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As Silicon Valley reshapes the world, journalists, academics, and activists are spending more time scrutinizing the high-minded ideals by which companies like Google and Facebook claim to be guided. As the journalist Franklin Foer put it, Silicon Valley companies “have a set of ideals, but they also have a business model. They end up reconfiguring your ideals in order to justify their business model.”
But she who served great powers, she the priestess of grim Night, was free of that pettiness. She did not have to care about the grinding meanness of their common life, the days whose one delight was likely to be getting a bigger slop of lamb fat over your lentils than your neighbor got. . . . She was free of the days altogether. Underground, there were no days. There was always and only night.
But Siddons could claim much of the credit. Six years beforehand, when it had all gone so horribly wrong, her son Henry had been the cheeky toddler tottering around her dressing room. Now, in 1782, as she made her heroic return, he took to the stage alongside her, playing Isabella’s child. The crossing of identity boundaries – between Sarah and Isabella, performer and character, real mother and stage mother – dazzled audiences. They were overwhelmed with tears as Sarah cradled her little Henry, the devastated pair lamenting the death of a fictional husband and father. It was a powerhouse performance, but it also felt viscerally grounded in truth. Audiences witnessed a real dynamic between the grieving characters, because the Siddonses were a real family.31 She was one of the first celebrities to use their children as a PR prop, and it’s been a valuable tool ever since.
The rate at which man has been storing up useful knowledge about himself and the universe has been spiraling upward for 10,000 years. The rate took a sharp upward leap with the invention of writing, but even so it remained painfully slow over centuries of time. The next great leap forward in knowledge—acquisition did not occur until the invention of movable type in the fifteenth century by Gutenberg and others. Prior to 1500, by the most optimistic estimates, Europe was producing books at a rate of 1000 titles per year. This means, give or take a bit, that it would take a full century to produce a library of 100,000 titles. By 1950, four and a half centuries later, the rate had accelerated so sharply that Europe was producing 120,000 titles a year. What once took a century now took only ten months.
Money, fame and influence may be valued more as tokens of—and means to—love rather than ends in themselves.
To be well read is not only to have consumed many books, it causes a noticeable improvement in the way you read books. In other words, to be well read is to read well.
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