A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Monday, 19 October 2009

The True Subjugation Of The Ego

Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930)

Diligent readers of this blog will know by now that my favourite British newspaper is The Guardian, or The Manchester Guardian as it was known until 1959. It's a platform for liberal and left-wing opinion - a political stance which corresponds roughly with my own. It's strong in the fields of Culture and The Arts. Its writing and reporting are consistently outstanding. And reading the Review supplement every Saturday is one of the highlights of my week. I often cut out, underline or mark in some way striking bits and pieces from the Review; and some of these occasionally end up in my blog. I've singled out from last Saturday's Review this final paragraph from Sara Wheeler's appreciation of the great Norwegian Arctic explorer, Fridtjof Nansen:

When I camped on the Greenland icecap, I sensed the ghostly presence of Nansen. (It was he, along with five companions, who made the first crossing of that huge country). Of all the frozen beards who had been there before me, only Nansen communicated a sense of the true subjugation of the ego that endeavour can bring. Failure, he acknowledged, would mean 'only disappointed human hopes, nothing more'. This great poet of northern latitudes concluded: 'If we perish, what will it matter in the endless cycle of eternity?'

Nansen was an extraordinary person, and you can read more about him here.

The Guardian was founded in Manchester in 1821. Its most famous editor was CP Scott, who edited the newspaper for 57 years from 1872. During the Spanish Civil War it supported the Republicans against Franco and fascism. In 2005 The Guardian underwent a radical and award-winning transformation of design, adopting the 'Berliner' format (a little larger than the traditional tabloid) with a new masthead and typeface. It has no foreign proprietor dictating editorial policy (unlike some newspapers I could mention), and is unique in being owned by a foundation (the Scott Trust, via the Guardian Media Group).


Dominic Rivron said...

You're inadvertently feeding my Arthur Ransome obsession here, reminding me that in Winter Holiday the children commandeer Captain Flint's houseboat and rename it the Fram. They use Nansen's writings (which they find on CF's bookshelves) as the basis for their own "polar expedition".

Guardian Review is also a highlight of my week. Forgot to get one yesterday though! I have registered online at the paper though - and discovered you can compile your own clippings page, which I didn't know.

I knew I'd seen that photo before! Have you come across the blogger, broken down barman? He uses this Nanses pic as his thumbnail.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I too love the Guardian on Saturday - not least when Araucaria does the crossword!
Not sure though that I want my ego subjugating. At my age I think it would be a step too far. Love

Rita said...

"true subjugation of the ego"....hmmm....kind of reminds me of the Camino.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for all these comments!

Rita - I enjoyed reading your daily posts on the Camino, and I'm glad you found it such a significant experience.

Yes, that ego-denying attitude of Nansen's impresses me hugely. If you read the literature on and by many famous and not-so-famous explorers, mountaineers, and adventurers of all kinds, you're struck by how egotistical, vainglorious and foolhardily reckless they can be. So Nansen's stance is a refreshing change from the common 'all-conquering hero' image.

And, yes, any bombastic egos are soon cut down to size when faced with the endless, annihilating plains of the Meseta!