Aphorisms by Nicolás Gómez Dávila

The preternaturally aphoristically alert Dave Lull directs me to this post on the similarities between the aphorisms of poet-critic J.V. Cunningham (1911-1985) and Colombian aphorist Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913-1994) on Anecdotal Evidence, a blog by Patrick Kurp. I don’t know Cunningham’s work, but I do admire his aphoristic insight into the craft of writing:

 

The writer seeks the unique in the common language.

 

Nicolás Gómez Dávila features in Geary’s Guide (pp. 331-332). He called his aphorisms escolios, or ‘glosses.’ He is among Colombia’s most controversial scholars, despite the fact that he never held a university post or made the slightest effort to publicize his work. He spent most of his time reading, in a private library that reportedly contained more than 30,000 volumes. Gómez Dávila described himself as a “reactionary”; he criticized both democracy and socialism, attacked liberalism in all its forms, and deplored the reform of the Catholic Church instituted by the Second Vatican Council. More of his sayings can be found here. Some aphorisms:

 

The one who renounces seems weak to the one incapable of renunciation.

 

To think like our contemporaries is a recipe for prosperity and stupidity.

 

In an age in which the media broadcast countless pieces of foolishness, the educated man is defined not by what he knows, but by what he doesn’t know.

 

The punishment of the idealist consists in the triumph of his cause.

 

Confused ideas and muddy ponds appear deep.

 

Nowadays public opinion is not the sum of private opinions. On the contrary, private opinions are an echo of public opinion.

 

The stupidity of an old man imagines itself to be wisdom; that of an adult, experience; that of a youth, genius.