Cities: Aldous Huxley


A large city cannot be experientially known; its life is too manifold for any individual to participate in it.

Aldous Huxley

Beyond the Mexique Bay

I find this an interesting idea. I have lived in London and New York for a large part of my life and it is perfectly true that both are too large, multifarious and complex for any one person to experience the whole city. If you are rich, you will never really know what it is like to be poor in these cities (and vice versa); if you are a native, you will never really know what it is like to be a foreigner (and vice versa); while you are young, you will never really know what it is like to be old (and vice versa – the memory of one’s youth is notoriously unreliable, and besides, the past is a different country).

About layanglicana

Author of books on Calcutta, Delhi and Dar es Salaam, I am now blogging as a lay person about the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. I am also blogging about the effects of World War One on the village of St Mary Bourne, Hampshire.
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2 Responses to Cities: Aldous Huxley

  1. jimB says:

    neither you nor Huxley are wrong, but there is a point where this logic breaks down. I do not have to be a serial killer to understand that I want to stop him, nor does the law enforcement team have to appreciate his (they are almost all men) to get far enough into his lunacy to figure out who he is and arrest him.

    I also do not have to be an, “angry old white guy” the stereotypical American right wingnut, to understand their viewpoint. Their road as twisted and irrational as it may be, is the temptation old white men who are not angry face down sometime in their lives.

    So I think it is dangerous point. There are boundaries to its applicability that have to be explicit or as the Rom say, “that way lies danger.”


  2. layanglicana says:

    Thank-you, Jim, I have not been ignoring you, just pondering my response! Coincidentally the Huffington Post is making the same point as Huxley (and me) :
    I agree with what you say, but I think it is answering a different point from Huxley’s, IMHO. I see Huxley’s point as being that we may feel we know a city, but we don’t, we only know our view of it. I’m not sure this easily translates into a metaphor about understanding another person’s political or moral viewpoint. Someone once said ‘tout comprendre c’est tout pardonner’, but I take it you would disagree and I think I do too. I pretty much understand the justification for the holocaust but I still cannot forgive the perpetrators.

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