Friday, December 23, 2011

No more be grieved at that which thou hast done...

"There is no one…however wise, who has not at some period of their youth said things, or lived in a way the consciousness of which is so unpleasant to them in later life that they would gladly, if they could, expunge it from their memory. And yet they ought not regret it entirely, because they cannot be certain that they have indeed become a wise person—so far as it is possible for any of us to be wise—unless they have passed through all the fatuous or unwholesome incarnations by which that ultimate stage must be preceded. I know that there are young people…whose teachers have instilled in them a nobility of mind and moral refinement from the very beginning of their schooldays. They have, perhaps, when they look back upon their past lives, nothing to retract; they can, if they choose, publish a signed account of everything they have ever said or done; but they are poor creatures, feeble descendants of doctrinaires, and their wisdom is negative and sterile. We cannot be taught wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, via a journey which no one can undertake for us, an effort which no one can spare us."

Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past: Volume I - Swann's Way & Within a Budding Grove

1 comment:

Den said...

I made the editorial decision to change the gender specifics in Proust's quote from "he" etc to "they" housemate joked on this immediately but it seems to me that today Proust would find himself embarrassed by the social artifacts in his language and the text's suggestion that the wisdom is only available to men.