Tuesday, July 22, 2008

But It Ain't Over 'Till It's Over

"WE may be through with the past, but the past is not through with us. Ideas of the Stone Age exist side by side with the latest scientific thought. Only a fraction of mankind has emerged from the Dark Ages, and in the most lucid brains, as Logan Pearsall Smith has said, we come upon "nests of woolly caterpillars." Seemingly sane men entrust their wealth to stargazers and their health to witch doctors. Giant planes throb through the stratosphere, but half their passengers are wearing magic amulets and are protected from harm by voodoo incantations. Hotels boast of express elevators and a telephone in every room, but omit thirteen from all floor and room numbers lest their guests be ill at ease. We function on a dozen different levels of intelligence. Earnest suburbanites in sack suits go in their automobiles to celebrate the ancient rites of Attis and Mithra, theophagous in grape juice. On the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox we dye eggs, according to immemorial custom, and seven days before the end of the year worship the pine tree, as did our neolithic forebears. Matter and impertinency are inextricably mixed. One of our greatest universities employs its vast endowment to furnish "scientific proof" of clairvoyance, while, at another, a Nobel prize winner in physics, finding Truth to be incomprehensible, decides that the incomprehensible must be true. The discoveries of the telescope, the spectroscope, and the interferometer are daily news, but the paper that carries them probably has an astrologer on its staff and would sooner omit the headlines than the horoscope."

-- Bergen Evans, in his 1946 book, The History Of Nonsense, which I got from the fine folks at Humbug! Online. [underlined emphasis TMR's]