Friday, June 17, 2005


My friend Jim over at his blog got me thinking about history repeating itself. Things have been fairly quiet lately in blogland... not too many windmills to tilt at, no Dan Rathers to pull down or damsels to save. But that doesn't mean that there aren't issues bubbling away over the fire. The Patriot Act is an unfought battle that we need to handle carefully... what to keep, what to toss. This isn't your usual kind of war, eh? Liberals to quash? Surely. Dangers lurking? You betcha. But nothing to get gloomy about.

But... it all seems to have a familiar ring. Let me recommend an excellent book to you: "Black Lamb and Grey Falcon" by Rebecca West. This thing was written by the best writer of her time about a visit she made to the Balkins just prior to WWII, an attempt to understand the complicated sorrows of her time. There is one of the best quotes I've ever read in it about human nature. Allow me to quote it directly so that you won't skip over it as a link:

"Only part of us is sane: only part of us loves pleasure and the longer day of happiness, wants to live to our nineties and die in peace, in a house that we built, that shall shelter those who come after us. The other half of us is nearly mad... and wants to die in a catastrophe that will set back life to its beginnings and leave nothing of our house save its blackened foundations. Our bright natures fight in us with this yeasty darkness, and neither part is commonly quite victorious, for we are divided against ourselves and will not let either part be destroyed."
--Rebecca West (Black Lamb and Grey Falcon)

West was writing at a time of great fear of the future. The first war had gutted most people's hopes for the future and Hitler seemed to be lurking right on the borders of sanity. Armageddon... eh? Well, here we are again Jim. Right on the cusp of another rotation of the gyre.As Yeats said, What rough beast... it's hour finally come round... slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?

The big test, IMHO, is whether we have the courage of our parents to face the future with a clear image of what we want the world to look like for our children and grandchildren. I think that we do. The only thing is that we shouldn't get gloomy about it. Doing the right thing doesn't necessarily mean that we have to be filled with angst. The fact that we live in interesting times doesn't mean that we have to go down the street advertising "Stinking fish! Stinking fish!"

Cheer up Jim.