Thursday, August 18, 2011

"the bear does not understand about fasting"

--- Ascribed to St. Sergius, patron saint of Russia, in a story retold by Ann Persson in The Circle of Love: Praying with Rublev's icon of the Trinity (2010) p. 32


Like St Francis, Sergius was a friend to birds and wild animals. There is a story that tells how he regularly fed a bear that came near to his hut. Of there was not enough bread for the two of them, he gave his portion to the bear, because, he said, 'the bear does not understand about fasting'.

Friday, August 05, 2011

"it takes sixty years of incredible suffering and effort to make [a mature] individual, and then he is good only for dying"

--- Ernest Becker, paraphrasing André Malraux's The Human Condition (no reference given), The Denial of Death (1973) p. 268

Quote in context:
We saw [in Chapter Four] that there really was no way to overcome the real dilemma of existence, the one of the mortal animal who at the same time is conscious of his mortality. A person spends years coming into his own, developing his talent, his unique gifts, perfecting his discriminations about the world, broadening and sharpening his appetite, learning to bear the disappointments of life, becoming mature, seasoned—finally a unique creature in nature, standing with some dignity and nobility and transcending the animal condition; no longer driven, no longer a complete reflex, not stamped out of any mold. And then the real tragedy, as AndrĂ© Malraux wrote in The Human Condition: that it takes sixty years of incredible suffering and effort to make such an individual, and then he is good only for dying. This painful paradox is not lost on the person himself— least of all himself. He feels agonizingly unique, and yet he knows that this doesn’t make any difference as far as ultimates are concerned. He has to go the way of the grasshopper even though it takes longer.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

"behind every great fortune there is a psychological aberration"

--- The Economist's Schumpeter columnist, in Great bad men as bosses, 23 July 2011.

Quote in context:

Balzac supposedly wrote that “behind every great fortune lies a great crime”. It would be truer to say that behind every great fortune there is a psychological aberration. Henry Ford hated Jews. George Eastman sanctioned industrial espionage. Thomas Watson turned IBM into a personality cult, complete with company songs about “our friend and guiding hand”, a man whose “courage none can stem”. Michael Milken, the inventor of junk bonds, was jailed. Richard Tedlow of Harvard Business School argues that many “giants of enterprise” suffer from what Norwegians call stormannsgalskap, the madness of great men.

Stormannsgalskap is particularly common among media barons, not least because they frequently blur the line between reporting reality and shaping it. William Randolph Hearst is widely suspected of stirring up the Spanish-American war to give his papers something to report. Lord Beaverbrook regarded himself as a kingmaker, literally so in the case of George VI. These men’s megalomania was captured in two masterworks: Orson Welles’s film “Citizen Kane” and Evelyn Waugh’s novel “Scoop”.

The ugly side of these entrepreneurs is often just as important to their success as their admirable side. You cannot reshape an industry without extraordinary confidence in your own rightness. And it is hard to build a great company from scratch without what Mr Tedlow dubs “the imperialism of the soul”. But these negative qualities often end up undermining the empires that they helped to create.