Some Sunday fun - inspired by blogs that cleverly mix text and images. Enjoy!
The other day, a gentleman said to me that nearly all of the peoples in the world have lost their cultures. He meant it as a criticism, that these unfortunates have lost parts of themselves. That they are weakened by processes that they could not control.
What a depressing thought! Humanity is not just menaced by global warming, asteroids and other externalities. We may also be menaced by a weakness in ourselves! Is it so?
This was the great fear of T.S. Eliot when he wrote back in 1922
what have we given?
My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of a moment’s surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed
Which is not to be found in our obituaries
Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider
Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor
In our empty rooms
So Eliot accused 20th century mankind of betraying its inheritance. He complained of a profound debasement of spirit. Here is a fun image of our accuser from an advertisement
Is it so? As we cannot go back in time and live in the past, we cannot know for sure if people back then were stronger and finer than we are now. Though some authors have made up stories as if we could. Like Mark Twain (A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court). Twain thought modern (19th century) Americans would compare rather well. Here is Mark, looking (as he often did) rather dapper
But in the real world, we are stuck firmly in the present. And in the present we are limited in our ability to understand the peoples of the past. As much as we might worry that we are somehow debased, we cannot bring back what we fear might have been lost. Nor can we be sure that trying would make us even worse off. I would argue that to better understand ourselves, we can only ask in what direction we are going. Jules Verne’s fictional character Philias Fogg firmly kept his eye on this. Here he is
Which brings me to my rather humble point. We achieve this by being mindful of who we are speaking to. Are our words part of a larger story? Or are they a distraction from that story?