Friday, January 29, 2010

Essay: "Speed." Max Beerbohm

Ten-second review: Reflections on the thrill of speed, whether mental speed or machine speed as in a car. Speed causes many emotions, and we all know that we should slow down, even if slowing down results in even more accidents. But don’t forget: all of us are, every day we are on earth, traveling at 1,110 miles a minute on the earth as it spins in the universe.


“…in a world that has succumbed so meekly to the idea of speed—speed everywhere and at all times, produced by means of machinery and regarded as an end in itself.”

“Nor do I dispute the proposition that speed in itself is no danger. A cannon ball fired from a cannon is not itself dangerous. It is dangerous only if you happen to be in the way of it.”

“But here is heartening fact for you. We are all of us traveling at a tremendous rate, and we shall always continue to do so. We shall not, it is true, be able to get rid of our speed limit. But it is a very liberal one: 1,110 miles a minute….”

“Our planet is not truly progressing, of course: it is back at its starting-point every year. But it never for an instant pauses in its passage through space. Nor will it do so even when, some billions of years hence, it shall have become too cold for us human beings: to exist upon its surface. It will still be proceeding at its present pace: 1,110 miles a minute.” [If we have not blown it out of the universe. RayS.]

Great Essays. Ed. Houston Peterson. New York: Washington Square Press, Inc. 1960.

What is an essay? “They are all prefaces. A preface is nothing but a talk with the reader; and they [essays] do nothing else.” Charles Lamb.

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