Monday, May 21, 2012

G.K. Chesterton on Conventional Wisdom

    I have been reading some of the works of G.K. Chesterton lately.  Most recently, I began "The Napoleon of Notting Hill."  While I have only read the first few pages, the opening paragraph is a classic commentary on what we now call "conventional wisdom," or the collective vision of the future, near and far, by the day's intellectuals and social scientists, among others (including, ahem, bloggers):
The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. And one of the games to which it is most attached is called "Keep to-morrow dark," and which is also named (by the rustics in Shropshire, I have no doubt) "Cheat the Prophet." The players listen very carefully and respectfully to all that the clever men have to say about what is to happen in the next generation. The players then wait until all the clever men are dead, and bury them nicely. They then go and do something else. That is all. For a race of simple tastes, however, it is great fun.
Of course, this applies not only to what is going "to happen in the next generation," but sometimes next week, month, or year.  A word of caution to all of us who try to read the tea leaves that true wisdom is anything but conventional.

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