July 19, 1903
Many thanks for sending me the three articles on Religion: they strike me
as exceedingly good, and as saying things that much need saying. All your
eloquent passages seem to me very successful; and the parable at the end I
like quite immensely. I enclose a few remarks on some quite tiny points
that struck me in reading—mostly verbal points.
The attack on Ecclesiasticism is, I think, much needed; you if anything
underestimate, I should say, the danger of Ecclesiasticism in this
country. Whenever I happen to meet Beatrice Creighton I feel the danger
profoundly; and she illustrates one of the worst points from a practical
point of view, the even when a man belonging to an ecclesiastical system
happens to be broad-minded and liberal himself, he takes care to avoid
such a state of mind in others whom he can influence.
Why should you suppose I think it foolish to wish to see the people one is
fond of? What else is there to make life tolerable? We stand on the shore
of an ocean, crying to the night and the emptiness; sometimes a voice
answers out of the darkness. But it is a voice of one drowning; and in a
moment the silence returns. The world seems to me quite dreadful; the
unhappiness of most people is very great, and I often wonder how they all
endure it. To know people well is to know their tragedy: it is usually the
central thing about which their lives are built. And I suppose if they did
not live most of the time in the things of the moment, they would not be
able to go on.
Bertrand Russell, The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell (New York:
Routledge, 2000), p. 194.
A great many worries can be diminished by
realizing the unimportance of the matters, which is causing anxiety. Our
doings are not so important as we naturally suppose; our successes and
failures do not after all matter very much . . . One of the symptoms of
approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly
important and that to take a holiday would bring all kinds of disaster. If
I were a medical man, I should prescribe a holiday to any patient who
considered his work important.
Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness (New York: Liveright
Books, 1971), p. 61. (“Fatigue,” pp. 57-66.)