Saturday, February 20, 2016

Culture according to Umberto Eco: “If culture did not filter, it would be inane—as inane as the formless, boundless Internet is on its own. And if we all possessed the boundless knowledge of the Web, we would be idiots! Culture is an instrument for making a hierarchical system of intellectual labor. For you and for me it is enough to know that Einstein proposed the theory of relativity. But an absolute understanding of the theory we leave to the specialists. The real problem is that too many are granted the right to become a specialist.”

At one level, it feels like he was talking about India this week.

A true interpreter of our time, Eco, who passed away on 19 February 2016, credited our awareness to mortality to the invention of comedy: “All men are mortal. We are able to do it, and that is probably why there are religions, rituals, and what have you. I think that comedy is the quintessential human reaction to the fear of death. If you ask me for something more, I cannot tell you. But perhaps I’ll create an empty secret now, and let everyone think that I have a theory of comedy in the works, so when I die they will spend a lot of time trying to retrieve my secret book.”

Oh, he wrote that book. It’s called The Name of the Rose.

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