Tuesday, March 13, 2012



Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), Silence Is Golden, in Do What You Will: Essays (London: Chatto & Windus, 1929), pp. 52-61 (at 52-53):
There was a time when I should have felt terribly ashamed of not being up-to-date. I lived in a chronic apprehension lest I might, so to speak, miss the last bus, and so find myself stranded and benighted in a desert of demodedness, while others, more nimble than myself, had already climbed on board, taken their tickets and set out towards those bright but, alas, ever receding goals of Modernity and Sophistication. Now, however, I have grown shameless, I have lost my fears. I can watch unmoved the departure of the last social-cultural bus—the innumerable last buses, which are starting at every instant in all the world's capitals. I make no effort to board them, and when the noise of each departure has died down, 'Thank Goodness!' is what I say to myself in the solitude. I find nowadays that I simply don't want to be up-to-date. I have lost all desire to see and do the things, the seeing and doing of which entitle a man to regard himself as superiorly knowing, sophisticated, unprovincial; I have lost all desire to frequent the places and people that a man simply must frequent, if he is not to be regarded as a poor creature hopelessly out of the swim. 'Be up-to-date!' is the categorical imperative of those who scramble for the last bus. But it an imperative whose cogency I refuse to admit. When it is a question of doing something which I regard as a duty, I am as ready as any one else to put up with discomfort. But being up-to-date and in the swim has ceased, so far as I am concerned, to be a duty. Why should I have my feelings outraged, why should I submit to being bored and disgusted, for the sake of someone else's categorical imperative? Why? There is no reason. So I simply avoid most of the manifestations of that so-called 'life' which my contemporaries seem to be unaccountably anxious to 'see'; I keep out of the range of the 'art' they think it so vitally necessary to 'keep up with'; I flee from those 'good times', in the 'having' of which they are prepared to spend so lavishly of their energy and cash.

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