I was fortunate to be friends with the great psychologist Seymour Sarason, who said that when he came to the end of his days, he knew it would make him sad to reflect that there were still books in the Yale University library that he hadn’t read. I have the same frustration; there are just more good books than there are hours in a life. And because so many more are published each year, good books of the past I might enjoy are forgotten and therefore I will never even hear of them.

There is however one redeeming pleasure in this situation, which is the discovery of a promising book of which we have never heard, even if it was popular in its day (The comment thread generated at RBC when I posted about reading The Worm Ouroborus remains one of my favorites). I found just such a book yesterday, oddly enough on my own bookshelf. I assume some visitor left it at our home years ago.

It’s an autobiography entitled I Like People by a Midwestern newspaper editor named Grove Patterson. The inside front cover is autographed with “Mitch, I like you too — Grove”. Never having heard of Patterson, I went on line and found out that — gasp — he has no Wikipedia entry. But there are apparently some schools named after him. I did though find an short essay on faith which was intriguing enough to make me want to dig into his autobiography:

“If God is so good,” my friend asks me, “why does He permit evil in the world which He created?” It is a stupid question. Man, from the day he developed into man, was given freedom of choice. Otherwise he would have been a mere puppet of God. With that freedom of choice, he has gone on through the ages, making bad choices. He is responsible for evil in a universe which God created. He has violated- natural law. He has made a mess of things but the more he senses his privilege of contact with the Supreme Power, the better he will do, the less evil he will produce.

Because I believe the universe is governed by natural law, I think it useless to pray that natural law be set aside for anyone’s personal reason. Devout men sometimes pray for rain, but rain will come only when proper atmospheric conditions bring it about. Men seek by prayer to have their loved ones spared from the consequences of the violation of natural law. Such prayer is not the prayer for courage and for strength, in which I believe. The most pious person is as likely to be burned to death with his family in a tragic fire or destroyed at the railroad crossing as is the most worthless tramp.

Rest of Patterson’s essay here.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University. He served as a senior policy advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy from 2009 to 2010.