‘The big education for me is that civilisation is fragile and can be destroyed in a heartbeat' - Jeremy Brade, former peacekeeper in Sarajevo.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The plagiarism of ourselves

But what we call experience is merely the revelation to our own eyes of a trait in our character which naturally reappears, and reappears all the more markedly because we have already brought it into prominence once of our own accord, so that the spontaneous impulse which guided us on the first occasion finds itself reinforced by all the suggestions of memory. The human plagiarism which it is most difficult to avoid, for individuals (and even for nations which persevere in their faults and continue to aggravate them) is the plagiarism of ourselves.

Marcel Proust - À la recherche du temps perdu

Of course Proust is merely noting how subjective our notions of experience can be, how quickly we lapse into habitual responses. Hardly unfamiliar territory, but do we make use of such insights?

Well surely Proust's point is that we generally don't - it is too difficult. Even nations don't and these days we may add bureaucracies to the list.

So political promises about reforming the EU from the inside are empty for this reason. External events may cause habitual responses to be changed, but it is almost impossible for internal events to initiate similar changes. 

As Proust says - this isn't how we are made.


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Paddington said...

The standard comment is that too much introspection and skepticism renders us catatonic and useless. Most things have to be by habit. Try walking while concentrating on the process.

A K Haart said...

Paddinton - you have to concentrate on walking while trundling up limestone hills in the rain!

Paddington said...

Not the way I'm describing. If you actually think how your feet move, you will interfere with the autonomic nervous system, and stumble. I know, becuase trying to do just that put me into the ER years ago.