Archive for the ‘H.G.Wells’ Category

A Mind should be like a door, or a mouth

September 12, 2009

An open mind is all very well in its way, but it ought not to be so open that there is no keeping anything in or out of it. It should be capable of shutting its doors sometimes, or it may be found a little drafty.

Samuel Butler, the 19th century British novelist

I think he thought that the object of opening the mind is simply opening the mind. Whereas I am incurably convinced that the object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.

G.K. Chesterton, criticizing the notion of the ever-open and never-closed mind as espoused by H.G. Wells, Chesterton, Autobiography, 1967, pp.223-224

Humanism – Its greatest hopes dashed by hard reality

August 28, 2009

H.G. Wells, writing in A Short History of the World (1937):

Can we doubt that presently our race will more than realize our boldest imaginations, that it will achieve unity and peace, and that our children will live in a world made more splendid and lovely than any palace or garden that we know, going on from strength to strength in an ever-widening circle of achievement? What man has done, the little triumphs of his present state…form but the prelude to things that man has yet to do.

But in 1939, in The Fate of Man, the optimism has gone:

There is no reason whatever to believe that the order of nature has any greater bias in favor of man than it had in favor of the icthyosaur or the pterodactyl. In spite of all my disposition to a brave looking optimism, I perceive that now the universe is bored with him, in turning a hard face to him, and I see him being carried less and less intelligently and more and more rapidly, suffering as every ill-adapted creature must suffer in gross and detail, along the stream of fate to degradation, suffering and death…the spectacle of evil in the world during the past half-dozen years the wanton destruction of homes, the ruthless hounding of decent folk into exile, the bombings of open cities, the cold-blooded massacres and mutilations of children and defenceless gentle people, the rapes and filthy humiliations and, above all, the return of deliberate and organized torture, mental torment and fear to a world from which such things had seemed well nigh banished has come near to breaking my spirit altogether.

By 1945, in Mind at the End of its Tether, he gives way to despair:

A series of events has forced upon the intelligent observer the realization that the human story has already come to an end and that Homo Sapiens, as he has been pleased to call himself, is in his present form played out.  The stars in their courses have turned against him and he has to give place to some other animal better adapted to face the fate that closes in more and more swiftly upon mankind.