Sunday, November 29, 2009
Outwards, or Inwards?
Hilaire Belloc, On Ely
(from Hills and the Sea
Everybody knows that one can increase what one has of knowledge or of any other possession by going outwards and outwards; but what is also true, and what people know less, is that one can increase it by going inwards and inwards. There is no goal to either of these directions, nor any term to your advantage as you travel in them.
If you will be extensive, take it easy; the infinite is always well ahead of you, and its symbol is the sky.
If you will be intensive, hurry as much as you like you will never exhaust the complexity of things; and the truth of this is very evident in a garden, or even more in the nature of insects; of which beasts I have heard it said that the most stolid man in the longest of lives would acquire only a cursory knowledge of even one kind, as, for instance, of the horned beetle, which sings so angrily at evening.
You may travel for the sake of great horizons, and travel all your life, and fill your memory with nothing but views from mountain-tops, and yet not have seen a tenth of the world. Or you may spend your life upon the religious history of East Rutland, and plan the most enormous book upon it, and yet find that you have continually to excise and select from the growing mass of your material.