Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"[A]thletes, philosophers, sex symbols"

On the need for variety in human ways and means:

So multifarious is existence that infinite varieties of attention are required to build a sustainable life within it. Those who particularly notice what is worrisome or anticipate — even to their detriment — what will be painful may be just those who notice nuances of life others might neglect. A species in which everyone was General Patton would not succeed, any more than would a race in which everyone was Vincent van Gogh. I prefer to think that the planet needs athletes, philosophers, sex symbols, painters, scientists; it needs the warmhearted, the hardhearted, the coldhearted, and the weakhearted. It needs those who can devote their lives to studying how many droplets of water are secreted by the salivary glands of dogs under which circumstances, and it needs those who can capture the passing impression of cherry blossoms in a fourteen-syllable poem or devote twenty-five pages to the dissection of a small boy's feelings as he lies in bed in the dark waiting for his mother to kiss him good night. It needs people who can design air conditioners, and it needs people who can inspire joy.

Allen Shawn, Wish I Could Be There: Notes from a Phobic Life (New York: Penguin, 2007), 249–50
The next-to-last sentence confirms that the seeming echo of Proust earlier in this book is indeed an echo.

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