The Ruricolist is now available in print.


Fools have ways to love that intelligent people do not have. The practical part of intelligence is mostly negative. Especially in public, the surest way to do something smart is not to do anything stupid. In any situation not requiring skill fools simply have more actions to choose – some of which, though inadvisable, are ways to love.

Love is judged by those beloved not by a standard measure, but in proportion to the powers of the lover. This is just: children and pets must be loved, and their love in return must be prized in proportion to their powers. But, though just, it is problematic. I estimate a geometric increase: twice the intelligence requires four times the cause of love to love as well. The religion of romance, the civilized circumvallations of lust, do not serve the sentimentality of fools – fools do not need them. They serve a need in intelligent people, who must artfully cultivate an eye for, artfully indulge a susceptibility to, the causes of love if they are to love wholly enough to deserve love in return.

Seduction is a superstition. The increase of the human race has never waited on the art of seduction. The classes, countries, and periods that most perfect seduction are least in progeny. But while affecting nearness to the basic facts of life, and partied equally on both sides, the art is elaborated with the vain ingenuity of the astrologer, with the patient fantasy of the demonologist, according to the mode in superstition – with potions and spells, with neuroses and repressions, with pheromones and evolutionary psychology. The pursuit is in the blood; the art that overlies it only reconciles uncommon minds to being led on common strings.

Life is easy, love is easier; birds do it, bees do it. But intelligence makes things difficult – it makes us seek out difficult things. The faculty restless and capable enough to solve the problems of food, shelter, and reproduction cannot rest on those solutions. It wants challenge. It elaborates gourmandise, architecture, romance.

This is not our tragic parting with nature; it is our true nature. The tragedy – there is tragedy – is that intelligent insight is distinct from intelligent perspective; the more completely absorbed in a problem, the less the ability to judge it. The lesson for intelligent people is that what makes life worthwhile is not at all the same as what is needed to live. To expect life to be worthwhile in itself is an error; but it is another, equal error to expect that solving life’s problems is enough to make life worthwhile. Life is easier, and life is harder, than that.