A Quote From E.M. Forster

I recently read the essay “What I Believe,” by E.M. Forster, and one passage resonated powerfully with me. I’d like to share it with you. I put my favorite parts in bold:

I believe in aristocracy, though – if that is the right word, and
if a democrat may use it. Not an aristocracy of power, based upon 
rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the con- 
siderate and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all
nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret
understanding between them when they meet. They represent 
the true human tradition, the one permanent victory of our queer 
race over cruelty and chaos. Thousands of them perish in
obscurity, a few are great names. They are sensitive for others 
as well as for themselves, they are considerate without being 
fussy, their pluck is not swankiness but the power to endure, and 
they can take a joke. I give no examples – it is risky to do that – 
but the reader may as well consider whether this is the type of
person he would like to meet and to be, and whether (going
further with me) he would prefer that this type should not be an
ascetic one. I am against asceticism myself. I am with the old 
Scotsman who wanted less chastity and more delicacy. I do not
feel that my aristocrats are a real aristocracy if they thwart their
bodies, since bodies are the instruments through which we
register and enjoy the world. Still, I do not insist. This is not a 
major point. It is clearly possible to be sensitive, considerate and
plucky and yet be an ascetic too, and if anyone possesses the first
three qualities I will let him in! On they go – an invincible army, 
yet not a victorious one. The aristocrats, the elect, the chosen, 
the Best People – all the words that describe them are false, and
all attempts to organize them fail. Again and again Authority, 
seeing their value, has tried to net them and to utilize them as the 
Egyptian Priesthood or the Christian Church or the Chinese 
Civil Service or the Group Movement, or some other worthy 
stunt. But they slip through the net and are gone; when the door 
is shut, they are no longer in the room; their temple, as one of 
them remarked, is the holiness of the Heart’s affections, and their 
kingdom, though they never possess it, is the wide-open world.

I am not going to add my analysis, but I’d like you to think about this for a while and decide if you agree.

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