Humility is scarce and mediocrity flows from every direction


Q: Do you still not own a cellphone?

Herzog: I’m the only thinking person I know without one. I don’t want to be available at all times. Permanent connectivity isn’t my thing; I have always needed moments of quiet solitude for myself. There’s a Chinese poem from the Tang dynasty about someone describing a boat journey along the Yellow River and leaving his friend behind, a monk on a mountain, in the knowledge that they probably won’t see each other or have any contact for years. This man’s return, decades later, has an indescribable substance and depth. Compare this to standing in line at the airport, chatting on your cellphone to your loved one, who is waiting in the car park. There is too much shallow contact in our lives. I prefer to be face to face; I want the person I’m communicating with to be so close I can put my hand on their shoulder. Text messaging is the bastard child handed to us by the absence of reading.

Q: You use the Internet.

Herzog: Of course. Who can avoid it? But I do so with hesitation. It has, after all, opened up a gigantic field of indiscretion, arrogance, narcissism and self-aggrandisement. Humility is scarce and mediocrity flows from every direction, with attention-seekers unleashing their innermost thoughts. I seem to be one of the few left who consider discretion a virtue, though we have to be cautious about such things because our sense of what is virtuous is forever shifting. A virtue can become obsolete – for example, chastity – and these days young men, their honour besmirched, would never challenge each other to a pistol duel. They would phone their attorneys instead. One time after Les Blank had been given a haircut he wasn’t happy with, I suggested he do what any American would: “Give your lawyer a call and sue.”

~ Werner Herzog in Werner Herzog: A Guide for the Perplexed: Conversations with Paul Cronin



  1. Is a book a less indirect way for an attention-seeker to unleash their inner most thoughts?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Werner Herzog ~ one of the best makers of documentaries ever. Thank you for this snippet about him 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love it!!! Well said.


  4. I do not have a cell either, when you overhear other people talking on those contraptions I realize that there is not much of importance that is said. We are forgeting about human contact. My opinion


  5. We do not have a cell phone~

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “Text messaging is the bastard child handed to us by the absence of reading.”

    Yes and no. Wherever you are and whatever you do, the capacity you have for engagement carries over.

    One can have a cell phone and still have deeper face to face engagement with others, including trees and lemurs.

    Bu, were we any less lonely before the internet and cell phones?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree Debra. Here’s Herzog on the topic:

      It is my firm belief that solitude will increase in proportion to the new tools at our disposal, the explosive evolution of electronic and digital communication. Technology might remove us from our isolation, but we are entering an era of solitude. When you are caught in a snowdrift in South Dakota , fifty miles from the nearest town, your isolation can be overcome with a mere cellphone, but your solitude never will be. As for “social networks,” mine has forever been my kitchen table, where I cook for no more than four or five friends.

      ~ Werner Herzog in Paul Cronin’s Book: “Werner Herzog – A Guide for the Perplexed: Conversations with Paul Cronin” (Faber & Faber. 2014)

      Liked by 2 people

  7. i have a cell and have to say that i depend on it. and look for it when i’m unsure where it might be. that being said, i love face to face real conversations the best, love the give and take of human interaction, as well as having a deep love of handwritten letters.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. My hero! No cell phone here. How comforting to know I’m not alone – this quote really resonated: “I don’t want to be available at all times. Permanent connectivity isn’t my thing; I have always needed moments of quiet solitude for myself.”

    Liked by 1 person

  9. So true, I’m sending you a link to an amazing podcast. Try to listen. It’s simply amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve never heard of Daniel Bowling. I’ve just listened to Daniel Bowling. He’s terrific. Soothing voice. And he’s a fan of the late Mark Strand. One of my favorites. Thanks for sharing. Appreciate it very much.


  10. Sounds like a fantastic book by a beautiful mind♥
    Am making a mental check to include it in my to pick up for reading list. 🙂
    Thank you for sharing your light and do take care, too.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: