It is a well-known fact that the greater a man is the less he has on his plate. An old chap like Max Bondy in Jevíčko had to have large letters painted above his shop, on both sides of the door and on the windows, that this was the place of Max Bondy, merchant of all types of drapery, brides’ trousseaux, canvas, towels, napery and household linen, printed cotton and flannel, top-quality cloth, silk, curtains, pelmets, braids and all kinds of sewing material. Founded 1885. His son, G. H. Bondy, a captain of industry, President of MEAS Incorporated, Commercial Counsellor, Stock Exchange Consultant, Vice-Chairman of the Federation of Industries, Consulato de la Republica Ecuador, member of numerous boards of directors, etc. etc., had on his house only a small black-glass plate with the gilt lettering
Nothing more. Let others write on their doors Julius Bondy, General Motors Representative; or Dr. Med. Ervin Bondy; or S. Bondy & Co. — but there was just one Bondy who was simply Bondy without further particulars. (I believe that the Pope, on his front door, has simply the word Pius, without any title or numeral. And God has no shingle at all, on Earth or Heaven. It’s up to you to find out that He lives here. But this is all beside the point and mentioned only in passing.)
Karel Čapek, War With the Newts (1936). Translated by Ewald Osers.
I’m not remotely religious, so it’s been hard for me to put a finger on why this passage has stuck with me since I first read it when I was, what, ten or eleven? (I made my sixth grade English teacher read it and I’m pretty sure that was after I’d already blown through it a couple of times.) Even at that age the text just resonated; I could recognize the authenticity of Čapek’s observations on human nature without having personal experience of the authentic. As I get older and have new experiences, rereading it is like putting on a new shirt that fits as though I’d worn it for years.