A Sentence from an Old Book

I am trying to write about a sentence I like very much, but I am struggling. It is from the Forward to a 1958 edition of The Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith. The sentence affects me with something like homesickness and nostalgia…this despite the fact that I experienced nothing of this era or manner of living.

The sentences is this:

“Since I sailed for Switzerland in the early summer of 1955 to begin work on this book I have accumulated a large and cosmopolitan set of obligations.”

Isn’t that fantastic? First of all, we don’t live like that anymore; even those of us who can don’t. We don’t sail, we jet. And when was the last time one spoke so easily of a schedule so that they described it in the broad terms of “the early summer of 1955”? Today we are literally tethered to tasks and itineraries on our phones and computers which track us to the hour, if not the minute, and certainly not by the season.

And what are those “large and cosmopolitan set of obligations”? I presume those obligations are work and “work” rarely sounds so meaningful, does it? Or perhaps work indeed is nothing but work and obligations are something else all together, something better. Obligations. Wouldn’t it be nice to be bound to obligations, and a set of cosmopolitan ones at that?

That sentence says a lot.


One thought on “A Sentence from an Old Book

  1. Gary Farland

    What are a cosmopolitan obligations?
    cosmopolitan |ˌkäzməˈpälitn|
    familiar with and at ease in many different countries and cultures: his knowledge of French, Italian, and Spanish made him genuinely cosmopolitan.
    • including people from many different countries: immigration transformed the city into a cosmopolitan metropolis.
    • having an exciting and glamorous character associated with travel and a mixture of cultures: their designs became a byword for cosmopolitan chic.
    • (of a plant or animal) found all over the world.

    So it would seem that he had a wide variety of plants and animals to take care of.


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