Best Things of Mankind

Moving In Familiar Water

The quote below is from the novel Winged Legend: The Life of Amelia Earhart by John Burke.

Something drives humanity on toward a goal it cannot visualize, and certain individuals feel the impulse more strongly than others.

A few days after Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan disappeared and hope for their recovery was abandoned, Walter Lippmann commented on her career with a compassionate wisdom….

‘The best things of mankind ,’ he wrote, ‘are as useless as Amelia Earhart’s adventure. They are things that are undertaken, not for some definite, measurable result, but because someone, not counting the costs or calculating the consequences, is moved by curiosity, the love of excellence, a point of honor, the compulsion to invent, or to make or to understand. In such persons mankind overcomes the inertia which would keep it earthbound forever in its habitual ways. They have in them free and useless energy with which alone men surpass themselves.

‘Such energy cannot be planned and managed and made purposeful or weighed by the standards of utility or judged by its social consequences. It is wild and free. But all the heroes, the saints and the seers, the explorers and the creators, partake of it….

‘No preconceived theory fits them. No material purpose actuates them. They do the useless, brave, noble, the divinely foolish and the very wisest things that are done by men. And what they may prove to themselves and to others is that man is no mere creature of his habits, no mere automaton in his routine, no mere cog in the collective machine, but that in the dust of which he is made there is also fire, lighted now and then by great winds from the sky.’

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