproving and unstimulating companionship is substituted for (what he might otherwise have been obliged to seek) the society of his equals in powers and his fellows in the higher pursuits. We see, accordingly, that young men of the greatest promise generally cease to improve as soon as they marry, and, not improving, inevitably degenerate. If the wife does not push the husband forward, she always holds him back. He ceases to care for what she does not care for; he no longer desires, and ends by disliking and shunning, society congenial to his former aspirations, and which would now shame his falling-off from them; his higher faculties both of mind and heart cease to be called into activity. And this change coinciding with the new and selfish interests which are created by the family, after a few years he differs in no material respect from those who have never had wishes for anything but the common vanities and the common pecuniary objects.

“What marriage may be in the case of two persons of cultivated faculties, identical in opinions and purposes, between whom there exists that best kind of equality, similarity of powers and capacities with reciprocal superiority in them—so that each can enjoy the luxury of looking up to the other, and can have alternately the pleasure of leading and of being led in the path of development—I will not attempt to describe. To those who can conceive it, there is no need; to those who cannot, it would appear the dream of an enthusiast. But I maintain, with the profoundest conviction, that this, and this only, is the ideal of marriage; and that all opinions, customs, and institutions which favour any other notion of it, or turn the conceptions and aspirations connected with it into any other direction, by whatever pretences they may be coloured, are relics of primitive barbarism. The moral regeneration of mankind will only really commence, when the most fundamental of the social relations is placed under the rule of equal justice, and when human beings learn to cultivate their strongest sympathy with an equal in rights and in cultivation.”
The Subjection of Women