Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow

Following on from the post below, this is Mircea Eliade:

In our day, when historical pressure no longer allows any escape, how can man tolerate the catastrophes and horrors of history—from collective deportations and massacres to atomic bombings—if beyond them he can glimpse no sign, no transhistorical meaning; if they are only the blind play of economic, social, or political forces, or, even worse, only the result of the 'liberties' that a minority takes and exercises directly on the stage of universal history?

What she is suggesting is that modern man, having abandoned the myths that have furnished people like Flannery O'Connor with the certainty of redemption through suffering, no longer has any spiritual support with which to face the traumas of history. All we have is 'tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow', leading to what she describes as a 'terror of history'.

Perhaps so, but the fear of 'tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow' can at least be tempered by reconciling 'yesterday and yesterday and yesterday'. Time is undoubtedly frightening: the implacable conjunction of the unknown - swine flu, economic meltdown, environmental catastrophe, religious terrorism - and the known - that we all of us will eventually be 'heard no more' - results in an existential angst that is unique to humans. But the key to it all is not to continually stare forward, trying to predict what will happen and make your escape, but simply to come to an accommodation with it. The answer isn't in Macbeth, but in The Tempest. Make your peace with the world. Set yourself free with their applause. It's all in our own hands.

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