27 September 2012

A Mere Article of the World's Furniture

Henri Frédéric Amiel, Journal Intime, trans. Mrs. Humphry Ward (New York: A. L. Burt, c. 1895), pp. 144-5:
The man who has no refuge in himself, who lives, so to speak, in his front rooms, in the outer whirlwind of things and opinions, is not properly a personality at all; he is not distinct, free, original, a cause -- in a word, some one. He is one of a crowd, a taxpayer, an elector, an anonymity, but not a man. He helps to make up the mass -- to fill up the number of human consumers or producers; but he interests nobody but the economist and the statistician, who take the heap of sand as a whole into consideration, without troubling themselves about the uninteresting uniformity of the individual grains. The crowd counts only as a massive elementary force -- why? because its constituent parts are individually insignificant: they are all like each other, and we add them up like the molecules of water in a river, gauging them by the fathom instead of appreciating them as individuals. Such men are reckoned and weighed merely as so many bodies: they have never been individualized by conscience, after the manner of souls.
He who floats with the current, who does not guide himself according to higher principles, who has no ideal, no convictions -- such a man is a mere article of the world's furniture -- a thing moved, instead of a living and moving being -- an echo, not a voice. The man who has no inner life is the slave of his surroundings, as the barometer is the obedient servant of the air at rest, and the weathercock the humble servant of the air in motion.