My Commonplace Book (a diary of excerpts copied from printed books, with comments added by the reader.)
Spiritualists believe in personal immortality as far as any mortal can believe in such an unimaginable horror.
— George Bernard Shaw(probably from the preface to Back to Methuselah or another of his late, long, never-performed plays)
There was a time (before “My Fair Lady” and other sugar-coated variants diluted his sharp messages) when some theater company in every major town—and most college drama departments—were sure to be doing one of Shaw’s plays, challenging common beliefs of the comfortable classes while making them laugh. And doing it all with words, no special effects, no sexy innuendos, no sentimental happily-ever-after, just social, political, and philosophical reality dropped into the laps of audiences for them to face and deal with.
This line shows Shaw at his best, asking us to look steadily at the accepted cliché that we would all want to be ourselves, in this life, forever. He invites us to seriously consider such a reality, and, if you are neither a monster nor an idiot, experience a sense of dread and horror creeping over you, perhaps worse than the instinctive fear of death.
Now Shaw is out of fashion—“too talky, too cerebral, too reform-minded, too political”—too everything that sees the fun in witty jousting with eternally important ideas.
I miss him.
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