The other day I was on Twitter and was struck by a tweet contrasting the fact that we have a robot helicopter on Mars while on Earth some people are trying to convince children to remove their masks during a pandemic.
He linked to the first stanza of Alexander Pope’s “An Essay on Man Epistle 11,” which I provide below (thanks to the Poetry Foundation).
I won’t pretend that I’ve read the entire work by Alexander Pope, which was written in 1773-1774, and which was written (according to Wikipedia) to be the parts of a system of ethics which he wanted to express in poetry. But this first stanza impressed me because it is relevant today.
Peace, love, and solace
Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is man.
Plac’d on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the stoic’s pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a god, or beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reas’ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much:
Chaos of thought and passion, all confus’d;
Still by himself abus’d, or disabus’d;
Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl’d:
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!