Gatsby’s character yearns for the infinite; he sparkles with something unusual in the midst of the lavish wealth and chaotic parties of Long Island’s frivolities. Gatsby has “one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it . . . it faced—or seemed to face—the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor.”
Lauck is unambiguous that he is engaged in a project of “civic retrieval,” to “remind us of our ideals and how many battles we have already won” and promote the story of the old Midwest as “a hopeful signal to us all in this moment of democratic peril and doubt.”
While many recognize the limits of human language and the ways it has sometimes been used to harm, they see language as capable of naming (or, at least, gesturing toward) the dance of matter and spirit that constitutes human existence.
For Banks, the glory of natality is not that it is a passage into the world for something or someone else, but that birth is a tool for our own self-creation, whether that be through materializing other people in our bodies or projecting our ideas and actions onto the world.
These essays unite history, philosophy, and social commentary to say something about the ebb and flow of ideas which shape post-modern accounts of who we are and where we came from.
Contemporary sensibilities tend to prefer the nihilist abyss to such salvation, even as we pathetically pursue the latest "cure" for that emptiness—be that radical politics, surgical revisions to our anatomy, or compassionate medical assistance in dying. It looks patronizingly at best and with hostility at worst, at the idea that our modern despair should prompt some deep rethinking.
To walk a place is to open the door to the possibility that you will grow to love it. With time, you could get to know it in an intimate way. Streets or roads or wild forest paths that we walk for the first time can be the object of wonder, even if sometimes also mingled with fear and mistrust.
Livy asserts that shamelessness led to decadence which, in turn, led to greed and eventually devolved into demagoguery and tyranny. His assertion that Roman liberty and equality were destroyed by the decadence of the civil wars and buried with the emergence of the Augustan regime had far reaching influence.
Vodolazkin's novels do for Time what Wendell Berry does for Space: We can't just live where we are, we have to live when we are, too. So thanks to Vodolazkin for the timely reminder. And requiescat in pace, Jack: thanks for doing just that.
The conservationist recognizes that the society we live in, as much as the natural world we live in, was given to us as a gift with the demand that we pass it on to future generations, and therefore it is neither easily discarded nor above reproach.