Gospel according to Bill Bryson

I’ve been reading Bill Bryson’s travel book, ‘Neither Here nor There’. Hilarious, though with unnecessary tendency to think with pants down. Anyhow, here are some insights from the book which may be of interest to the readers:

On Tolerance

The people of Amsterdam were rather stuck with their tradition of tolerance, like people who take up a political stance and then have to defend it no matter how untenable it gets. Because they have been congratulating themselves on their intelligent tolerance for all these centuries, it is now impossible for them not to  be nobly accommodating to graffiti and burned-out hippies and dog shit and litter. Of course, I may be completely misreading the situation. They may like dog shit and litter. I hope so, because they’ve certainly got a lot of it. (p.80)

[Tolerance, the most popular virtue of today, is actually not a virtue – because it isn’t always good. Tolerance tolerates evil for the sake of a good outcome. Tolerance for tolerance’s sake is political correctness gone mad.]

On guarding of mind

The Anne Frank museum is excellent at conveying the horror of what happened to the Jews…. One piecture I hadn’t seen transfixed me. It was a blurry photo of a German soldier taking aim with a rifle at a woman and the baby she was clutching as she cowered beside a trench of bodies. I couldn’t stop staring at it, trying to imagine what sort of a person could do such a thing. (pp.83-84)

[I titled this one as above because that person could be any one of us. The thing is, man, alone among all the creatures on earth, is capable of contributing to shaping his own nature. So, while we can see good and evil, while our time on earth still allows us, we must strive with all our heart, soul and mind to love God – the source of all good – and reject evil. At times, evil comes mixed in with 95% good, like in a good propaganda; we must acknowledge the 95% and reject the 5%. As C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity:]

Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before…All your life you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be one kind of creature is heaven…To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness…The right direction leads not only to peace but to knowledge…Good people know about both good and evil; bad people don’t know about either.


St. Peter’s doesn’t look all that fabulous from the outside, not at least from the piazza at its foot, but step inside and it’s so sensational that your mouth falls open whether you want it to or not. It is a marvel, so vast and beautiful and cool and filled with treasures and airy heights and pale beams of heavenly light that you don’t know where to place your gaze. it is the only building I have ever seen in where I have felt like sinking to my knees, clasping my hands heavenward and crying, ‘Take me home, Lord.’ No structure on earth would ever look the same to me again. (p.128)

[Which is exactly why the Catholic Church values music, art and architecture – they lead us to rightly acknowledge with awe the majesty of God.]


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