On the Only Useful Lens Through Which To View the History and Future of Civilization

23Oct07

Poets, pundits, philosophers and politicians, take note! This is not the story of nations or other one-hit wonders, nor is it the story of religion, for which so many millions have died in futile anger and delusion. It is certainly not the history of capital, although this too has been a scourge; no, friends, these are distractions from the real story, which is the slow but relentless rise of the city.

Incomprehensible beauty and despair! Inexplicable dissonance and distortion! Inalterable repudiation of all political philosophers and religious zealots who would explain our existence without acknowledging the seething allure of the trains and tunnels, the buildings and bridges of this endlessly mutating labyrinth into which we must cast ourselves to find civilized life!

How sorry and sad — which is to say, irrelevant — are the candidates — which is to say, all of them — who fail to discuss the implications of this truth; how tiresome the critics and commentators who obscure it with egocentric jargon about freedom and community. Is it not immediately obvious who among them has or has not walked the streets, and not only in the tedious safety of the day but in the more barren and remote hours of the night, when we are possessed by creaking gates, distant gunshots and — most of all — the pounding, subterranean space we learn to call our heart?

GWB

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