Wednesday, March 19, 2014


The Ant-Heap and the Fair

R.R. Bolgar (1913-1985), The Classical Heritage and Its Beneficiaries: From the Carolingian Age to the End of the Renaissance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1954; rpt. New York: Harper & Row, 1964), p. 392:
The citizen of a modern state, absorbed in his specialised tasks, has been justly compared to the ant or the bee; but if we consider his leisure rather than his work, we may prefer to liken him to a customer at a fair surrounded by a ring of barkers, each of whom is competing for his full attention, so that he goes from one to another, deafened by their clamour, and never has a chance to think of what he is or what he wants. The ant-heap and the fair seem to belong to different worlds. Fundamentally, however, the man who has come to resemble an ant and the befuddled fair-goer suffer the same kind of frustration. Both find that a part of their being has been elevated above the whole. The importance of some limited trait, impulse or interest has been over-emphasised at the expense of an inner harmony and the integrating power of the will.

R.R. Bolgar, photograph by Antony Barrington Brown

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