“My kingdom is not of this world”: these words are, or should be, pregnant with meaning even for those who do not believe in the divinity of their utterer, for mature reflection should be sufficient to persuade an intelligent man that the permanent condition of mankind is imperfection and discontent, and that therefore a sense of proportion is the greatest of all psychological blessings and attributes. How easy, and superficially gratifying, it is to project the disappointments of one’s own life onto the great screen of the world, the better to evade one’s own responsibility for them and to suppose that there is a political solution to them all: a supposition that professional politicians, of all stripes, are only too eager to encourage.
On every human heart the opening words of Doctor Johnson’s great philosophical fable, Rasselas, should be engraved (Doctor Johnson never denied, incidentally, that improvement or progress in living conditions was possible, for example by means of medicine, in which science he had a deep interest):
Ye who listen with credulity to the whispers of fancy, and pursue with eagerness the phantoms of hope; who expect that age will perform the promises of youth, and that the deficiencies of the present day will be supplied by the morrow; attend to the history of Rasselas prince of Abissinia.
As to our present-day malaise, evident throughout the Western world, I offer no cure or solution.
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