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Jedes Verlangen nach Ruhm ist ehrbar, aller Kampf um das Tüchtige lobenswürdig; mag doch jedem Stand seine eigene Ehre bleiben ihm eine eigene Zierde gewährt sein; jene Ahnenbilder will ich nicht verachten so wenig als die wohlausgestatteten Stammbäume, aber was auch deren Wert sei, ist nicht unser eigen wenn wäre es nicht durch Verdienste erst eigen machen auch kann es nicht bestehen wenn der Adel nicht Sitten, die ihm geziemen, annimmt. Vergehens wird ein fetter und beleibter jener Hausväter die Standbilder seiner Vorfahren Dir aufzeigen, indes er selbst untätig eher einem Klotz ähnlich, als daß es jenen die ihm mit Tüchtigkeit voranleuchteten zu vergleichen wäre.
All longing for fame is honorable, all struggle for the virtuous is worthy of praise. Even if we accord to every class its own honor as an individual ornament—still, all those portraits of ancestors I will not despise so much as the well-drawn family trees, whatever their worth may be, the nobility they show is not our own unless it is so made through our own achievements, and neither can it subsist unless the nobility take on the good morals which behoove them. In vain will an unseemly character among these nobles show you the portrait gallery of his ancestors, for if he himself is unworthy of the comparison to those who showed the way before him with their virtues, then he will seem more a klutz than a nobleman.
–Ulrich von Hutten, letter to Wilibald Pirckheimer, Oct. 25, 1518 (transl. of the Latin original, epistola vitae suae rationem exponens, by Jacob Burckhardt; English transl. S.H.)
More from Scott Horton:
No Comment — November 4, 2013, 5:17 pm
An expert panel concludes that the Pentagon and the CIA ordered physicians to violate the Hippocratic Oath
No Comment — August 12, 2013, 7:55 am
How will the Obama Administration handle Edward Snowden’s case in the long term?
No Comment — July 29, 2013, 11:36 am
Is it possible to simply disband the partisan FISA court?
Fleming awoke in the dark and his room felt loose, sloshing so badly he gripped the bed. From his window there was nothing but a hallway, and if he craned his neck, a blown lightbulb swung into view. The room pitched up and down and for a moment he thought he might be sick. The word “hallway” must have a nautical name. Why didn’t they supply a glossary for this cruise? Probably they had, in the welcome packet he’d failed to read. A glossary. A history of the boat, which would be referred to as a ship. Sunny biographies of the captain and crew, who had always dreamed of this life. Lobotomized histories of the islands they’d visit. Who else had sailed this way. Famous suckwads from the past, slicing through this very water on wooden longships.
A welcome packet, the literary genre most likely to succeed in the new millennium. Why not read about a community you don’t belong to, that doesn’t actually exist, a captain and crew who are, in reality, if that isn’t too much of a downer on your vacation, as indifferent to one another as any set of co-employees at an office or bank? Read doctored personal statements from underpaid crew members — because ocean life pays better than money! — who hate their lives but have been forced to buy into the mythology of working on a boat, separated now from loved ones and friends, growing lonelier by the second, even while they wait on you and follow your every order.
Number of people stopped and frisked by the NYPD in 2011 for “furtive movements”:
The faces of Lego people were growing angrier.
Four people were arrested for using a remote-controlled hexacopter to fly two pounds of tobacco to prisoners inside the yard at Calhoun State Prison in Georgia.
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Our congratulations to Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature