July 26, 2007

Many happy returns of the day

james Dexter Havens caricature of Bernard Shaw
The truth is, laws, religions, creeds, and systems of ethics, instead of making society better than its best unit, make it worse than its average unit, because they are never up to date. You will ask me: “Why have them at all?” I will tell you. They are made necessary, though we all secretly detest them, by the fact that the number of people who can think out a line of conduct for themselves even on one point is very small, and the number who can afford the time for it still smaller. Nobody can afford the time to do it on all points. The professional thinker may on occasion make his own morality and philosophy as the cobbler may make his own boots; but the ordinary man of business must buy at the shop, so to speak, and put up with what he finds on sale there, whether it exactly suits him or not, because he can neither make a morality for himself nor do without one. This typewriter with which I am writing is the best I can get; but it is by no means a perfect instrument; and I have not the smallest doubt that in fifty years’ time authors will wonder how men could have put up with so clumsy a contrivance. When a better one is invented I shall buy it: until then, not being myself an inventor, I must make the best of it, just as my Protestant and Roman Catholic and Agnostic friends make the best of their imperfect creeds and systems.

—George Bernard Shaw, The Sanity of Art, 1895/1908

Kubrick and Jagger are pretty cool, but sharing a birthday with GBS? That makes getting older worthwhile.

Caricature by James Dexter Havens, 1935. Trivia: Havens was also the first American patient to receive insulin therapy for diabetes.

3 comments:

hester said...

happy birthday!

Elaine Fine said...

Thanks for the Shaw quote and the link to the Sanity of Art, which is a real gem.

sfmike said...

Shaw is the bomb. Unfortunately, my birthday sharer is one of Shaw's idols (and one of my least favorite composers), Richard Wagner.

Happy birthday, dude.