Impressions

1

 

Know that the life of this world is but amusement and diversion and adornment and boasting to one another and competition in increase of wealth and children – like the example of a rain whose [resulting] plant growth pleases the tillers; then it dries and you see it turned yellow; then it becomes [scattered] debris. And in the Hereafter is severe punishment and forgiveness from Allah and approval. And what is the worldly life except the enjoyment of delusion

 

From Al-Hadid, Quran

 

 

2

He reflected again that he thought of history, of what is called the course of history, not in the accepted way, but in the form of  images taken from the vegetable kingdom. In winter, under the snow, the bare branches of a deciduous wood are thin and poor, like hairs on an old man’s wart. But in only a few days in spring the forest is transformed, it reaches the clouds and you can hide and lose yourself in its leafy maze. During this transformation the forest moves with a speed greater than that of animals, for animals do no grow as fast as plants; yet this movement cannot be observed. The forest does not change its place, we cannot lie in wait for it and catch it in the act of moving. However much we look at it we see it as motionless. And such also is the immobility to our eyes of the eternally growing, ceaselessly changing life of society, of history moving as invisibly in its incessant transformation as the forest in spring.

 

From Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak

 

3

 

He had sinned mortally, not once but many times and he knew that, while he stood in danger of eternal damnation for the first sin alone, by every succeeding sin he multiplied his guilt and his punishment. His days and work and thoughts could make no atonement for him, the fountains of sanctifying grace having ceased to refresh his soul. At most, by an alms given to a beggar whose blessing he fled from, he might hope wearily to win for himself some measure of actual grace. Devotion had gone by the board.  What did it avail to pray when he knew that his soul lusted after its own destruction? A certain pride, a certain awe, withheld him from offering to God even one prayer at night, though he knew it was in God’s power to take away his life while he slept  and hurl his soul hell ward ere he could beg for mercy. His pride in his own sin, his loveless awe of God, told him that his offence was too grievous to be atoned for in whole or in part by a false homage to the All-Seeing and All-Knowing.

From A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce

4

 

But Charley was a trifle surprised at the impression his own words made on him. In the course of hi recital he had for the first time seen himself from the standpoint of an observer. Until now, like an actor who says his lines, but never having seen the play from the front, has but a vague idea of what it is all about, he had played his part without asking himself whether it had any meaning. It slightly perplexed him to realize that they were all busy from morning till night, so that days were not long enough for what they wanted  to do; yet when you came to look upon the life they led from one year’s end to another it gave you an uncomfortable feeling that, they, none of them, did anything at all. It was like one of those comedies where dialogue is clever and the acting competent, so that you pass an agreeable evening but a week later, cannot remember a thing about it.

From Christmas Holiday, W.Somerset Maugham

5

 

As in the question of astronomy then, so in the question of history now, the whole difference of opinion is based on the recognition  or non-recognition of something absolute serving as the measure of  visible phenomenon. In astronomy it was the immovability of the earth, in history it is the independence of personality – freewill.  As with astronomy the difficulty of recognizing the motion of the earth lay in abandoning the immediate sensation of the earth’s fixity and of the motion of the planets, so in history the difficulty of recognizing the subjection of personality to the laws of space, time, and cause, lies in renouncing the direct feeling of the independence of one’s own personality. But as in astronomy the new view said: ‘It is true that we do not feel the movement of the earth, but by admitting its immobility we arrive at the absurdity, while by admitting its motion (which we do not feel) we arrive at laws,’ so also in history the new view says: ‘ It is true that we are not conscious of our dependence, but by admitting our freewill we arrive at absurdity, while by admitting our dependence on the external world, on time, and on cause, we arrive at laws.’  In the first case it was necessary to renounce the consciousness of an unreal immobility in space and to recognize a motion we did not feel; in present case it is similarly necessary to renounce a freedom that does not exist, and to recognize a dependence of which we are not conscious.

From War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy

 

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  1. Pingback: Impressions | Sights Insights

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