To love means to esteem—even perhaps to overestimate—the object of love. To love with open eyes, critically, is something only very few people are capable of doing. Most people’s love is blind. Most people who love their fatherland, their nation, do so blindly. Not only are they incapable of seeing the faults of their nation, their country, they are even inclined to see its faults as instances of human virtue. This is called “National self-confidence.”
A man may be in as just possession of Truth as of a City, and yet be forced to surrender.
Religio Medici, Thomas Browne
Admiral Booth lived his last years in the area of London known as World’s End, an apt place for a man who had once rowed out onto the Thames in order to avoid having to declare that he resided in the city, and who now wished to end his days in obscurity. At the end he was nursed by his companion, Sophia, who all assumed was his wife, the Admiral swallowing down his last spoonfuls of milk and brandy. It was only some time after he died that the residents of World’s End found out that the old man who had shuffled around in a naval greatcoat was no admiral, that his name was not Booth.
I have stayed inside lately, as I suppose we all have. It has felt best to just stay out of the way, and while I know this is the direction from government for most of us (and how unsettling it feels to type those words), I am not sure everyone feels this way. As I look out my window people are still milling about, buying their daily newspaper, tinkering with their car, pushing a child on a bike. And so beyond the official guidelines, and beyond my reservations around how quickly the world has fundamentally changed, it just feels right to be home. An exterior life already feels peculiar. I have always been happiest at home, I think. And obviously now, more than ever. It is the only thing that really makes sense. And I’m not even sure of that.
I can see what is engaging the newspaper reader’s attention: the recent sensational reports from Budapest. They have been given a bold headline. They are presented in a fluffy, tempting, positively beguiling layout, in numerous little paragraphs, each one of which has its own alluring subtitle. Like all news, they give themselves away before they can be transmitted: and they give away more than they can possibly keep.
It is impossible to see them as anything by sensationalist. They are about the passing of false bills, but they don’t tell the whole story. They are scrupulously accurate and yet they withhold a few details. They describe the character of the counterfeiter, but they don’t know his name. They refer to “well-placed sources”, but where and how they are placed they don’t say. Of course, it’s the things you’re not told that arouse your interest. The gaps in the news are the interesting bits.
“A Man Reads the Paper” – Joseph Roth (1926)