Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Something to think about

Something to think about:

If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once a week; for perhaps the part of my brain now atrophied would thus have kept active through use.

The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.

-- Charles Darwin --


  1. What a lovely quote - thank you for sharing. What does this come from? I can see how there would be a real loss of richness in life if these tastes were lost to a person...

    thanks for sharing


  2. Hannah,

    The quote comes from a collection titled _Golden Treasury of the Familiar_, edited by Ralph L. Woods.

    Unfortunately, he doesn't cite the source for the quote.

    Perhaps one of his letters?

  3. Poetry and music--at least the varieties known to Darwin--may be relics of the past for most people. 21st century culture seems to offer peculiar varieties of those two art forms, and that peculiarity tends to make me something of a Luddite who prefers "oldies but goodies" from the past: Blake, Wordsworth, Keats, Dickinson, and Hopkins (among the poets), and Mozart more than any other composer. Alas, I am lost in the past. Perhaps Darwin and I would have some interesting conversations.

  4. My preferences also begin in the past, but I find some 20th century writers, poets, and composers to be congenial companions, many because they still have the flavor of the past in their works.

  5. This is an interesting quote, Fred, but if Darwin really could have lived his life over again, I wonder if he'd have done it much differently.

    The fact is, there's only so much time in a day. And Darwin had a pretty good work ethic, I believe, despite his poor health. Spending more time on anything else, regardless of its value, would mean less time on other things (notably his scientific work).

    I may idly state that I wish I could spend more time on something,... but I can't do everything I'd like to do already. Inevitably, we must pick and choose. I rarely read poetry these days, or even listen to music. I wouldn't claim those activities don't have value, but only that our time is finite.

    I suppose that Charles Darwin meant what he said, but would he really have done so, knowing that it would mean less time for something else?

  6. WCG,

    It's, of course, impossible to know.

    We make our choices on the basis of defined and frequently undefined priorities, which I think are even more powerful than the defined priorities because we act upon them without thinking about them. Our defined priorities are subject to review, which our undefined aren't.

    As for Darwin, I took his statement to mean that he felt he was missing something in his life which poetry and music could make right. It seemed to me to be a statement in favor of a balanced life--science and the arts and humanities, or to broaden it, one's work and the arts and humanities.