April 4, 2012

The blind leading the blind…


“If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”
       Jesus (c. 5 B.C. - c. 30 A.D.)  
       As quoted in the Bible’s Book of Matthew, 15:14 (King James Version)
Chapter 15 of the Book of Matthew, which includes the famous story of the loaves and fishes, is also the source of the well-known metaphor “the blind leading the blind.” The meaning is simple. Blind men can’t see anything, so following them is foolish and risky. People typically use this metaphor — and variations of it — to poke fun at someone they view as ignorant, stupid or misguided.
       Jesus used “blind leaders of the blind” to refer to the “scribes and Pharisees,” the dominant group of Jewish rabbis at the time. They favored strict adherence to traditional Jewish religious laws and traditions.
In Chapter 15 of Matthew, a group of scribes and Pharisees comes to Jesus and complains that his followers were violating the tradition of the Jewish elders that required people to wash their hands before eating. Jesus tells them cleanliness of the hands is unimportant; cleanliness of the heart is the important thing. Jesus’ point was that a slavish following of religious rules was less important than following the basic moral concepts he taught. When his disciples warned him he had offended the Pharisees, Jesus replied (as given in the King James Version of the Bible):
“Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” 
       Jesus then went to Galilee, where he miraculously turned seven loaves of bread and “a few little fishes” into a feast that fed “four thousand men, beside women and children.” The Bible doesn’t mention whether any of them washed their hands before eating.


“The young leading the young, is like the blind leading the blind; ‘they will both fall into the ditch.’ The only sure guide is he who has often gone the road which you want to go. Let me be that guide; who have gone all roads, and who can consequently point out to you the best.”
       Lord Chesterfield (Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield; 1694–1773)
one of his many didactic letters to his son, Philip Stanhope, dated November 24, 1747


“When the blind lead the blind, no wonder they both fall into matrimony.” 
       George Farquhar (1678-1707)
       Irish playwright
In his play Love and a Bottle (1698), Act 5, Sc. 1


“We have been educated to such a fine — or dull — point that we are incapable of enjoying something new, something different, until we are first told what it’s all about. We don’t trust our five senses; we rely on our critics and educators, all of whom are failures in the realm of creation. In short, the blind lead the blind. It’s the democratic way.” 
       Henry Miller (1891-1980)
       American writer and painter
In his essay “With Edgar Varese in the Gobi Desert” (1944)


“These are the days when men of all social disciplines and all political faiths seek the comfortable and the accepted; when the man of controversy is looked upon as a disturbing influence; when originality is taken to be a mark of instability; and when, in minor modification of the scriptural parable, the bland lead the bland.”
       John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006)
       Canadian-born American economist and social critic
In his classic socio-economic book The Affluent Society (1958), Chapter 1


Vanilla Sky is a case of the vain leading the bland. The vanity is provided by Tom Cruise, convincing in the role of a man in a passionate love affair with his own face, and the blandness comes from the overrated writer-director Cameron Crowe, who never met a story he couldn't explain to death at length.”
       Stephen Hunter
       Washington Post movie critic
In his review of the movie Vanilla Sky (2001)

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