Quote of the Day: Enthusiasm


I know of no single formula for success. But over the years I have observed that some attributes of leadership are universal and are often about finding ways of encouraging people to combine their efforts, their talents, their insights, their enthusiasm and their inspiration to work together. Queen Elizabeth II

Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition. Adam Smith

The Queen’s comment about enthusiasm certainly speaks to me. There is something about enthusiasm that invigorates an action or idea. If I’m excited about an idea that I’m writing about, or if I’m going to see someone I care about after a long absence, or if I have the opportunity to learn something new, I’m almost always enthusiastic. And when I have the chance to work with others (and I can overcome my hermit nature), I try to engage with enthusiasm, so that I can bring my spirit and excitement to the task. But I discovered recently that enthusiasm was defined differently at an earlier time, and in a pejorative way. I suspect that definition is what Adam Smith was talking about.

Here are other ways to define “enthusiasm.” See if you can find the ones that caught my eye:

1600, from French enthousiasme(16c.) and directly from Late Latin enthusiasmus, from Greek enthousiasmos“divine inspiration, enthusiasm (produced by certain kinds of music, etc.),” from enthousiazein “be inspired or possessed by a god, be rapt, be in ecstasy,” from entheos “divinely inspired, possessed by a god,” from en “in” (see en- (2)) + theos “god

Words like “possessed by a god” or “be in ecstasy” were the phrases that caught my attention. I’ve begun to wonder if the radical Leftists might be experiencing this older definition of enthusiasm. Let’s face it: life can be predictable at times, quite ordinary. I think there are many people who want something spectacular or extraordinary to happen in their lives. After a while, they get tired of passively waiting, and they decide to take charge of their circumstances and “make things happen.” Whether they are screaming at protests on campus, demonstrating in the streets, or canceling a colleague who makes a comment on social media that they find offensive, they find great satisfaction in indulging in righteous indignation. How dare people take positions that don’t meet their high standards for the correct ideas? How can people possibly accept ideas that are outside the Leftist norm?

They find it exhilarating to call out these people, to ban them, to get them fired. It makes a person feel powerful, in charge, and provides a regular adrenalin rush. They have little understanding about teamwork and inspiration, unless it serves the Leftist cause.

I realized that the Torah also demonstrated when enthusiasm can be destructive: the incense offering of Nadav and Abihu, two priests in the Tabernacle. We will never know for certain why they took this action, which was not part of their strict regimen, and they were consumed with fire.

I think we should resurrect Adam Smith’s definition of enthusiasm: we’ve seen how it can poison society, absent facts and truth. There should be a penalty for those who force their enthusiasm on those around them.

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There are 3 comments.

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  1. JoshuaFinch Coolidge

    We are all familiar with the new-age mantra of “follow your passion.” I would rather pursue something for which I have affection, just as I would rather make joyfulness, as opposed to happiness, a goal.  It’s a little bit like comparing Beethoven to Mozart.  Beethoven grabs you by the collar and demands you listen to him, which is all well and good on an occasional basis.  Mozart, however, makes for delightful listening at any time.

    • #1
  2. Nanocelt TheContrarian Member
    Nanocelt TheContrarian

    So what do we do when the “scientists” are consumed with enthusiasm in the Adam Smith sense? Do we then have no antidote to the poison?

    Adam Smith dismissed Religion or human transcendence (he called his mentor, Francis Hutchison, a casuist for his belief in human transcendence) and so relied on “Science.” We have learned by hard experience that Science is no such antidote, but part of the poison. I would contrariwise suggest that the Judeo-Christian tradition is the better antidote.

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  3. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn

    Nanocelt TheContrarian (View Comment):
    I would contrariwise suggest that the Judeo-Christian tradition is the better antidote.

    I tend to agree, Nanocelt. Primarily because science has been trashed by the scientists.

    • #3
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