“Somebody who reads only newspapers and at best the books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely nearsighted person who scorns eyeglasses. He is completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of his times, since he never gets to see or hear anything else. And what a person thinks on his own without being stimulated by the thoughts and experiences of other people is even in the best case rather paltry and monotonous.
There are only a few enlightened people with a lucid mind and style and with good taste within a century. What has been preserved of their work belongs among the most precious possessions of mankind.
Nothing is more needed than to overcome the modernist’s snobbishness.”
– Albert Einstein
This sentiment is as true as ever. From marriage and sex to government and religion, there is an air about our generation that thinks ourselves universally more enlightened than past generations. Since we came up with the microprocessor, the internet and the ability to suppress a woman’s ovulation, we’ve developed a kind of snobbishness that acts as if all other wisdom passed down through history (i.e. tradition) is no longer valid. It’s a kind of snobbishness that is most often in history humbled, in time, the hard way.
It’s also the kind of snobbishness and arrogance that naturally affects any generation which experiences advancements beyond the previous one. So there is always a need to protect ourselves by thoughtfully humbling ourselves in, as Albert Einstein called them, the “most precious possessions” of the past (while being careful not to develop a traditionalist’s snobbishness at the same time).
For me, Sacred Scripture is one such precious possession. Another is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Whether you are Catholic or not, it is one of the most impressive documents in human history and is itself a preservation of many of the precious bits of wisdom mankind has managed to pass on — all pieced together in harmony. The Sunday liturgy is another precious tradition containing wisdom and genius we will never get to the end of.
What about you? What are some of the precious possessions of mankind that you love and you think can help humble our modern snobbishness and why? I’d love to hear (just email me back).
(They could be stories, books, art, songs, rituals, lessons learned…anything.)