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This is life—recruiting, repairing, feeding, cleansing, purging; ailments, rags, excrements, dregs. Which of all the sensations is it for which life is eligible? Where is the day or hour in which we can say we live upon the present, and that our happiness is not still future and in promise? Which part of our past life would we desire to live over again?… Everything wastes and is perishing; everything hastens to its dissolution… Mortalities must every day be expected—friends dropping off, accidents and calamities impending, diseases, lamenesses, deafness, loss of sight, of memory, of parts… All is misery, disappointment, and regret. In vain we endeavour to drive away those thoughts; in vain we strive by humour and diversion to raise ourselves; which is but to fall the lower. He and he only is in any degree happy, who can confront these things; who can steadily look on them without turning away his sight; and who, knowing the sum and conclusion of all, waits for the finishing of his part, his only care in the meanwhile being to act that part as becomes him and to preserve his mind entire and sound, unshaken and uncorrupt; in friendship with mankind, and in unity with that original mind with respect to which nothing either does or can happen but what is most agreeable and conducing, and what is of universal good.
–Anthony Ashley-Cooper, Third Earl of Shaftesbury, Philosophical Regimen, “Life” (ca. 1698) in: The Life, Unpublished Letters and Philosophical Regimen of Anthony, Earl of Shaftesbury p. 256-57 (B. Rand ed. 1900)
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”