Tag Archives: Civilizational Optimism

Marginalia, no.55

A civilization has the same fragility as a life.

~ Paul Valéry, Crisis of the Mind

Valéry was looking over the wreckage of the First World War.  Today’s announcers of doom are still heralding the immanent end of western civilization.  I’ve heard my own voice in the choir.  Maybe it’s the sunshine playing tricks on me, but these days I find myself less impressed by life’s fragility than by its stubborn persistence.  It may not chart an upward progress, but if the history of western civilization demonstrates anything it’s the ability to hold through the storm like a barnacle to the rock, or to sleep like a seed in Egyptian honey and shoot forth again in fresh soil.  We’ve seen worse storms, I think, and deeper mountains of sand… Or maybe it’s just the sun.

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